Social Studies Teacher Education in the Early Twentieth Century: A Historical Inquiry Into the Relationship Between Teacher Preparation and Curriculum Reform

October 2013

Source: Teacher College Record, Volume 115, No. 12, (2013)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present study examines how teacher education programs contributed and/or responded to the emergence of social studies as a school subject in the early part of the twentieth century.

Data were collected through published monographs, reports, and articles on the status of history (pre-1916) and social studies (post-1916) teacher preparation programs that largely have been overlooked by social studies historians to date.

The authors argue that these documents reveal some longstanding assumptions about the development of the social studies field. For instance, there was little agreement among subject matter and education specialists regarding what constituted the social studies curriculum. Hence, there was little agreement on what social studies teachers and students needed to know. However, this little agreement suggests that disarray in the social studies field may have been as much a function of disorder in the realm of teacher education as it was of conflict among national committees.

The authors argue that the early critics of social studies teacher education were certain about the fact that both the teacher education and the social studies fields were in a state of disarray. On the one hand, most teacher education programs appear to have been resistant at best, and ill-equipped at worst, to adequately prepare teachers in social studies subject matter. On the other hand, social studies reformers failed to define the social studies curriculum clearly enough for teacher educators to have much to work with in the first place.

Furthermore, teacher educators could not agree on what the integrated social studies should look like or how it should be taught.
Hence, reformers should articulate a vision for curriculum, instruction, and learning that accounts for the central role of teachers and teaching in the educational enterprise.
Reformers also should account for the politics and practices of schools/colleges/departments of education when attempting to implement curriculum change, in order to put systems in place that can accommodate and help effectuate new curricular schemes.
The authors conclude that the current study represents first efforts in a pursuit of understanding the historical connection of teacher education and curriculum reform.

Updated: Feb. 22, 2018