A Brief History of the Society of Professors of Education
University of New Mexico
The Society of Professors of Education (SPE) was originally
called the Society of College Teachers of Education (SCTE), and
later (after 1909), the National Society of College Teachers
of Education (NSCTE). Although records of the Society's earliest
years have been reported lost, SPE traces its beginning to a
meeting of the 1902 Department of Superintendence of the National
Education Association in Chicago. The NSCTE's first organizational
meeting was probably announced as a "special meeting" to
be held on the morning of February 28, 1902, at the Auditorium
Hotel in Chicago. The meeting took place after the adjournment
of the annual conference of The National Society for the Scientific
Study of Education, formerly the National Herbart Society, which
met each year in conjunction with the Department of Superintendence
(McMurry, 1902; Holmes, 1903). John Dewey (1859-1952) of the
University of Chicago, Paul Henry Hanus (1855-1941) of Harvard,
and Walter B. Jacobs (1861-1932) of Brown University were founding
members of the Society (Hanus, 1937, pp. 229-230), as were James
Earl Russell (1864-1945) and Frank McMurry (1862-1936) of Teachers
College, Columbia University, Charles DeGarmo (1849-1934) of
Cornell University, and Michael Vincent O'Shea (1866-1932) of
the University of Wisconsin.
The Society was established before disciplinary specialization
became the norm in North American universities. Its members have
included U.S. and territorial commissioners of education, university
and normal school presidents, deans of colleges of education,
department chairs, normal school teachers and professors of education,
history, philosophy, pedagogy, "the science and art of education," "the
theory and practice of education," and so on. The Society
was, and remains an interdisciplinary association, providing
an intellectual home for people with expertise in history, philosophy,
psychology, educational administration, teacher preparation,
and elementary, secondary and higher education. William Kilpatrick,
George S. Counts and Elwood P. Cubberley and Harold O. Rugg were
NSCTE members. Psychologists Charles H. Judd, Edward L. Thorndike
and Lewis Terman were also members of NSCTE. Philosophers W.
C. Bagley, Henry Suzzallo, George Herbert Mead, and James Hayden
Tufts were members, as were historians Paul Monroe and Issac
L. Kandel. From the beginning, NSCTE members were geographically
dispersed. Some members lived in large cities (Baltimore, Chicago,
Philadelphia, New York, Minneapolis, Washington, DC). Members
also lived in Ann Arbor, Austin, Baton Rouge, Berkeley, Boulder,
Cambridge, Charlottesville, Columbus, Denver, DesMoines, Eugene,
Iowa City, Ithica, Grand Forks, Morgantown, New Orleans, Norman,
Portland, Purdue, Providence, St. Louis, and Urbana (NSCTE 1911).
The difficulties encountered by professors of education as they
tried to gain a foothold in academe early in the 20th century
were substantial (Hanus, 1934; Lagemann, 2000; Powell, 1980).
The initial purpose of the Society was to "improve the work
of the departments of education in colleges and universities
of the country" by providing a forum for examining and evaluating
the organization and content of courses in education. The Society
also provided opportunities to examine the relationships between
departments of education and other academic departments ("to
the end that this relationship may be most harmonious and helpful")
and to "discuss current educational theory so far as it
is germane to the work of the members of the association" (NSCTE,
1911). In 1916, NSCTE President Charles Judd appointed a committee
to re-draft the Society's constitution. The revised constitution,
adopted in 1925, stated that the purpose of the NSCTE was to "promote
and improve the teaching of education in the colleges and universities
of the country." It also identified three general "fields
for its operation": 1) problems of the administration of
departments of education, 2) problems of the teaching and organization
of courses in education, and 3) problems of research in the general
field of education. As scientific management, behaviorism and
quantitative research came to dominate the field of education,
the Society deemphasized "theory" in its constitution,
if not in its publications.
The Society's Constitution was revised again in 1948 and in
1969. The 1948 Constitution added two additional foci to those
listed above: 4) problems of the general education of teachers,
and 5) problems of specialization in teaching fields" (NSCTE,
1950, p. 8). At that time, the Executive Committee had set up
a number of committees of members who worked together for three
or four years to prepare papers and reports on specific areas
of interest. Many of the Society's yearbooks and other publications
have been the products of work conducted by committees formed
to examine specific topics. In 1947, committees were established
in 9 areas, including higher education, social foundations, historical
foundations, curriculum construction and supervisory procedures,
organization and administration, educational psychology, special
methods and integration of theory and practice, general education,
and education of adult educational personnel.
In 1969, the Society changed its name to the Society of Professors
of Education, and reframed its mission: "to serve the education
professoriate through consideration of its tasks and problems" (SPE,
1998). The revised Constitution stated that the society shall
emphasize the following:
1. Promotion of an increasingly comprehensive understanding
of the relationship between education and the social complexities
in which professors of education function;
2. Recognition and appropriate utilization of the inherent power
and responsibility of the Society in voicing its interest in
and concern for the realization of desirable educational ends;
3. Concern for fostering inquiry into the history, current status,
and future alternatives of the education professoriate. (SPE
Constitution and Bylaws, 1969)
Regarding membership, the SPE Constitution broadened the association's
potential membership base. In 1925, membership was "confined
to teachers and administrators in recognized colleges and universities
who are engaged in teaching and research in education" (NSCTE,
1925). In contrast, the SPE Constitution (which still guides
the Society's activities today) employed a language of inclusion: "Membership
shall be open to all persons involved in the education of teachers
and to those in related fields who are interested in furthering
the objectives of the Society" (SPE, 1969, emphasis
Membership in the Society grew slowly and peaked in the 1940s.
In 1911, there were 115 members. In 1913 there were 131 members.
The following year, 20 new members were added to the membership
list. In 1916 there were 249 members; 207 in 1923. By 1940, there
were 551 NSCTE members. This dropped to about 350 in 1950, and
then rose to 427 in 1967.1 [For purposes of comparison, in mid-1902
the National Society for the Scientific Study of Education had
114 members. At the end of 1918, the National Society for the
Study of Education, which had dropped the word "Scientific" from
its name in 1911, listed 1050 members (Whipple, 1920).]
In 1902, annual membership dues cost $2.00 (roughly $44.84 in
2005 dollars). Dues remained $2.00 until 1949, when they were
raised to $3.50. In 1993, regular membership was $20 for regular
members, $5 for graduate students and emeriti. In 1995, the cost
of annual dues for regular members was $35. Graduate students
and emeriti members paid $15. In 2005, regular members paid $40
and graduate students and emeriti paid $25. SPE is also a Special
Interest Group (SIG) within the American Educational Research
The Society of College Teachers of Education produced and distributed
a number of publications over the years. In 1907, reprints of
Sutton and Holton's "The Department of Education and Other
Departments in Colleges " (first published in the Journal
of Experimental Pedagogy) were sent to members. The following
year, the Society purchased and distributed The History of Education
as a Professional Subject (Burnham and Suzzallo, 1908), first
published by Teachers College, Columbia University. Early SCTE
publications included an array of topics and titles: Observation
and Practice Teaching in University Departments of Education
(1909); The Aim, Scope and Methods of a University Course
in Public Administration (1910); Research within the
Field of Education,
Its Organization and Encouragement (1911); Reports of
Investigations by Members of the Society of College Teachers
of Education (1913) and Practice Teaching for Teachers
in Secondary Schools (1917). Other NSCTE monographs
included The Direct Contribution of Educational
Psychology to Teacher Training (Pechstein, et al, 1932);
The Educational Frontier (Kilpatrick et al, 1933); The
of the Foundations of Education: The Study of Man, Culture and
Education (Rugg, et al, 1950), and numerous yearbooks and proceedings
published as Studies in Education and School Review Monographs.
From 1911 to 1916, NSCTE conference programs, minutes, membership
lists and proceedings were published, apparently with some difficulty,
in the widely read School Review.
Monographs and occasional papers published by the Society of
Professors of Education include The Professor of Education:
An Assessment of Conditions (Bagley et al, 1975). The
Dean of Education and the Looking-Glass Self (Wisniewski, 1979); Civic
Learning in Teacher Education (Butts et al, 1983); The
Black Education Professoriate (Bagley et al, 1984); An
Invitation to Wisdom and Schooling (Bagley, 1985), and Accountability
and Assessment in Higher Education (Johanningmeier, 1989). The Society currently
publishes two journals - Professing Education (John M. Novak
and Kenneth A. McClelland, editors) and The Sophist's Bane (Donna
Adair Breault and Rick A. Breault, editors).
The Society of Professors of Education has established several
awards to acknowledge the work of distinguished scholars and
institutions. These include the Charles DeGarmo Lecture, the
Mary Ann Raywid Award and Lecture, and the Richard Wisniewski
Award for Teacher Education. SPE has published the DeGarmo Lecture
since the award was established in 1975. The 2005 Mary Ann Raywid
Award Lecture was published in The Sophist's Bane. A list of
SPE award recipients and lecture titles is available on the Society
of Professors of Education website. Efforts are underway to establish
an online archive for NSCTE membership lists, minutes, conference
programs and other documents that shed light on the Society's
activities in the early 20th century.
1. I have gathered membership information from the following
sources: NSCTE (1911), Alexander (1912), Alexander (1913), Alexander
(1914), Wilson (1916), SCTE (1923), NSCTE (1950, p. 9) and VanTil
(1983, p. 366).
Alexander, C. (1912). Discussion: Society of College Teachers
of Education. The School Review, 20 (no. 7, Sep.), 483-484.
Alexander, C. (1913). The Society of College Teachers of Education
Philadelphia program, membership list and executive officers.
The School Review, 21 (no. 2, Feb), 124-133.
Alexander, C. (1914). The Society of College Teachers of Education
Philadelphia program, membership list and executive officers.
The School Review, 22 (no. 2, Feb), 108-117.
Bagley, A. (Ed.). (1975). The Professor of Education: An Assessment
of Conditions. Minneapolis: Society of Professors of Education,
College of Education, University of Minnesota.
Burnham, W. H. & Suzzallo, H. (1908). The history of education
as a professional subject. New York: Teachers College
Hanus, P.H. (1937). Adventuring in education. Cambridge, MA:
Holmes, M.L. (1903). Minutes of the meetings of February 26
and 27th. National Society for the Scientific Study of Education
Yearbook II (Part I), (pp. 52-53), Chicago: University of Chicago.
Johanningmeier, E.V. (Ed.).(1989). Accountability and Assessment
in Higher Education. Tampa, FL: The Society of Professors of
Education; John Dewey Society.
Kilpatrick, W. Heard, et al (1933). The educational frontier.
New York: The Century company. [also published as NSCTE Yearbook
XXI, Chicago: University of Chicago.]
Lagemann, E. Condliffe (2000). An elusive science: The troubling
history of education research. Chicago: University of Chicago.
McMurry, C.A. (1902). Proceedings of the meeting for the reorganization
of the National Herbart Society. In, The first yearbook of the
National Society for the Scientific Study of Education, (pp.
70 - 76). Chicago: University of Chicago.
National Society of College Teachers of Education (1911). Constitution,
by-laws and membership list, 1910-1911. Chicago: NSCTE.
National Society of College Teachers of Education (1950). A
history of the National Society of College Teachers of Education
(1902 - 1950). (Original manuscript by C. Woody, 1944). Chicago:
Pechstein, L.A. (ed.) (1932). The direct contribution of educational
psychology to teacher education. NSCTE Yearbook XX. Chicago:
University of Chicago.
Rugg, H. (ed.) (1950). The emerging task of the foundations
of education: The study of man, culture and education. Statement
to the Profession by the Committee on Social Foundations, NSCTE.
Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Letter Shop.
Society of College Teachers of Education (1922 - 1928). Studies
in Education. no. 11 (1922), no. 12 (1923), no. 14 (1925), no.
16 (1928). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.
Van Til, W. (1983). My way of looking at it: An autobiography.
Terre Haute, IN: Lake Lure.
Whipple, G. (1920). Financial report of the secretary-treasurer.
The Eighteenth Yearbook of the National Society for the Scientific
Study of Education (Part I), (pp. 371-372), Chicago: University
Wisniewski, R. (1979). The Dean of Education and the Looking-Glass
Self. Society of Professors of Education Occasional Papers (no.
11). DeKalb, IL: College of Education, Northern Illinois University.
Wilson, G.M. (1916). The Society of College Teachers of Education,
1916. The School Review, 24 (no. 4, April.), 298-311.