Back to the Future: How and Why to Revive the Teachers College Tradition

Dec. 25, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 60, No. 5, p.443-449. (November/December 2009)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author argues for a reconsideration of the teachers college tradition within teacher ed curriculum. The author’s thesis is that we must return to the teachers college tradition if we expect to flourish as a real profession and contribute to the civic health of our nation.
The author will make three points to explain what the author means by the teachers college tradition.
1) We need a different and better understanding of our past.
2) The future of the teaching profession depends on our repairing our moral foundations.
3) The author wants to demonstrate how the revival of the teaching profession depends on the individual acts we take on our home campuses and within our local communities.

Point #1: We Need a Different and Better Understanding of Our Past

The author contends that we need to use our knowledge of the past to raise the significance of teacher education on our university campuses and in our culture generally. Understanding the past is important but not sufficient. We have something of a split within the teacher education field between those who understand our history and those who practice teacher education. We need to bring these two worlds together by raising up teacher-scholars who know our past and can use it wisely as they practice teacher education. However, the author is arguing that we have a great deal to learn from the philosophy of curriculum embedded within the teachers college tradition.

Lesson #1: Teacher Education Is the Most
The author recognizes that many teachers colleges began to fulfill a variety of purposes not long after they were created (typically for reasons of economic survival), but his point is that these institutions were justified to the public on the basis of one purpose: teacher education.

Lesson #2: High-Quality Curriculum for Teachers Must Integrate What to Teach, How to Teach, and Why to Teach
A second lesson we can learn from the teachers college tradition has to deal with curriculum. A high-quality curriculum for teachers must integrate what to teach, how to teach, and why to teach. If any of these three pieces of curriculum is neglected, the teaching profession declines.
All three were present in every teachers college in the nation.

Lesson #3: We Must Build Relationships in Two Directions
For a third lesson that we can learn from the teachers college tradition, the author wants to make the point that teacher educators must build relationships in two directions: (a) outward toward K-12 schools and (b) inward toward our faculty colleagues and university administrators.

Point #2: We Must Repair the Moral Foundations of the Teaching Profession

The second point the author wants to make is that we must repair the moral foundations of the teaching profession. Our problem—and challenge—is that the teaching profession radically marginalized the art of teaching and tried to create a purely empirical basis for what we do.
This was a mistake, and now we must work to correct it. At the same time, however, we want to be careful to avoid relying too heavily on art and intuition. Any sound view of teaching will acknowledge that art and science are both critically important.

Point #3: We Will Revive the Teaching Profession Only by Hard Work in Our Local Communities

We have no choice but to become well-informed, university-wide leaders on our home campuses. This means that we should find ways to connect to departments from the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the various professions. We have no choice but to become the kind of university leaders who can move the mission of education schools back to the center of university purpose.


We have much work to do to rebuild the teaching profession. Drawing on the teachers college tradition, the author has argued that we need to have a better understanding of our history, we need to repair the moral foundations of the teaching profession, and we will thrive only if we begin with concrete acts within our local communities. Only by taking these steps can we provide the next generation with a teaching profession that has the stature it deserves.

Updated: Mar. 14, 2010