This chapter will examine the role and function of masters and mistresses of method in training institutions as teacher exemplars who bridged the theoretical and practical divide. Links will be made between the role of these historical personnel and the current development of the role of specially designated 'super' or 'advanced skills' teachers in schools. Masters and mistresses of method traversed both the practical world of school and the theoretical world of training institution, and had the potential to span that seemingly intractable gulf between theory and practice in formal teacher training. As demonstrators of good practice, giving 'master classes' to their student teachers, it is not too difficult to see links between the method masters and mistresses of the past, and the advanced skills or superteachers of the present.
Masters and mistresses of method have received limited attention in the history of teacher training. Where they have been considered, they have often been disparaged for offering narrow, limited and mechanical models of practice for unwitting students to copy. 1 Introduced into the new training colleges for elementary teachers by James Kay Shuttleworth in the 1840s as one part of his grand plan to expand teacher training and the supply of elementary teachers, masters of method became critical to the formal training of would-be teachers. Yet, it was the potentially crude, imitative model of theoretical and practical instruction which historically has tarnished the professional reputation of these masters and mistresses of method. Indeed Rich, arguing that 'the normal master was nearly always a man whose experience was limited to the training college and elementary schools, and his methods, good enough in their way, did not merit exaltation as models of general and exclusive imitation', held masters of method responsible for the narrowness and stereotyped quality of professional training in the nineteenth century. 2 This historical