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


by Benjamin M. Jacobs ó 2013

Background/Context: The field of social studies education is hardly lacking in historical investigation. The historiography includes sweeping chronicles of longtime struggles over the curriculum as well as case studies of momentous eras, events, policies, trends, and people, with emphases on aims, subject matter, method, and much more. Curiously, scant attention has been paid to the history of social studies teacher education. This study fills a gap in the literature by considering what effect, if any, teacher education in the social studies has had on the development of the field over time. Specifically, the study focuses on history/social studies teacher education in the decades immediately preceding and following the National Education Associationís landmark report, The Social Studies in Secondary Education (1916), which commonly is credited with establishing social studies as a school subject.

Purpose: A basic premise underlying this study is that stability and change in social studies curriculum and instruction may be someway related to stability and change in social studies teacher education. Because the enterprise of social studies teacher education exists in large part for the sake of supporting the enterprise of social studies in the schools, changes in social studies in the schools may well affect the preparation of teachers to teach the subject, and changes in social studies teacher preparation may well affect the teaching of the subject in schools. This study interrogates how teacher education programs contributed and/or responded (or not) to the emergence of social studies as a school subject in the early part of the twentieth century.

Research Design: This document-based historical study looks back nearly a century to the origins of the social studies field and considers the interrelationship between social studies as it was envisioned in the schools and social studies as it was configured in teacher education programs. The study is based on 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.

Findings/Conclusions: The story that emerges reinforces some longstanding assumptions about the development of the field: For example, there was little agreement among subject matter and education specialists regarding what constituted the social studies curriculum, so there was little agreement on what social studies teachers and students needed to know. But, it also 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 curriculum-makers about the nature of social studies in the schools.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 12, 2013, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17249, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 11:54:35 PM

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About the Author
  • Benjamin Jacobs
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    BENJAMIN M. JACOBS is assistant professor of social studies, education and Jewish studies at New York University. His publications, which have appeared in journals such as Theory and Research in Social Education and Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, and in reference works such as the International Handbook of Jewish Education and the Encyclopedia of Curriculum Studies, include several studies of the history and theory of social education and Jewish education on the American scene. His research interests also include teacher education, teaching history, curriculum studies, cosmopolitan education, and the education of ethnic groups.
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