This chapter will focus on the embryonic development of a theory of teaching amongst leading teacher trainers during the period 1900-20. It will argue that during this period of innovation, serious attempts were made to empower teachers with a theory of teaching which was rooted in, not removed from, the realities of classroom life. The basis for this development was a growing interest amongst teacher trainers, many of whom were based in the new university departments of education, in seeking common pedagogical principles which could form a professional consensus on good teaching practice. Moving away earlier conceptions of teaching as a mere common-sensical art and critical of inaccessible theories of education which were too removed from actual experience, professional debates between teacher trainers who were networked through the TCA sought a more research-led and scientific engagement with practical pedagogy. The chapter reflects upon recent educational interest in the power of pedagogy to improve school and teacher effectiveness and seeks to bring a historical perspective on a highly complex and contested subject which for many years has remained relatively obscure, even amongst educational historians.
There are four parts to the chapter. First, for contextual purposes, the potential of historical analyses of pedagogy is considered. Secondly, there is an introduction to the nature of professional pedagogical debate in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Thirdly there is a discussion of core principles of teaching which were being developed by three key educationists, Joseph Findlay, Thomas Raymont and James Welton. Finally, the relationship between the historical quest for core educational principles and the current preoccupation with pedagogy and practice will be considered.