Teacher Education Curriculum as Architecture

November 1999
Christopher I. Cobitz, Ph.D.


            Although it would be possible to continue debating for weeks, months and even years the factors which cause a student to choose one institution over another; some themes should be obvious.  We would hope that the university has some type of theme.  For example, NC A&T State University is a historically black university.  It would be difficult to say that one college in the university has that heritage and another does not.  More importantly, could you honestly separate tracks within a program from one another?

            One would certainly hope that the teacher education program on any given campus would have a shared theme.  These themes should be derived from a common belief about teacher education.  This is not to say that faculty should have a single common belief, but it is difficult to imagine an effective program coming form conflicting philosophical frameworks.  The actual theme should be displayed I the curriculum of the program.

            This curriculum includes both the shared core components and the specialized courses required to do justice to the preparation of educational professionals in various areas.  Although a teacher education professor should have a wealth of knowledge about preparing teachers, it is still difficult to imagine a separation of teaching from its content.  The methods and philosophical stance needed to produce a science teacher is fundamentally different from those required to teach language arts.  Therefore it is important to allow the specialist in science education to have a primary input into the science teacher preparation curriculum.  (In point of fact, there are several skills and concepts that cannot be taught across content areas) 

            The concern becomes how to have the appropriate level of program specialization and still maintain the theme of the institution.  Not only for the sake of maintaining the flavor of the institution, but also due to the fact that there exist a set of common issues that any quality teacher education program must possess.  A theoretical framework for this situation can be gleaned from housing developments. 

            Envision the difference between a block of town homes and a group of freestanding structures.  The town homes are merely variations on a common theme.  Literally you cannot remove them from each other since they have shared walls.  Additionally, if you know one of the town homes you have a concept of the others.  Overlay this with the vision of custom-built homes.  Each is individualized.  Knowing any one home does not necessarily assist in knowing another.  Unfortunately, many such neighborhoods today are not designed using the premises of Frank Lloyd Wright (fitting the building into the environment).  Therefore, the home could just as easily exist in another neighborhood (or university for that matter)

            Ultimately this version of teacher education programs has several distinct advantages.  First and foremost, the duplication of courses is reduced drastically.  Since shared walls are the norm instead of the exception, only one version of the history of American education needs to be introduced into the university catalog.  Although the highlights of agricultural education are slightly different form those of science education, both views can be served in one classroom.  It is also entirely possible that the education of both science and agriculture teachers can be enhanced by producing an appreciation of the other field.  This is not a terribly new concept it harkens all the way back to Jefferson’s plea for the true renaissance person.

            Additional benefits are gained in that one set of materials advertising the entire teacher education program can provide a correct picture of the teacher education programs.  Finally, this vision would produce a set of teachers that are clearly the result of a certain institution.  Ideally, the education received from the teacher education program should have such a profound effect on the teacher that they continue to display certain characteristics through their career.  Clearly a set of concentrations with a shared vision would produce a more uniform quality of teacher form the institution.