Transforming Teacher Education to Reform America’s P-20 Education System

Nov. 01, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 61(5), p. 432-440. November, 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reviews reform efforts and examines their implications for positioning America to address the economic, political, and social challenges of the 21st century.

Updates in Teacher Education

Based on their analysis of numerous research studies, Zeichner and Liston identified four distinct traditions of teacher education reforms implemented in the United States in the 20th century.

These traditions are:
1. The academic tradition that focuses on teachers as subject matter specialists as well as scholars. Thus, the focus is on the knowledge of the content, the overall curriculum, and the pedagogical skills the teacher needs to be competent.
2. The social efficiency or teacher-centered tradition. This reform initiative, still prevalent today, has been described as the single most influential and controversial trend in U.S. teacher education.
3. The developmentalist tradition. This student-centered rather than teacher-centered mode of teaching emphasizes the different learning styles and needs of children. It requires the teacher to demonstrate content-pedagogical expertise but also a more definitive understanding of the different learning styles and needs of children and how to address them pedagogically.
4. The social reconstructionist tradition, which emerged during the 20th century, helps educators and the public better understand that both schooling and teacher education are critical components of our democracy.

These reforms focused on the significance of teacher educators’ ensuring that their teacher candidates (defined as teachers, school counselors, and administrators) valued and had a strong understanding of knowledge related to their fields, as well as teaching, learning, and social issues associated with proposals to change education.

Current Efforts to Transform Teacher Education to Reform P-20 Education

Several reform streams are underway that have the potential to transform how we prepare teachers and other educators to assume their roles and responsibilities within our education system.
The author discusses six such efforts: preparation for 21st-century teaching and learning, professional learning communities, national teacher certification standards, clinically based teacher education and accreditation, a teacher residency model to support preservice teachers, and national standards for America’s education system.


The author concludes that it is critical that we transform teacher education programs as part of the educational transformational process.
Teacher education programs must be transformed to ensure that future members of the profession are prepared to teach, counsel, and lead our schools and communities in the 21st century. Failing to transform the system will result in more division within our schools based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. It will result in growing numbers of Americans not acquiring the knowledge and skills they will need to thrive in our digital-aged, knowledge- based, and multicultural global society.

Zeichner, K. M., & Liston, D. P. (1990). Traditions of Reform in U.S. Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education, 41(2), 3-20.

Updated: Mar. 21, 2012