Teacher education reform: A case study in the process of reform at Normalsville University

Linda Lee McDowell, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation explores how teacher education is determined by specific individuals in one department with a state university. The study focuses on five programmatic and one "grass roots" initiative that were introduced into the Educational Foundations Department at Normalsville University between 1987-1994: the Urban Education Program, the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Teaching, Project 30 initiative and the Pedagogy Seminars, Re: Learning and the Coalition for Essential Schools partnership, the Professional Development Practicum and the Departmental Advances. Working as an adjunct professor in the Educational Foundations Department, and thus as a participant observer, the author examined the responses of those directly involved in each of the six initiatives to help determine how changes were made possible and what, if any, educational reform occurred in this department. The author used four primary data sources: (a) a series of individual interviews of department faculty and related outside evaluators, that were recorded, transcribed, coded and analyzed; (b) individual and group course and program evaluations; (c) site documents; and (d) external research reports. The resulting dissertation describes and analyzes the context of and the conditions for, the process of teacher education reform at the university level. It also examined how the values and beliefs of individual faculty members affected the work that was done over this six-year period. Three identifiable themes emerged from the resulting data about teacher education reform at the university level: (a) the need for a university wide commitment to teacher education, (b) the need to provide an opportunity for an avenue of conversation that includes everyone within a department, and finally (c) the need to acknowledge and respond to the difficulties involved in merging old programs, methods and veteran faculty with the new. This case study suggests that teacher education reform is highly contextualized, less defined by a more generalized notion of teacher reform and more significantly embodied in specific individuals whose goals are constantly being negotiated. People, not institutions are at the center of educational reform. It also suggests that only after reflecting on these practices from the inside, and examining the process of teacher education reform that we will begin to understand its complex nature.

Subject Area

Higher education|Secondary education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

McDowell, Linda Lee, "Teacher education reform: A case study in the process of reform at Normalsville University" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9727012.