Probing for Big Ideas

It's all very well to suggest that in teaching about computers we should be more cognizant of the "big ideas" or "concepts", but somewhere or other, these need to be defined to a greater or lesser extent. This page is about how to "flesh out" what some of these ideas/concepts might be.

The first way that I have tried to flesh these out is as follows. The basic format is borrowed from Loughran, Berry and Mulhall's work. Their purpose is to find some ways of representing teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (a discussion of this would indeed be tangential!) As part of this work, they have developed a "CoRe (content representation) Grid" (see below, or here). What attracted me to it is that column headings and the details of each cell were prepared by teachers workshopping a topic. Only the row headings are given; everything else is emergent from teachers deeply considering their work using a structured. Indeed, the column headings are the "big ideas"; and whatever else might prove to be the value of the grid or approach, it seemed to me to be a good way to help teachers get in touch with the "big ideas" of a topic.

As part of my presentation at the VITTA conference, I prepared a blank grid and asked teachers to work together to help fill it in - and what a wonderful, vibrant discussion ensued! The topic the teachers chose was "logging in", despite my initial suspicion that this topic might be too 'narrow', it was a very and deep conversation. Unfortunately, the constraints of the conference meant that the 10 or 15 minutes we could allow was insufficient.

So, as a follow-up, a small group of us met on 17/9/2007 to tease it out some more. This page on Logging In is what we came up with. The process has suggested that the CoRe grid is a useful prompt to helping teachers tease out the "big ideas". It has started to tease out the "big ideas" related to Logging In. You are invited to:
(a) add your thoughts to the Logging In CoRe grid
(b) help set up CoRe grids on other topics
(c) suggest other ways in which we could "flesh out" what some of those ideas/concepts might be


Mulhall, P., Berry, A., & Loughran, J. (2003). Frameworks for representing science teachers' pedagogical content knowledge. Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching 4(2). Available on:

Loughran, J., Berry, A., & Mulhall, P. (2006). Understanding and Developing Science Teachers' Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Sense Publishers. Available on: