Psychology in Teacher Education: Efficacy, Professionalization, Management, and Habit

  • Lynn Fendler
Part of the Educational Research book series (EDRE, volume 6)


Educational psychology is a required element in the curriculum for all accredited teacher preparation programs in the United States, and background knowledge in educational psychology is assessed on examinations for teacher licensure in most jurisdictions. Traditional university-based teacher certification is under attack from various sectors, and the curriculum for teacher preparation is among the most contested issues. In this chapter, I examine four possible hypotheses that might be offered to explain the continued presence of educational psychology in the curriculum of US teacher education.
  • Efficacy: Educational psychology is a requirement in teacher education curricula because the study of psychology makes better teachers (regardless of how one might define ‘better’).

  • Professionalization: Educational psychology is included in the curriculum of teacher education because the affiliation with a scientific discipline helps to raise the professional status of teaching and teacher education.

  • Policy/Management: Educational psychology remains in the curriculum of teacher education because psychological research renders the unruly practices of teaching more predictable, rational, and manageable; the language of psychology gives teacher educators a voice in educational policy making.

  • Habit: Educational psychology continues to be included in the curriculum of teacher education out of habit.

Each of these hypotheses calls for a different investigative approach. Specifically, in order to examine the efficacy perspective, I did a survey of recent literature and synthesized the findings of scientific research reports addressing the relationship of educational psychology to the quality of teaching. Second, to investigate the plausibility of the professionalization perspective, I drew on histories of psychology and histories of teacher education as well as professionalization theories in order to assess the historical role educational psychology has played in professionalization. Third, in order to examine the policy/management explanation, I took a genealogical approach to the relationship of psychology and teacher education as disciplines in the epistemological context of modern social sciences. Finally, in order to examine the role and function of habit, I turned to John Dewey’s (1921) philosophy in Human Nature and Conduct.


Teacher Education Educational Psychology Prospective Teacher Educational Policy Teacher Education Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Allen, M. (2003). Eight questions on teacher preparation: What does the research say?Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.Google Scholar
  2. American Federation of Teachers. (2007). Strengthening our profession. American Teacher, 92(1), 8.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, L. M., Blumenfeld, P., Pintrich, P., Clark, C., Marx, R., & Peterson, P. (1995). Educational psychology for teachers: Reforming our courses, rethinking our roles. Educational Psychologist, 30, 143–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cochran-Smith, M. (2004). Ask a different question, get a different answer: The research base for teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 55(2), 111–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dewey, J. (2007/1922). Human nature and conduct. New York: H. Holt and Company.Google Scholar
  6. Duncan, A. (2010). Teacher preparation: Reforming the uncertain profession. Education Digest, 75(5), 13–22.Google Scholar
  7. Floden, R., & Meniketti, J. (2005). Research on the effects of coursework in the arts and sciences and in the foundations of education. In M. Cochran-Smith & K. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA panel on research and teacher education(pp. 261–308). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  8. Gage, N. L. (1978). The scientific basis of the art of teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  9. Grady, M. P., Helbling, K. C., & Lubeck, D. R. (2008). Teacher professionalism since “a nation at risk”. Phi Delta Kappan, 89(8), 603–607.Google Scholar
  10. Helterbran, V. (2008, January/February). Professionalism: Teachers taking the reins. The Clearinghouse, 81(3), 123–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Houston, W. R. (2008). Defining professionalism does not make it so. Action in Teacher Education, 30(1), 21–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Houtz, J. C., & Lewis, C. D. (1994). The professional practice of educational psychology. Educational Psychology Review, 6(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Labaree, D. F. (1992). Power, knowledge, and the rationalization of teaching: A genealogy of the movement to professionalize teaching. Harvard Educational Review, 62(2), 123–154.Google Scholar
  14. Lindner, R. W., & Ternasky, P. L. (2007, February 22). On the role of educational psychology in teacher preparation and professionalization. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Hilton New York, New York. Online  <  PDF>. Retrieved May 24, 2009, from
  15. Norwich, B. (2000). Education and psychology in interaction: Working with uncertainty in interconnected fields. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Peterson, P. L., Clark, C. M., & Dickson, W. P. (1990). Educational psychology as a “foundation” in teacher education: Reforming an old notion. Teachers College Record, 91(3), 322–346.Google Scholar
  17. Poulou, M. (2005). Educational psychology within teacher education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 11(6), 555–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Rogers, C. R., & Scott, K. H. (2008). The development of the personal self and professional identity in learning to teach. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, & D. J. McIntyre (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education: Enduring questions in changing contexts(pp. 732–755). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Servage, L. (2009). Who is the ‘Professional’ in a professional learning community? An exploration of teacher professionalism in collaborative professional development settings. Canadian Journal of Education, 32(1), 149–171.Google Scholar
  20. Travers, R. M. W. (1966). How research has changed American schools: A history from 1940 to the present. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. Wilson, S., & Floden, R. (2003). Creating effective teachers: Concise answers for hard questions. An addendum to the report “Teacher preparation research: Current knowledge, gaps, and recommendations.” Washington, DC: AACTE Publications, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teacher EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations