teacher training

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teacher training

teacher training, professional preparation of teachers, usually through formal course work and practice teaching. Although the concept of teaching as a profession is fairly new, most teachers in industrialized nations today are college or university educated. The amount of preparatory training, however, varies greatly worldwide.

Early History

Specific training for teachers was originated in France (1685) by St. John Baptist de la Salle. Teacher training spread rapidly in Europe as a result of the work of August Hermann Francke and Johann Pestalozzi and through the influence of the monitorial system. Germany established the first curriculum for teacher training in the 18th cent. From Europe the monitorial training method spread to the United States (c.1810).

History in the United States

In the colonial period in America, the only requirements for teaching in the lower schools were a modicum of learning and a willingness to work in what was then an ill-paid, low-prestige occupation. By the 1820s and 30s, however, teacher training became common in the academies, the equivalent of today's secondary schools. Many women, excluded from men's preparatory schools, could obtain an education only in such academies. The nation's first private normal school, a two-year post–high school training institute for elementary-school teachers, was opened by Samuel R. Hall (1823); the first state-supported normal school was created by Massachusetts (1839).

With the assistance of Henry Barnard and Horace Mann, the number of normal schools in the United States increased rapidly during the latter half of the 19th cent. Since their sole purpose was professional instruction of elementary-school teachers, an especially strong emphasis was placed on the psychology of child development. Preparation for secondary-school teaching, which demanded a larger academic component, was still left to liberal arts colleges. Nevertheless, by the turn of the century many normal schools had expanded into four-year degree-granting teachers colleges, and by the 1920s and 30s these teachers colleges, generally supported by the public, were training substantial numbers of the nation's public-school teachers.

Training for secondary-school teachers remained primarily a function of liberal-arts colleges until after World War II, when growing numbers of students, a strong rise in the average age of leaving school, and the growing need for technical skills in the nation's workforce led to a demand for secondary education that traditional colleges could not meet. Since 1945, consequently, most teachers colleges have expanded their educational missions and become liberal-arts colleges offering a broad general education in addition to specialized courses in pedagogy.

In the United States, the first graduate program in education was established at New York Univ. (1887). In the following year the teacher-training school that is presently known as Teachers College, Columbia Univ., was founded. Since the establishment of those two institutions, graduate study in education has expanded rapidly.

Current Practice

Certification requirements for teaching have advanced with educational opportunity, although they vary widely from country to country. Some, like the United States, allow each state to establish its own requirements; others, like England, set national standards. The trend in certification has been toward requiring more complete training, with practice teaching and extensive graduate work for specialized positions. In many countries extension or summer graduate work is required of teachers or is made a prerequisite for advancement. A number of graduate professional degrees are now offered, including the Master of Arts in Teaching and the Doctor of Education. While the professional requirements for teaching in the United States have in the past stressed method and psychology, increasing emphasis is now being placed on subject-matter specialization; European countries have generally stressed scholarship.

Improvements in teacher training led to demands for professional recognition and benefits. These resulted in the formation of several international organizations as well as local and national teachers' unions. The success of teacher training for elementary and secondary education has led some college administrations to consider requiring such training for college teaching also.

See education; progressive education; vocational education; programmed instruction.


See M. L. Borrowman, The Liberal and Technical in Teacher Education (1956, repr. 1977); C. P. Magrath and R. L. Egbert, Strengthening Teacher Education (1987); R. J. Arends, Learning to Teach (1988); G. J. Clifford and J. W. Guthrie, Ed School (1990).

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"Harris Teachers College and Stowe Teachers College: Growth and Development 1891-1993." Master's thesis, Iowa State University.

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