Two paragraphs of great significance for teacher education occur in the Preface to Stephens, Educational Psychology, both first and second editions. Teacher education has been in the past too narrowly concerned with the so-called practical aspects of classroom operation, to the neglect of the one thing which enables one to distinguish between good and poor practical techniques, namely basic theory.
The text is addressed to two prospective teachers within the same individual. It is addressed to the teacher-practitioner and to the teacher-theorist. The emphasis on the teacher-practitioner, of course, is in no way surprising. The emphasis on the teacher as a theorist, on the other hand, may be somewhat unusual and may call for an explanation.
Throughout the book, the theoretical needs of the teacher are shown to be very real. The teacher cannot contemplate such a complex process as education without forming opinions. He is bound to generalize and to seek to introduce some order into the separate facts of education. These opinions and generalizations formulated by the teacher may have far-reaching practical consequences, especially if they come to be widely held. The future of education, in fact, may depend more on the careful and accurate forming of views than on any ordinary increase in pedagogical skill. Conversely, inept theorizing may be just as disastrous as lack of practical competence.
Two tragic cases are cited below to illustrate the prevalence of incredible ignorance among teachers. Later it will be shown that the picture is not all black. The first case is that of a group of science teachers in one of the current science training courses who revolted against discussion of modern methods of teaching. "These methods are not applicable to high schools. We could not use them with high school classes." And then the blubbery old cliché, "May be good theory, but not practicable." The science teachers, many with years of experience, were unaware that the methods described had actually originated in a high school, are now in use in innumerable high schools. Half a dozen textbooks, including two in the teaching of high school science, present these methods with supporting evidence for their success. But the particular group of science teachers, carefully selected for this course, were wholly innocent of any facts. Worse, they were quite ignorant of any basic concepts or theory dealing with either the teaching or the learning process! Nevertheless they expressed themselves with vigor. They made no check of the literature in the field. No one suggested looking into the matter before condemning the methods. What price scientific attitude and method?
The second case illustrates ignorance of, or indifference to, not theory but the . . .