Over the years I have been asked on numerous occasions to give my position on content knowledge vs pedagogy (i.e., the skills used to cause learning to happen) when it comes to teaching effectiveness.
Let me start off by saying that I ALWAYS prefer to employ and to be taught by a teacher that has both a masterful grasp of pedagogy AND a deep understanding of the content.
If you make me stake out a position on which is more important, then I contend that a deep understanding of pedagogy is really the trump card, if the desired outcome is student learning. And, isn’t that what education is really about? LEARNING!
As educators, our job is to create the conditions in which learning is most likely to happen. We must pique the curiosity of the learners in our charge, cause them to be more interested in a subject, trick them into digging more deeply into content matter, bait them into looking/asking/thinking more deeply about a particular discipline. With the cheap and pervasive availability of content knowledge these days, few (if any) teachers possess a commensurate breadth or depth of pure knowledge about a subject. Furthermore, only the rarest of teachers can compete with the freely available tools with regard to process attainment.
So, if you’re gonna make me pick one over the other, I’ll take a teacher who has great pedagogical knowledge over one who has great content knowledge.
The very best teachers I know have substantive content and pedagogical knowledge.
Their ability to awaken students to a particular disciplinary pursuit is nothing less than magical.