Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE)

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Colgan, A. D. (2017). The rise and fall of philosophy of education: An institutional analysis. Thèse de doctorat inédite, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.


Mémoires et thèses


Philosophy of education’s academic literature portrays the field as being in decline over the past half century, especially in the once preeminent citadel of initial teacher preparation programs. This decline prompts the broad problem of the proper place of philosophy in teacher preparation. I therefore set out to explain why (in part) this decline has occurred in the English language field by connecting, from the 19th century to the present, primarily in the United States and Britain, but also Canada, two histories: (1) the origins and development of the field of philosophy of education itself, and (2) the institutional history of teacher preparation programs, tracing each from their origins in normal schools and summer seminars, to modern faculties of education. The comparative historical analysis is supplemented by a case study of a particular faculty of education, the J. G. Althouse Faculty of Education, London, Ontario, Canada, using data obtained from interviews with retired faculty members, especially philosophers of education, and examinations of founding documents and course calendars. The theoretical framework selected to analyze the case study and histories was institutional organizational theory, which pays attention to how institutions develop and change in response to environmental conditions. This theory uses a tripartite model of institutions, identifying a “technical core,” where its products are made, administered by a “managerial level,” which coordinates action and diplomatically softens demands made by the wider environment, the “institutional level.” A case is made that philosophy of education, once securely established in the technical core of teacher preparation, has declined as teacher education programs became more institutionalized within the contexts of the rise of the scientific research university and an increasingly bureaucratic public education system, both, in part, favoring graduate programs as the new dominant technical core of teacher education institutions. The consequences of this decline are discussed, identifying implications and a solution for teacher education, its institutions, and teacher professionalism. I conclude that the loss of philosophy in teacher education institutions is one indicator of a trend toward an increasingly institutionalized, illiberal and technical teacher training.


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Adresse civique

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
90, avenue Vincent d'Indy
Pavillon Marie-Victorin – C-536
Outremont (Québec) H2V 2S9

Adresse postale

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
CRIFPE – C-543
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal (Québec) H3C 3J7