Teacher Education

views updated May 18 2018


historical overview
edward r. ducharme
mary k. ducharme

international perspective
michael j. dunkin


Can teaching be taught? Do individuals learn to teach or are they endowed with an innate gift for pedagogy? Are certain individuals born teachers? Do individuals learn about teaching from copying others, from listening to lectures, from reading about it? Are some ways of preparing teachers better than others? These and related questions about teaching and teacher education persist.

Didactic and Evocative Teaching

Joseph Axelrod describes two types of teaching as "the didactic modes, employed by teacher-craftsmen, and the evocative modes, employed by teacher-artists" (p. 5). Didactic teaching implies passing on traditional knowledge or lore, or teaching how to do something. Teachers use lecture to inculcate knowledge or demonstration to model actions, after which students demonstrate they have learned what was taught either by reciting or writing the material or by repeating the demonstration, as in a science class experiment. Much state and national testing relies on rote recall of material. In this context, learning means being able to reproduce what has been taught or demonstrated. For example, students should recall key facts of American history such as the order of the American presidents. Emphases are often on learning facts and conditions, not on understanding complexity and drawing conclusions.

Early in human history, most teaching was didactic. Poets recited ancient myths and stories and a few listeners learned them by rote. Individuals acquired skills by observing their elders who were fishers, artisans, lawyers, or anything else, and emulating what they saw. Seeing teaching as a process of passing on knowledge has persisted. Paul Woodring argues that "The oldest form of teacher education is the observation and emulation of a master. Plato learned to teach by sitting at the feet of Socrates. Aristotle, in turn, learned from Plato" (p. 1).

Much observation and emulation still go on. In The Teacher Educator's Handbook, Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Janine Remillard note that "Like much of our society, prospective teachers believe that teaching is a process of passing knowledge from teacher to student and that learning involves absorbing or memorizing information and practicing skills. Students wait like empty vessels to be filled and teachers do the filling" (p. 70).

Most teaching in early America was highly didactic. Teachers taught both the processes of learning to read and the morals attendant to a proper life through moralistic texts. Children learning their letters in the early nineteenth century read in the New England Primer under the letter A, "In Adam's fall, we sinned all"; under the letter F, "The idle fool Is wipt at school"; and under the letter J, "Job feels the rod Yet blesses God" (pp. 1213). Students thus simultaneously learned their letters, religious lessons, and injunctions about behavior.

Not all teaching in the past was didactic; not all learning was rote. Socrates relied on the relationship between himself and his students to arrive at truths of human existence; he was, in Axelrod's sense, an evocative teacher. Socrates corrected occasionally and enjoined his students, but rarely taught didactically. The Socratic, or evocative, method places responsibility for knowledge growth on the students.

Using the evocative method, social studies teachers might teach geographical lessons from which they expect students to describe how communities develop relative to the natural world surrounding them. Teachers might present students with a computer program describing an environment near a river, with large forests, good soil, and a moderate climate. Students would then describe how they believe a community might evolve, given these circumstances. The teacher's role is to elicit conclusions, probabilities, and hypotheses from the students and have them assiduously pursue the most likely correct answers. Learning means being able to gather and assimilate data and evidence and draw conclusions based on sound thinking.

Neither didactic nor evocative teaching alone will suffice because learners vary widely in how they learn. Some individuals learn material effectively when teachers present it sequentially or chronologically; others may learn better when teachers present material thematically. Some learners have an affinity for concreteness while others prefer abstraction. Teachers require tolerance and understanding for these and other differences in learners. Although some learners may master a variety of ways of learning, teachers more often than not appeal to what they discern to be the learner's most comfortable way of learning. Ideally, teachers attach neither special praise nor stigma to different ways of learning. They recognize not all individuals learn in similar ways. However, in many classrooms, teachers fail to teach a variety of ways of learning. This can frustrate many learners.

Didactic teaching and evocative teaching are merely two modes of instruction among other related ways teachers teach and learners learn. Little exists to suggest one mode is superior to all others. Nearly all teachers use a variety of modes of instruction as they go about their daily teaching tasks. Teacher education must provide opportunities for prospective and practicing teachers to master a range of teaching modes.

Teaching and Teacher Education in Early America

In his biography of John Adams, David McCullough points out that in colonial America, teaching was something men did if they did not have anything better to do. He notes that in 1755 John Adams, not having the money for the fee to apprentice to a lawyer, although "untried and untrained as a teacher, immediately assumed his new role in a one-room schoolhouse at the center of town" (p. 37). It is interesting that McCullough uses the phrase "untried and untrained." The fact is there was no training for teachers in 1755. The first formal teacher preparation began in the 1820s with the establishment of "normal schools" in Vermont and Massachusetts.

The establishment of normal schools became a movement later in the nineteenth century; almost every state had at least one of them. The normal schools' purpose was perfectly straightforward: the preparation of teachers. Cities were desperate for teachers. By the early 1900s, nearly every city with a population of more than 300,000 had a normal school, often tied in with the high schools. Normal schools were technically oriented toward the practice of teaching. Modeled on earlier established European institutions for teacher training, these schools provided very specific training. In The Salterton Trilogy (1986), Robertson Davies pro a fictional but accurate picture of what transpired in many normal school classrooms. "They [normal school teachers] taught howteach; they taught when to open the windows in a classroo when to close them; they taught ways of teaching children withtalent for drawing how to draw; they taught how a school could be formed and trained where there was no instrument but achpipe they taught how to make hangings, somewhat resembling batik, by drawing in wax crayon on unbleached cotton, and pressing it with a hot iron" (p. 79). These examples illustrat didactic mode of teacher education in which prospective teachersrn how to do things, not how to thinkabout the and wherefores of doing things. Didactic teacher education treatsching as craft. It suggests that individuals can acquir essential skills to impart knowledge, facts, and even abilitiesough lecture and demonstration. By contrast, the evocative as applied to the education of teachers, suggests that teaching is an emergent art in which teachers evoke from students what they already know and lead them to the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. By the 1940s, most normal schools had expanded, into four-year state teachers colleges or liberal arts colleges hasizing teacher education, and then, during the higher educ expansion in the 1960s and 1970s, into state universities. For example, by the 1960s, the three former normal schools in Vermont had become four-year liberal arts colleges with new campuses and diminished teacher education programs.

Into the Twenty-First Century

As the normal schools morphed into four-year colleges and eventually state universities, established state universities that did not already have them began to develop teacher preparation programs. University and college teacher education programs grew rapidly as states developed specific licensure requirements often based on college level coursework. As accreditation of secondary schools grew, the need for teachers with college degrees also grew. The norm became a combination of a degree with a major in an academic subject and completion of required education courses. Scholars argue that universities were anything but altruistic in their development of teacher preparation programs. Reasons included a desire to show some public service commitment, a need to increase revenues from enrollment of teacher education students, and the development of graduate programs in educational administration. In 2002, most universities had firmly entrenched teacher preparation programs on their campuses. Campus programs remain the major place of preparation for teachers. State universities continue to be major sources of beginning teachers. Institutions such as Utah's Brigham Young University, South Florida University, Indiana University, and Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan, annually graduate hundreds of licensed teachers. In addition, liberal arts colleges with small teacher preparation programs consistently graduate licensed teachers. More than 1,200 institutions continue to provide teacher preparation programs.

During the last decades of the twentieth century a variety of nontraditional centers of activity evolved. The combination of the need for teachers in critically short areas such as mathematics and science and the public criticism of campus-based teacher education produced situations in which individuals and groups developed alternative routes for teacher preparation. Periodic shortages in teachers, particularly in urban and rural settings, led to a variety of ways of circumventing licensure regulations and university requirements. Teacher education was occurring through a variety of vehicles, including colleges and universities, public schools, state departments of education, special projects such as Teach for America, and district and university affiliated programs such as a New York City project for recruiting non-traditional candidates.

Intellectual Caliber and Content of Teacher Education

College and university-based teacher education is often the target of many critics contending that students in teacher education programs are academically weaker than students in other programs, that preparation programs are vacuous, and that the faculty are second-rate. Despite reliable studies responding to these criticisms and demonstrating some of the criticism as ill founded, the attacks continue. The alleged low quality of teacher education students has led to a lack of acceptance by higher education faculty of teacher education on the campus.

Burton Clark and Harry Judge have noted a certain university reluctance to own teacher education despite its major presence on campuses. Clark shows how faculty at state universities that had been normal schools or state teachers colleges resent the influence of "education people"; Judge believes that such institutions, their faculties, and their administrations have little respect for teacher preparation. He contends that the further away from direct involvement in teacher preparation the education faculty are, the better they feel about themselves. Thus, although teacher education has a long history on campuses, the relationship between it and the broader campus remains strained.

Chester Finn, a vitriolic critic of teacher education, argues that colleges of education "are the most-despised institutions in the education universe" (p.223). Even among the friends of teacher education, criticism is severe. In his 1990 book, Teachers for Our Nation's Schools, John Goodlad notes, "Teachers and teacher educators don't know enough about how to teach, and they don't know enough about how to understand and influence the conditions around them" (p. 108).

J. Palmer describes the tenuous nature of teacher education: "Training programs that were established tended to disappear after a few years. Then, as now, public universities were not certain how to deal with teacher education or if they wanted it. The low status of teacher education in state universities was established early, and it has persisted" (p. 52). A reason for the low status of teacher education faculty may be that they prepare people who work with the young in schools: preschool staffs, day care center employees, elementary and secondary school teachersall groups that are held in low esteem by various segments of society.

Programs to prepare teachers remain remarkably consistent. They generally consist of a general arts and sciences component, advanced study in a discipline, a teacher preparation component, and field experiences. In The Teacher Educator's Handbook (1996), Barbara Senkowski Stengal and Alan Tom note that "Traditional teacher education programs are typically marked by three components: foundations of schooling and learning, teaching methodology, and practice teaching" (p. 593). Foundations of schooling and learning include the vital areas of psychology, philosophy, and learning principles, a pattern first established in the normal schools.

Teacher Education and Field Experiences

Teacher education has always provided opportunities for prospective teachers to practice teaching in school settings while still in their preparation programs. For decades, these experiences occurred during the last year of the preparation program and lasted approximately six to eight weeks. In many programs, this was the only experience that prospective teachers had in a school or with students. The typical experience included assigning the student to an experienced teacher in the school who would provide guidance and supervision. A teacher education faculty member would provide a minimum of three visits to observe the prospective teacher teach.

In the 1960s, programs began requiring early experiences in the schools for undergraduate students, often during their freshman year and continuing throughout the four years, culminating in a full semester of student teaching or internship. Preparation programs began placing clusters of four or five students in the same school so as to provide a collective experience rather than a private ordeal for future teachers.

Changes in the requirements of preparation programs regarding field experiences coincided with changes in what teacher education faculty were required to do and expectations of what schools should do. In 1986 and 1990 the Holmes Group argued for professional development schools (PDSs). In a PDS, a teacher preparation program or institution would commit to providing a school population with a cadre of prospective teachers, several higher education faculty, and curriculum assistance over a period of several years. The goals of a PDS are to provide better field experiences for the teacher education students, increased faculty cooperation with the schools, and sustained curricular improvement in schools and in teacher education programs.

Many variations have occurred and will continue to occur in the field experiences of prospective teachers. The reactions of student teachers to their experiences will likely continue to be consistent. Study after study reveals that the student teaching experience is rated most important of all their preparation programs. And why not? It is the one time that they have sustained interaction with the young people that they have professed a desire to spend their working lives with.

Teacher Education Faculty

Who teaches the teachers? Who is a teacher educator? The broadest conception of who is a teacher educator includes everyone who teaches prospective and practicing teachers, from their freshman English professors and those who teach special methods courses to those who supervise student teaching. Teacher educators may be defined specifically as "those who hold tenure-line positions in teacher preparation in higher education institutions, teach beginning and advanced students in teacher education, and conduct research or engage in scholarly studies germane to teacher education" (Ducharme, p. 6).

Research on teacher educators began in the 1980s as Heather Carter, Edward Ducharme and Russell Agne, Judith Lanier and Judith Little, and others began publishing research studies of teacher education faculty. In The Handbook of Research on Teacher Education, published in 1996, Nancy Zimpher and Julie Sherrill describe the teacher education professoriate as majority male and more than 90 percent Anglo. Summarizing several studies, they note that males dominate in the higher ranks, publish more than females, and work less in schools. Ducharme offers the observation that "there is a contradiction between a commitment to prepare a professional cadre of students, a majority of whom are female, to become powerful teachers and effective advocates for youth in which the female faculty are in roles and positions implying an inequity between the genders" (p. 120).

The ethnic makeup of the teacher education professoriate is heavily skewed toward white males. The Anglo population of the professoriate is between 91 and 93 percent. Candidates for teaching remain heavily white. With the exception of faculty in the historically black colleges, there are few black or other minority professors in teacher education. As the schools become more and more multicultural, those who teach teachers remain majority white and male; those who teach children in elementary schools remain mostly female and white; those who teach adolescents remain majority female and mostly white.

Teacher Education Themes

Many teacher education programs have defining characteristics. Programs generally lean toward one of several thematic patterns: behaviorist or competency-based, humanistic, and developmental. The 1960s and 1970s were the heydays of the competency-based teacher education (CBTE) and performance-based teacher education (PBTE) programs. In CBTE, researchers attempted to isolate what they perceived as the discrete tasks of teaching, develop protocols for training teachers to master the tasks, and produce tests to assess whether or not the teachers could perform the tasks. The CBTE movement soon degenerated into lists of hundreds of competencies as proponents attempted to outdo one another through elaborate lists. Instead of a system designed to help manage teacher education, it became an unmanageable process.

In Teacher Education (1975), N. L. Gage and Philip Winne defined PBTE as "teacher training in which the prospective or inservice teacher acquires, to a prespecified degree, performance tendencies and capabilities that promote student achievement of educational objectives" (p. 146). Both CBTE and PBTE derived from beliefs in relationships between teaching practices and student learning. Intensely behaviorist, both CBTE and PBTE grew in part from a desire for accountability in education, a concern that has persisted into the twenty-first century. Although the nomenclature of CBTE and PBTE has largely vanished from higher education teacher education syllabi, the concerns for accountability and the premises underlying the movements persist.

Other programs emphasize a more developmental approach, typically focusing on field experiences integrated with coursework, analyses of classrooms, journal writing, and reflective practice. The 1980s and 1990s saw emphasis on reflective practice as a program keynote in many institutions.


Teacher education, like other fields in higher education that prepare professionals, has used accreditation as a means of quality control. In 1948 the newly formed American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) began accrediting institutions that prepared teachers. By 1950 AACTE had issued the first of several versions of Revised Standards and Policies for Accrediting Colleges for Teacher Education. In 1954, perhaps recognizing the possible conflicts inherent in being the organization of those institutions preparing teachers and also being responsible for managing the accrediting process, AACTE gave up responsibility for accreditation. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) was created and has dominated the accrediting process at the national level since. Over the years, several versions of its standards, policies, and practices have emerged. Most states have processes for accrediting teacher preparation programs and many work collaboratively with NCATE. Almost six hundred institutions are NCATE accredited.

The accreditation movement has not been without controversy, controversy that combined with concerns for quality produced a series of revisions of standards and practices over the years. Major controversies include the voluntary nature of NCATE accreditation; the standards used; and the complexity, costs, and time required to complete the process. Perhaps as a result of controversy over these and other issues, an alternative accrediting body, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, began in the 1990s and by 2002 had more than sixty member institutions.

Thus institutions had two agencies from which to seek professional accreditation. However, the combination of NCATE's longevity and the number of states working together on accreditation suggest that NCATE will continue to be the major accrediting body.


Paul Woodring, quoting the seventeenth-century writer Comenius, notes that the main object of teacher education is "to find a method of instruction by which teachers may teach less but learners may learn more" (Woodring, p. 1). This brief article suggests the difficulties inherent in finding flawless ways of teaching and of preparing teachers. Despite many research studies purporting to show that one way of doing things is superior to others, finding a way to prepare teachers so that students will learn more remains problematic. Yet if the past is prologue to the present, teacher educators in the many preparation environments that exist and that will evolve will continue to seek better ways so that all may learn.

See also: Teacher Evaluation, subentries on Methods, Overview; Teaching, subentry on Learning to Teach.


American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. 19871994. RATE Studies in Teacher Education. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Axelrod, Joseph. 1973. The University Teacher as Artist. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Borrowman, Merle. 1965. Teacher Education in America: A Documentary Study. New York: Teachers College Press.

Carter, Heather. 1981. Teacher Educators: A Descriptive Study. University of Texas, Research and Development Center for Teacher Education. ED 255 354.

Carter, Heather. 1984. "Teachers of Teachers." In Advances in Education, Vol. 1, ed. Lillian Katz and James Raths. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.

Clark, Burton R. 1987. The Academic Life: Small Worlds. Different World. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Clifford, Geraldine J., and Guthrie, James W. 1988. Ed School. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Davies, Robertson. 1986. The Salterton Trilogy. New York: Viking Penguin.

Ducharme, Edward R. 1993. The Lives of Teacher Educators. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ducharme, Edward R., and Agne, Russell. 1982. "The Education Professoriate: A Research-Based Perspective." Journal of Teacher Education 33 (6):3036.

Feiman-Nemser, Sharon, and Remillard, Janine. 1996. "Perspectives on Learning to Teach." In The Teacher Educator's Handbook, ed. Frank B. Murray. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Finn, Chester. 1991. We Must Take Charge: Our Schools and Our Future. New York: Free Press.

Gage, N. L., and Winne, Phillip. 1975. "Performance-Based Teacher Education." In Teacher Education, Seventy-fourth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, ed. Kevin Ryan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goodlad, John. 1990. Teachers for Our Nation's Schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Holmes Group. 1986. Tomorrow's Teachers: A Report of the Holmes Group. East Lansing, MI: Holmes Group.

Holmes Group. 1990. Tomorrow's Schools: A Report of the Holmes Group. East Lansing, MI: Holmes Group.

Howey, Kenneth, and Zimpher, Nancy. 1989. Profiles of Preservice Teacher Education. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Howey, Kenneth, and Zimpher, Nancy. 1996. "Patterns in Prospective Teachers: Guides for Designing Preservice Programs." In The Teacher Educator's Handbook, ed. Frank B. Murray. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Judge, Harry. 1982. American Graduate Schools of Education: A View from Abroad. New York: The Ford Foundation.

Lanier, Judith, and Little, Judith. 1986. "Research in Teacher Education." In Handbook of Research on Teaching, 3rd edition, ed. Merlin C. Wittrock. New York: Macmillan.

McCullough, David. 2001. John Adams. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Murray, Frank B., ed. 1996. The Teacher Educator's Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, J. 1985. "Teacher Education: A Perspective from a Major Public University." In Colleges of Education: Perspectives on their Future, ed. Charles C. Case and William A. Matthes. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing Company.

Sikula, John, ed. 1996. Handbook of Research on Teacher Education. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Stengal, Barbara Senkowski, and Alan, Tom. 1996. "Changes and Choices in Teaching Methods." In The Teacher Educator's Handbook, ed. Frank B. Murray. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Warren, Don, ed. 1989. American Teachers: Histories of a Profession at Work. New York: Macmillan.

Woodring, Paul. 1962. "The Need for a Unifying Theory of Teacher Education: A Reappraisal." In Teacher Education: A Reappraisal, ed. Elmer R. Smith. New York: Harper and Row.

Woodring, Paul. 1975. "The Development of Teacher Education." In Teacher Education, Seventy-fourth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, ed. Kevin Ryan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Zimpher, Nancy, and Sherrill, Julie. 1996. "Professors, Teachers, and Leaders in SCDES." In Handbook of Research on Teacher Education, ed. John Sikula. New York: Simon and Schuster.

internet resource

Gettysburg College Special Collections. 2002. The New England Primer (1805). <www.gettysburg.edu/~tshannon/his341/colonialamer.htm>.

Edward R. Ducharme

Mary K. Ducharme


In 1995 there were approximately 46 million primary and secondary school teachers in the world's formal education systems. A little more than 3 million of them were in the United States and Canada.

Initial teacher education throughout the world has five main features, all representing decisions regarding key issues. These are: recruitment, curriculum, structure, governance, and accreditation and standards. This article focuses on the first three issues.


Among the most important features of teacher education are the criteria and procedures by which candidates are selected or recruited for entry to programs and institutions. Unlike some other professions, teaching often suffers from a shortage of qualified candidates for admission. Therefore, teaching often does not enjoy the privilege of being able to select the best qualified from among a large pool of applicants. The problem for a system is, first, ensuring that there is a large enough pool of qualified graduates to meet the needs of the professions and, second, attracting enough qualified applicants to enter teaching in competition with the other professions.

How much schooling should a candidate for admission to teacher education have? How valuable are experiences outside school for prospective teachers? If the demand for fully qualified applicants for admission to teacher education programs is greater than the supply, are there alternative qualifications that might satisfy the demand? These are some of the issues confronted in attempts made to recruit candidates for entry to teaching. Factors influencing recruitment include the status of the teaching profession; the supply of, and demand for, teachers; and the economic resources of the system.

An example of the status of the profession affecting recruitment can be seen in Thailand. In 1996 it was reported that the low status of the teaching profession in Thailand was discouraging competent people from entering teaching and that some entrants were not seriously committed to becoming teachers. For Thailand, therefore, the need to improve the status of teaching and to provide other incentives for joining the profession was important.

Raymond Bolam pointed out that the career structure of the profession is also influential, contrasting the situation in the United Kingdom, where a head teacher might earn four times as much as a beginning teacher, with the situation in Spain, where head teachers received only a small increase in salary above that of their colleagues. Presumably, in Spain, candidates motivated by prospects of economic advancement are less likely to enter teaching than they are in the United Kingdom, other things being equal.

Another important aspect of recruitment concerns the number of years of schooling candidates have completed before entry to training institutions. While in most developed countries completion of a full eleven or twelve years of schooling is a normal requirement, that is an unrealistic expectation in a country that is unable to produce a sufficient number of such graduates to meet its needs for teachers. Toward the end of the twentieth century, in the central and south Asian countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, the mean number of years of schooling required before entry to teacher training was 10.7 years. In the southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines, it was 10.5 years, while in the Latin American countries of Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia, it was 9.3 years. In the African countries of Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Morocco, and Kenya, the mean was 9.6 years.

This is not to say that the only qualifications accepted for entry to teacher education are the number of years of schooling or level of academic achievement. In some countries, candidates are recruited without completing the full secondary education available because of their valuable experience in other types of activities beyond formal schooling, such as employment and community development work, and their strong motivation to become teachers. In Australia, for example, universities like the University of Sydney offer such candidates programs specially designed to take advantage of their strengths.


Most systems provide teacher education in face-to-face situations to students attending institutions of higher education. However, many teachers around the world receive substantial components of their training through distance education. Beginning near the end of the 1950s, this approach involved the use of postal services for the delivery of learning materials to students remote from an institution, and the sending back of completed assignments by the students. The correspondence elements of this model were supplemented with tutorials conducted at centers located within reach of enough students to form a group. On a number of occasions tutors would meet with the groups to render the process in more motivating social contexts and to deal with students at a more personal level. Sometimes students traveled to the campuses for residential schools. Telephone hook-ups were also arranged by land line or even satellite. Two Australian universities, the University of New England and the University of Queensland, pioneered this approach to distance teacher education. As technical electronic advances occurred with the introduction of personal computers and electronic mail the process became much faster and more efficient. Distance education is a relatively inexpensive approach that is especially useful in locations where populations are sparse and distances are great.

The duration of teacher education programs varies across systems from a year or less to four or even five years. That range exists in quite a variety of countries and seems not always to depend on the economic development level of the countries concerned. Among the African developing countries of Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Morocco, and Kenya, the range in 1990 was from one to five years. In Australia, recruits who have completed three-or four-year university bachelor's degrees can complete a professional teaching qualification in one year, while most choose to enter teaching immediately after completing secondary schooling and then take up to four years to complete a bachelor of education degree.

The crucial factor is the foundation on which the professional training is based. Sometimes systems try to compensate for lack of a full secondary education in its recruits by adding time to the training program in which to supply missing knowledge and skills. However, this can increase the costs of teacher education to prohibitive levels.

One of the chief controversies in initial teacher education in more developed countries in the second half of the twentieth century was whether professional components of programs should be offered concurrently with academic components or consecutively. It became commonly accepted that concurrent programs were preferable. However, fluctuations in teacher supply and demand, and the demands of other programs in universities often resulted in decisions being adopted on the basis of practicalities rather than ideals, so that consecutive programs began to take precedence. Continuous, or concurrent, programs tend to introduce professional components early and in close association with general education and specialist academic studies. Consecutive programs, sometimes called "end-on" programs, delay the introduction of professional components until general and specialist studies have been completed.

Especially controversial during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were the relationships between the university or college offering the programs and the schools for which the student teachers were being prepared. Traditionally, schools provided professional experiences during the practicum component of the program, perhaps for up to three periods of three or four weeks a year. However, the role of the schools in initial teacher education generally became greater during those decades. In some cases, the school became the locus of the program, with student teachers being based in schools rather than in universities or colleges. Crucial to this controversy was the role of experienced teachers employed in the schools. Whereas it had been more usual for them to act as advisers and supervisors of initial school experience, they now sometimes undertook much more onerous responsibilities, such as designing and coordinating the whole program, with universities providing a supporting role and awarding the final qualification.

The types of institutions offering initial teacher education programs also vary from system to system. In some places, teacher education, especially at the elementary level, is offered in single purpose, state-run or private colleges known often as teachers colleges or colleges of education. In other countries, teacher education is offered by multipurpose institutions, sometimes called polytechnics, which are tertiary education institutions emphasizing training for a variety of occupations, for example paramedical services, occupational therapy, and journalism. During the 1990s both England and Australia restructured their higher education systems so that all such institutions became new universities or additional components of existing universities.

All of these institutions work in conjunction with early childhood, elementary, and secondary schools, which provide practice teaching experiences for teacher education students.


What do student teachers need to learn in order to become effective teachers in the contexts in which they will be employed? That is the most fundamental of all the questions that can be asked about teacher education. Initial teacher education programs usually have five strands: general education, specialist subjects, education foundation studies, professional studies, and the practicum, including practice teaching.

General education programs attempt to ensure that intending teachers have a sound grounding in the predominant knowledge, attitudes, and values of the cultures in which they are preparing to teach. General studies in history, the arts, science, mathematics, philosophy, ethics, government, psychology, and sociology are common components of this strand.

Specialist subjects involve studies in depth, which qualify students to teach specific areas of knowledge. Literature and literacy, languages, history, geography, mathematics, science, computing, domestic science, physical education, and industrial arts are examples. Student teachers preparing to teach in elementary schools are usually expected to teach a broader range of content, whereas postelementary teachers are usually more specialized.

Education foundation studies include studies of the history of educational thought, principles of learning and teaching, human growth and development, comparative education, and sociology of education. Curriculum and instruction subjects provide units on principles and practice of planning, delivering and assessing learning experiences for students and include such matters as programming, classroom management skills, test construction, individualizing instruction, small group teaching methods, laboratory instruction, and cooperative learning techniques.

In some systems, the distinction between these theoretical and applied learnings is eschewed on the grounds that theoretical studies have little relevance to newcomers unless they are seen to arise from practice, and attempts are made to integrate the two. This was well exemplified in England in 1992, when, partly on the grounds that the content of teacher education was too theoretical, Kenneth Clarke, then the Secretary of State for Education, announced that 80 percent of programs in secondary teacher education should be "school-based." In North America, Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers, among others, called for a more central role of the school in teacher education. A somewhat similar complaint about the excess of theory in the curriculum of teacher education programs was reported in 1991 by Andrea B. Rugh and colleagues with reference to Pakistan, and in 1986 by Linda A. Dove regarding Papua New Guinea.

In some parts of the world, the role of the teacher is wider than in others and the curriculum of teacher education is adjusted accordingly. In 1991 Beatrice Avalos described situations in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea that are useful examples of the risks encountered in such widening of the curriculum. In Tanzania, adherence was given to the belief that education should produce citizens who were self-reliant, especially as most children would not receive more than a basic education. Schools were to be community schools that inculcated "socialist" work habits; were self-supporting financially; emphasized knowledge and skills useful to the village or rural community; and encouraged the participation of the community in school activities. Pursuit of these goals necessitated a broadening of the teacher education curriculum at the same time as the length of the program was shortened in order to produce graduates more quickly. In consequence of these changes, the curriculum became overcrowded and content-centered with little time for practical components. Avalos claimed that the teachers did not even achieve sufficient competence to teach basic literacy and numeracy, and concluded that great caution needs to be exerted in training teachers for more than one purpose.

Providing actual teaching experience in real school situations (the practicum) is one of the most challenging tasks for planners of teacher education. Traditionally, in the elementary school context, the student teacher was placed with a volunteer school teacher and would be assigned lessons to design, prepare, and present under that teacher's guidance. Usually these lessons would number about three per day, after an initial period of orientation and observation, for about three weeks each year of the program. The teacher would provide feedback on a selection of those lessons but, in order to develop confidence and independence, would not be present for all of the lessons, especially toward the end of the period of practice teaching. The college or university in which the student teacher was enrolled would usually appoint one of its own faculty to supervise this process and that person would visit and observe the student teacher on several occasions and would have the responsibility of reporting on progress and awarding a grade, after discussing the experience with both the student and the cooperating teacher. Student teachers would often have other assignments to complete as well as those involving face-to-face teaching. For example, they might be required to establish a file on school organization and curriculum resources in the school. In the context of the secondary school, in which the student teacher might be obtaining experience in a number of specialist subject areas involving more than one school department, a corresponding number of cooperating teachers and college or university supervisors might be appointed.

This traditional approach to the practicum has been criticized on the grounds that it militates against bridging the gap between theory and practice, when the two might be learned more effectively if integrated. In some cases the problem was approached by trying to make the university or college the site of more practically orientated school experiences. Thus, such innovations as laboratory schools were established at the university. Over the last three decades of the twentieth century, the bridge was sought in the form of simulations, such as microteaching. Microteaching usually occurred on the campus of the college or university. It consisted of scaled-down teaching situations in which shorter than normal lessons would be taught to smaller groups of students with limited numbers of teaching skills to be practiced in pursuit of a small number of learning objectives. Usually, teaching spaces were developed and built specifically for the environment of microteaching. The lessons would be videotaped, so that the student teacher could view the lesson, often in consultation with peers and a supervisor or mentor, and obtain feedback which could be used in replanning the lessons.

While the controlled context in which microteaching occurs has facilitated much research on its effectiveness, there has been concern about the extent to which skills developed under microteaching conditions are transferred to normal classroom situations. It has been argued that there is no adequate substitute for real experience in normal classrooms and seldom, if ever, was reliance placed on microteaching as a complete substitute for actual classroom experience. Indeed, some systems have sought to make school experience the central component of teacher education in what has become known as "school-based teacher education" or, at least, by providing much more enduring periods of school experience at some stage of the teacher education program. A medical model has sometimes been applied, with student teachers approaching the end of their programs becoming "interns" attached to schools for a semester, or even a year.

Critics often claimed that professional experiences gained through such innovations as microteaching and such models as "performance-based" or "competency-based" teacher education gave too much emphasis to the "performance" or "behavioral" aspects of teaching at the expense of insight and reflection. Accordingly, calls for more reflective approaches were made and were accepted. The concept of reflective teacher education generated much literature in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1998, Marvin Wideen and colleagues, after an extensive review of research on the effectiveness of innovations in teacher education, including reflective practice, found little encouragement for their adoption, and concluded that such innovations have little ability to affect beginning teachers within teacher education structures common at the end of the twentieth century.


Major challenges for initial teacher education in the twenty-first century include:

  1. The raising of the status of the teaching profession to a level at which it attracts the best qualified applicants.
  2. Harnessing rapidly developing technology to provide maximum learning opportunities for student teachers, especially those in remote areas and those in developing countries, where conventional resources such as libraries are impossible to resource adequately.
  3. Discovering the optimum balance between theory and practice in the curriculum of teacher education in the many and varying contexts in which it is provided.
  4. Developing teacher education structures and curricula that provide optimal balances among the academic, humanitarian, aesthetic, and moral domains of human experience.
  5. Designing research that takes account of the many complex factors that impinge upon the process of teacher education, so that a greater understanding may be gained of the ways in which students learn to teach in the myriad of contexts in which they live.

See also: Elementary Education, subentry on Preparation of Teachers; Teacher Preparation, International Perspective.


Avalos, Beatrice. 1991. Approaches to Teacher Education: Initial Teacher Training. London: Commonwealth Secretariat.

Ben-Peretz, Miriam. 1995. "Curriculum of Teacher Education Programs." In International Encyclopedia of Teaching and Teacher Education, 2nd edition, ed. Lorin W. Anderson. Oxford: Pergamon.

Bolam, Raymond. 1995. "Teacher Recruitment and Induction." In The International Encyclopedia of Teaching and Teacher Education, 2nd edition, ed. Lorin W. Anderson. Oxford: Pergamon.

E. Anne Williams. 1995. "An English Perspective on Change in Initial Teacher Education." Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 23:516.

Dove, Linda A. 1986. Teachers and Teacher Education in Developing Countries. London: Croom Helm.

Ghani, Zulkiple Abd. 1990. "Pre-service Teacher Education in Developing Countries." In Teachers and Teaching in the Developing World, ed. Val D. Rust and Per Dalin. New York: Garland.

Joyce, Bruce, and Showers, Beverly. 1995. Student Achievement through Staff Development: Fundamentals of School Renewal, 2nd edition. New York: Longman.

Judge, Harry, et al., ed. 1994. Oxford Studies in Comparative Education, Vol. 4: The University and the Teachers: France, the United States, England. Wallingford, Eng.: Triangle Books.

Rugh, Andrea B.; Malik, Ahmed M.; and Farooq, R. A. 1991. Bridges Report Series, No. 8: Teaching Practices to Increase Student Achievement: Evidence from Pakistan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 1998. World Education Report: Teachers and Teaching in a Changing World. Paris: UNESCO Publishing.

Wideen, Marvin; Mayer-Smith, Jolie; and Moon, Barbara. 1998. "A Critical Analysis of the Research on Learning to Teach: Making the Case for an Ecological Perspective on Inquiry." Review of Educational Research 68:130178.

Michael J. Dunkin

Teacher Training

views updated May 29 2018


TEACHER TRAINING in the United States began in 1794 when the Society of Associated Teachers was formed in New York City to establish qualifications for teachers in that city. The Free School Society, established in 1805, also in New York City, began training teachers using public funds and organized a teacher-training course. In 1885, Brown University began to offer students courses in pedagogy, establishing one of the first university-level departments of education. When the study of teaching methods began to receive recognition as a valid program in the twentieth century, the certification standards for teachers increased throughout the United States.

By the end of the twentieth century, almost all American teachers received preservice training in institutions of higher education with programs that complied with state guidelines for certification. These institutions usually have separate schools or departments of education, and prospective teachers are education majors. Nearly every teacher holds a bachelor's degree, and the vast majority have additional credits, with more than half holding one or more advanced degrees. Many states require graduate education for permanent liscensure. Education students must take courses in pedagogical techniques, and prospective secondary teachers need a specified number of credit hours in the specific subject they plan to teach. Training includes a student teaching requirement, a period of classroom teaching under the supervision of a certified teacher. States vary in their course content and credit requirements. Since the 1980s, the expanding role of computers in the classroom has made familiarity with high technology almost mandatory for teachers, and organizations such as the National Teacher Training Institute offer them instruction on how best to integrate new technology into lesson plans.

Critics of teacher training programs cite an over-emphasis on methods and psychological studies, the neglect of academic subjects, the need for accountability to ensure that training and certification are based less on academic credits and more on ability to function in the classroom, and the lack of uniform requirements among states. A Nation at Risk, the 1983 report of the National Committee on Excellence in Education, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, alerted the American public to the need to attract high-quality teaching candidates and to improve their training. By the mid-1990s, most states offered alternative routes to certification to mid-career people and liberal arts graduates via programs that provide on-the-job supervision. On the federal level, the Troops to Teachers program helps qualified retired servicemen and servicewomen begin second careers as teachers in public schools. The Teach for America program, supported by private, corporate, and government donations, trains recent college graduates at summer institutes. Program participants then teach for at least two years in rural and urban low-income areas.


Britzman, Deborah P. Practice Makes Practice: A Critical Study of Learning to Teach. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Edwards, Elizabeth. Women in Teacher Training Colleges, 1900–1960:A Culture of Femininity. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Leavitt, Howard B., ed. Issues and Problems in Teacher Education: An International Handbook. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Myrna W.Merron/a. e.

See alsoCarnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching ; Education, Higher: Women's Colleges ; Peabody Fund ; Smith-Hughes Act ; Teacher Corps .

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