Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)


Science and Mathematics Education


Michael Wittmann

Second Committee Member

John Thompson

Third Committee Member

Natasha Speer


Teachers focused on just one year of instruction may neglect what students need most– a coherent structure of learning across disciplines that advances students’ understanding. The topic of coherence has been a major motivator for education research, including investigations in student- teacher interactions, epistemological beliefs, and large-scale curricular reform. One framework of knowledge, horizon content knowledge (HCK), can aid in describing the knowledge a teacher needs to see beyond their own instruction and provide a coherent structure for students.

While horizon content knowledge exists in one of the most widely adopted teacher frameworks of knowledge in mathematics, mathematical knowledge for teaching, there remains a lack of consensus on what horizon content knowledge is. This work is primarily concerned with the integration of horizon content knowledge into physics education research, a task that has only been lightly taken up in the content knowledge for teaching literature. Providing key examples of what HCK is in this context allows for the implementation of HCK into physics education research.

Case study analysis was conducted to provide examples for HCK in physics. Nineteen interviews were conducted with physical science and physics teachers recruited through the Maine Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Partnership. Interview questions ranged from integrating elementary and advanced concepts, teacher understanding of light, and the integration of interdisciplinary topics. Three cases are presented that are consistent with a synthesized model of HCK as well as two well-established frameworks from the literature. One case focuses on the possible pedagogical applications of HCK in physics, namely what HCK can enable. The second case focuses on coherence and grounding it as a value and sensibility in the HCK framework. The third case showcases an expansive disciplinary knowledge about the topic of light that is characteristic of HCK.

Future work can include the investigation of other key topics in physics like waves, energy, matter, and interactions. Other future work includes investigating the acquisition of such knowledge in the realms of teacher preparations courses as well as professional development. Finally, the qualitative analysis in this thesis can inform future work in qualitative and quantitative methods.