A Timely Initiative: The Education of Teacher Educators

In the fall of 2015, the Department of Curriculum and Teaching launched a new doctoral Specialization in Teacher Education. The Specialization is comprised of a focused but flexible set of five courses and, less formally but equally importantly, development of a professional community of faculty and students. Participants in the Specialization are diversely committed to the practice, study, and transformation, in ways large and small, of teacher education. The over-arching ambition is to shape and sustain educational practices and conceptions, settings, and roles, that are just, humane, and conducive to human flourishing.

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The Specialization is the latest in a series of moves, beginning in 2013 with the “Teachers College Transformation Initiative” (TCTI), meant to address the pressing need for high quality teacher education oriented towards democracy and equity through a concerted focus on something seldom a priority in universities in the US: the education of teacher educators themselves.

The TCTI set out to conduct research on, to engage the wider teacher education community in consideration of, and to develop programmatic responses to this area of need. In 2014-15, the College’s Sachs Lectures and the Department of Curriculum and Teaching sponsored the “Landscape for Preparing Teacher Educators” lecture and colloquium series, featuring a roster of nationally and internationally distinguished teacher education scholar-practitioners. This series brought into high relief much of the relevant structural, political, and intellectual context for this work, which it continues to inform.

Please see the “News & More” page for Sachs lecture videos, samples of TCTI sponsored research, and more. The new doctoral specialization is the most recent of these moves, and there will be more developments to come. Stay tuned!

A Doctoral Specialization in Teacher Education: Why, What, and for Whom?



On the one hand, what teacher educators do—and fail to do, and might imaginably do—is critically important in raising up new teachers, and in supporting experienced teachers, especially when the concern is for teachers committed to and capable of furthering educational justice inside the classroom.

The importance of high quality teacher education, focused on both near and long term professional capabilities and habits of judgment and action, is especially pronounced today, when the demands on teachers are so great, and their work so widely misconceived.

from http://www.nyhistory.org/sites/default/files/styles/exhibitions_slideshow/public/TC_Russell%20Hall_School%20Library%20Laboratory%20%28May%2C%201940%29_0.jpg?itok=IbFJOrhS
Russell Hall, Teachers College, 1940

On the other hand, the quality of teacher education in the US varies greatly, across and within colleges, universities, and other providers. While some superb work is being accomplished, too much of what is done in our field is ultimately inadequate to the rights and needs of children and young people and of those who teach them. Meanwhile, the contexts (structural, political, economic, socio-cultural, intellectual) in which teacher education is undertaken are changing, sometimes in troubling ways, and likely to continue changing.

At the same time, there continues to be a demand, greater than that in many Education fields, for teacher educators who have undergone rigorous doctoral preparation.

And yet, despite the clear importance of teacher education, notwithstanding its shortcomings (actual and alleged), notwithstanding its difficult and changing contexts, the professional education of teacher educators themselves is generally a hit and miss affair. For too many novice teacher educators, it is almost an accidental, often lonely, and frequently haphazard process. Our approach, in contrast, aims at the deliberate formation of a professional identity involving deep understanding of the terrain, skilled and judicious practice, habits of disciplined inquiry, and a strong sense of purpose.

Thus, the Specialization in Teacher Education answers to several compelling needs—and to equally compelling opportunities. The practice and scholarship of teacher education are at once important, challenging, and fascinating.



The Specialization is a demanding, but compact and flexible, curricular strand pursued in conjunction with coursework required for the student’s degree program. It is made up of four required courses and an approved “selective.” Courses explore core contents, problems, theories, experiences, and controversies in learning to teach, and histories, designs, practices, and challenges of teacher education. Inquiry and attention to issues of justice and democracy are woven throughout the curriculum. Guided practice of teacher education and empirical study of learning to teach are essential features of the specialization.

At Teachers College, our aim is to be a leader in giving the education of teacher educators the attention it deserves, starting here at home with this Specialization. We believe such an education demands an approach that is both deliberate and adventurous. We value extant traditions and varieties of knowledge, inquiry, and practice in teacher education and teacher learning, and give these an honored place in the curriculum. However, while we are interested in conservation where that is warranted, our stance is critical and our larger ambition is transformative.

Given the under-attention, in practice and theory, to the education of teacher educators, we are also committed to sustained study of its processes and results. At the center of the work is an understanding that the education of teachers is both an urgent responsibility and a rich field for further development and research.

To learn more about the course of study, please see
The Specialization in Detail.


Who is it for?


The doctoral Specialization in Teacher Education is designed primarily for students wishing to focus professionally on teacher education, at any level and in any of a multitude of contexts, as practitioners and as scholars. The history, theory, practice, design, evaluation, governance, and prospects of teacher education, both as it is connected to professional licensure and independent of licensure, are all at issue in this focus, but prospective students should be mindful that the chief mission of the specialization is the professional preparation of teacher education scholar-practitioners—and mindful, too, that transformation of the field is an over-arching aim.

We welcome your interest. If you would like to discuss the Specialization, your own interests and aspirations, and how they might fit together, Specialization faculty and current students are very happy to consult. To make an appointment, please send a brief email telling us a bit about your background, your course of study, questions you may have, and your schedule.

Doctoral candidates who have successfully completed one year of doctoral study at TC, who have some prior experience teaching (P – 12), and who secure advisor approval, are eligible for the Specialization.

  • If you are ready to choose the Specialization, please see How to Declare.
  • If you would like to chat with a Specialization faculty member and/or a current student, please fill out the form below.

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