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History of Teacher Preperation

Page history last edited by maxeme tuchman 14 years ago

Teacher education has traversed an interesting historical road in its 200-years of development, yet it seems to retain some foundational ways of thinking from its inception. Until the 1800s, teaching was seen as something that could be done by anyone with a decent education. All that was needed, it was thought, was a basic understanding of the content to be taught; there was no conception of a possible need to train individuals to teach. Teaching was seen as temporary work- as something “young women did at home and young men did between the end of college and the beginning of what they saw as their real careers,” (Fraser, 11). Teaching was often seen as part time work done to augment one’s income, as neither the school day nor the school year were very long (Lucas, 1997). Schooling at this time was something that was completely decentralized and run locally by each neighborhood or town, many running out of the kitchens of housewives’ homes, so each school and town had its own way of selecting and hiring teachers- processes that tended to be very short and lacked any sort of rigor or real selectivity.

      A lack of any sort of preparatory programs or processes led to the existence of a very small pool of qualified teaching candidates, however, and with the rise of the common schools movement and the proliferation of education at all levels in the , schools and towns were quickly in dire need of more qualified teachers for their growing number of students. One response to this was the feminization of the teaching force- by bringing in women, the hope was to increase the pool of acceptable candidates for teaching. Prior to this, teaching was done mostly by young men in the intermediary time between their college education and their “real” careers (Lucas, 1997). Let by Catharin Beecher, however, large efforts were made to recruit women into the teaching work force (Fraser, 2007), instigating the turning point in which teaching became an occupation filled mostly by women rather than men.

      Despite these new recruits, however, it wasn’t until the development of Normal schools that some form of formal teacher education arose. Normal schools came out of a generous grant made by Edmund Dwight in 1838, as he offered the Massachusetts Board of Education a sum of $10,000 for the establishment of a state normal school in order to “qualify teachers of the common schools,” (Lucas, 23). Normal schools became a site for practice-oriented education, focusing on content knowledge and pedagogy. One of the biggest challenges these schools faced, however, was the fact that there was no defined level of education they served. Normal schools were not standardized, taking in students coming out of anywhere from elementary schools to high schools, providing for a vast range of educational levels (Fraser, 2007). It was unclear whether Normal schools were middle schools, high schools, or some other, undefined level of schooling. Another concern surrounding Normal schools was that some people were using them not as preparation for teaching, but rather as a second chance at an education. Individuals began to use a public institution for private gain, and to further their career opportunities (Lucas, 1997), raising concern about the legitimacy of Normal schools and their students.

      Another type of teacher development arising right around the 1840s was that of Teachers Institutes. Beginning with a small gathering of less than 30 young men in 1839,  Emma Willard and Hendry Barnard developed a six-week program to cover “pedagocics,” teaching methodologies and included site visits, as well as lectures and discussions on the organization of schools, the classification of students, and the theory and practice of teaching (Lucas, 1997). This idea quickly spread and many other institutes were founded, meeting a couple of times a year in workshop form, providing a seemingly more accessible alternative to Normal schools.

      In the 1870s, another leap was taken in the standardization of teacher education programs, as universities began creating departments and schools of education, bringing teaching into the world of academia. Although a big step, only a very small minority of teachers were educated through these departments, the great majority still going without any sort of preparation and only required to pass an exam to become certified to teach. The typical elementary school teacher in 1895 held less than a high school diploma, and the same remained true for a fourth of teachers by 1922 (Lucas, 1997).

      This development in university education departments pushed for a transition in which Normal schools became teachers’ colleges, requiring a high schools diploma for admittance and offering a 4-year baccalaureate program (Fraser, 2007). Combining this development with the fact that many people used Normal schools as a way of furthering their education (rather than actually having an interest in teaching) resulted in a push for teachers’ colleges to become regular colleges, giving easy access to students who did not want to become teachers and catering to the needs of a larger audience with more diverse interests. This new level of education for teachers, however, did result in higher and more standardized requirements for teachers. By 1906, approximately three-fourths of all states required at least one course in the theory and art of teaching as a minimal part of licensure (Fraser, 2007).

      The trend in rising educational attainment for teachers continued, and from 1930-1950, the standard moved from two years of college study to a nearly universal expectation of holding a college degree in order to teach. In 1950, 37 states required more than four years of college and only 6 allowed any less than that (Fraser, 2007). Guidelines and standards for teaching remained highly decentralized, however, as the common standard in the first third of the 20th century was for states to simply suggest only general guidelines for teacher certification, leaving it to specific school district officials to decide how these regulation would be applied and enforced (Lucas, 1997). The result was usually a superintendent writing up an exam which, for all intents and purposes, became the sole basis of certification and employment (Lucas, 1997).

      By 1967, however, colleges and universities were turning out over 200,000 students eligible for initial certification. About 192,000 of them were recipients of baccalaureate degrees, the rest receiving Master of Arts in Teaching degrees or their equivalent (Lucas, 1997). Despite these great numbers, due to the increasing enrollment rates in schools and the high need for qualified teachers, there seemed to exist a certain dissatisfaction with the method of training an developing teachers. In this era, many innovations in teacher education arose and were taken up as promising, but then quickly discarded in favor of a new innovation. During this time, many alternative programs were available as pathways into education as well, such as the National Teaching Corps, among many others like it (Lucas, 1997).

      Interested in education and teacher preparation, Walter Borg argued in 1975 that a teaching program should have at least three characteristics in order to be effective: 1) Focus the student teacher on specific skills and behaviors that would be used in the classroom, 2) modeling practices for student teachers so that they could learn the necessary skills, 3) student teachers should have the opportunity to practice such skills and receive critical and specific feedback so they become competent in their use (Lucas, 1997). This was only one bit of the enormous amount of research and literature during this time, focused on understanding teachers’ roles and functions in the classroom in terms of specific skills, and to derive objectives and goals for teacher education. In the 1960s, Clarence Faust and Alvin Eurich proposed that teacher education should consist of “four interrelated parts:” 1) Liberal education, 2) an extended knowledge of the subject or area taught, 3) professional knowledge, 4) classroom management skills (Fraser, 198).

      By the 1980s, the tides turned once again toward the virtues of a liberal arts education for teachers, as it was thought necessary that teachers have a wide base of knowledge and the skills to think critically, but this caused tension between educationists and professors in liberal arts (Lucas, 1997). By this time, researchers felt patterns emerging in teacher education reform attempts, as the same prescriptions had been recycled through several decades but never quite fully implemented, including: More stringent admissions standards, better screening of teacher applicants, increase in the number of academic courses required, professional education courses , increasing the number and quality of clinical experiences, standardizing the testing of teaching and subject matter competence prior to certification (Lucas, 1997). At this point, researchers were struggling with WHY nothing had really changed despite adamant and specific recommendations for teacher education reform.

      One of the biggest challenges faced in the field is the high level of decentralization. By the 1990s, the authority of licensure rest with the 50 states individually (Lucas, 1997). State education agencies define minimal requirements for entry into teaching, and virtually all state regulations establish some form of basic criteria for teacher preparation programs. Requirements vary considerably from state to state, however, but there seem to be two main approaches to setting requirements: Focusing on the features and elements a teacher preparation program must have in order to be accredited by the state, or to focus on the specific knowledge and qualifications of an individual in assessing their eligibility for licensure (Lucas, 1997). Due to the highly decentralized education of teachers, however, a vast number of programs are available with vastly different ways of educating teachers, anything from two year master's programs to Teach for America's five week institute, all offering different paths of study, and perhaps different results.

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