Publication Date

April 1, 1996

Over the past several years, job postings in the Employment Information section of Perspectives for social studies teacher-education/historian positions housed within history departments raised the question: to what extent do history departments playa role in preparing secondary school history/social studies teachers beyond providing content courses? This question led to a poll of 400 departments of history drawn from the AHA’s Directory of History Departments and Organizations.

Departments were chosen according to region, setting (rural/suburban/urban), size, tuition rate, and mission. The questionnaire that was used asked where the following components of history/social studies teacher-education programs were provided: methods course, pre-student-teaching field supervision, placement of student teachers, supervision of student teachers, and advising history/social studies teacher-education students. The survey return rate was an acceptable 147, or 37 percent. The findings are shown in the table below.

Clearly, there is significant history department participation in advising teacher-education students, staffing the history/social studies teaching methods courses, and supervising student teachers—especially when the "shared" column is added to "in history departments." Only in the areas of pre-student-teaching supervision and student teaching placement is the role of history departments somewhat less substantial.

Looking at the data another way, what is seen when departments are clustered according to identical teacher-education participation categories? Besides the 4 percent of departments indicating total involvement in history/social studies teacher education and the 63 percent playing no formal role other than content courses, 39 percent of those returning surveys are involved only in advising. Beyond that, there are no clear patterns of history department involvement in teacher education. In addition, no significant correlation exists between history department activity in teacher education and the institutional selection factors such as size, location, and the like.

Valuable anecdotal notes on many of the questionnaires indicated a range of sentiment about history department participation in teacher education. These ranged from obvious pleasure with existing or emerging department-based history/social studies teacher education programs to anxiety verging on despair where departments wished for a more effective role in this aspect of history education.

Gratitude is extended to all who invested thought and time in providing the data for this little study. Special thanks to Thomas Hetrick of Central Bucks School District for assistance with this project.

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