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Celebrating Vision:
Education Looks at its Past and to the Future

LaZerte. Smith. Coutts. Horowitz. Worth. Patterson.

Seated comfortably at the small conference table in the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Education, Harvey Zingle reflects on years gone by and pays tribute to these six who have led his faculty in the five decades since its establishment.

"We've had some really great leaders," says Zingle, who earned his BEd from the Faculty in 1956 and later completed master's ('60 MEd) and doctoral ('65 PhD) studies at the University. Professor of educational psychology, former director of that department and its counsellor training program, and lately the Education Faculty's associate dean (research and external relations), Zingle recently moved to the Dean's Office on the eighth floor of the building that reintroduced the Education Faculty into the heart of the campus in the 1960s and will serve as acting dean of Education as it prepares to celebrate 50 years as a faculty at the University of Alberta. Fifty years of growth, challenges and opportunities, says Zingle. Years which called for the best from the Faculty's leaders.

The first dean, Milton Ezra LaZerte, was a legendary figure in the pioneering years of Alberta education. An inspector of schools, he resigned in 1924 to join the University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences as a lecturer in philosophy, psychology and education. Eighteen years later, he was principal of the University's College of Education when it became a full-fledged faculty. "He set this thing up," says Zingle. "He had to convince government — and whoever else had to be convinced - to do it."

LaZerte retired in 1950 and was succeeded by his long-time colleague H.E. Smith, who implemented specialized divisions within the Faculty before passing the torch on to Herbert Thomas Coutts.

Coutts was the longest-serving dean (1955-1972). After graduating from the Calgary Normal School, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and a master's degree ('43 MA) from the University of Alberta before becoming a U of A faculty member in 1946. In 1950, the same year that he completed a PhD at the University of Minnesota, he was named chair of the Division of Secondary Education and served in that position until he became dean.

To Coutts, Zingle gives credit for gaining acceptance for the Education Faculty in the University community. "He was just a persistent bulldog," says Zingle. "He was going to make this the best and the most accepted faculty of education. His biggest problem was not convincing the rest of Canada and the world that we had a great school — it was convincing his colleagues across campus."

Faculties of education always struggle to be considered on a par with liberal arts and science faculties, says Zingle, but Coutts wasn't one to sidestep a challenge. "He was just an intimidating guy; he would not accept these people looking down on him — and somehow he turned it around." Coutts's tenacity, says Zingle, was largely responsible for the Education Faculty at the U of A winning a level of acceptance that few schools of education enjoy within their parent institutions.

Later deans — Myer Horowitz (1972-1975), Walter Worth (1976-1983) and Bob Patterson (1983-1991) — rose to the challenges of their eras and built upon the accomplishments of their Faculty's pioneers, leaving their own marks as they shaped the University of Alberta Faculty of Education into a special place, says Zingle.

"What's special about this Faculty?" The acting dean contemplates the question briefly before answering: "We could talk about the number of people we've put out over the years — 30,000-plus graduates — and so on, but to me the status we have in the world of educators as being on the leading edge is what's really special."

That reputation, says Zingle, is the result of many years of innovation, the legacy of the vision of numerous leaders within the Faculty. "In fact," he says, "in the last 10 years or so I expect that many other institutions have probably come to be right up with us in the quality of their scholars and the quality of their work, but because of our history, they continue to look to us as being out front."

Fifty years ago, a University which had watched many of its brightest and best depart Alberta for the battlefields of the Second World War waited anxiously for news from those far fields of conflict. At the same time, diminished by those who were away, the University struggled to make its own contribution to winning the War, which had a seemingly insatiable appetite for engineers, doctors and dentists.

Thus it was that the coming into being of the Faculty of Education in 1942 went all but unnoticed on campus — the Gateway of the day, for instance, refers only indirectly to the establishment of the new faculty. Even those who had most cause to celebrate, those who had long championed faculty status for the University's initiatives related to education, were too busy to make much of a fuss: teachers, too, had left for the battlefields, and preparing newcomers to take their place was the major concern of the moment.

With the advantage of hindsight (which, we are told, is 20/20) we can recognize the achievement of faculty status at the University of Alberta as a watershed event for education in Alberta, but it is not surprising that few people took note of it as such at the time. On the one hand, the teaching of education was nothing new at the University — indeed the first course in education was approved by the University of Alberta Senate in 1911. On the other hand, when it came to preparing teachers for Alberta schools, the University was definitely a small-time player — by far the bulk of Alberta's home-grown teachers were products of the three provincial normal schools.

The University's offerings in the study of education began with a senior-level course entitled simply "Education" which appeared in the University calendar for 1912. By 1922 instruction was being offered in the philosophy of education, educational psychology, history of education and educational administration. In 1928 the School of Education was created under the administration of the Faculty of Arts and Science; here students who had completed an undergraduate degree could, with an additional year of study, qualify for a professional teaching certificate.

There were, however, leaders among the educational community in the young province who had a vision of something more, who foresaw a time when all teachers — even elementary school teachers — would receive their preparation in a University environment. Some even talked about a day when all teachers would require a University degree. Through the Alberta Teachers Association and the Education Society of Edmonton, they pressed for an independent faculty of education at the University.

While this vision would eventually prevail, the road to faculty status would involve some intermediate stages In 1934 Education, which had been sheltered within the Department of Philosophy, became a separate department within the Faculty of Arts and Science. It gained a further measure of autonomy in 1940 when the School of Education was reconstituted as the College of Education, still under the academic jurisdiction of Arts and Science but with its own budget.

The short-lived college might have continued much longer if not for an unprecedented occurrence at the 12 May 1941 meeting of the University of Alberta Senate. On that day, the Senate, even though it was twice called to vote on the matter, refused to ratify the decision of its honorary degrees committee to offer an honorary degree to the then-premier of Alberta, William Aberhart. There was no way this could go unnoticed: it had been no secret that Aberhart had been recommended for the honor because ratification had always been routine (the convocation at which the degree was to be conferred was, after all, scheduled for only a week later and Aberhart had been set to deliver the convocation address). Many saw the Senate's decision as giving offence not only to the premier but also to the voters of Alberta, who had shortly before given him a second mandate. As a consequence of the public furor which resulted, the provincial government established a university survey committee to determine if Albertans were being well served by their University. Constituted in August 1941, the committee set to work with such vigor that it had an interim report, containing 58 specific recommendations, ready by 30 January 1942. Included was the recommendation that "the College of Education be given faculty status forthwith," and the University quickly complied.

In truth, the new Faculty of Education which opened its doors at the beginning of the 1942-43 academic year was a rather modest operation. Including its dean, LaZerte, it had but three full-time faculty and one of these — LaZerte's right hand man and future dean H.E. Smith, a veteran of the First World War — was away doing personnel work for the Department of National Defence. The Faculty's enrolment wasn't much different from that of the previous year as reported by LaZerte for the Annual Report of the Alberta Department of Education.

"We had 31 candidates in training for high school certification. At the beginning of the session four graduate students registered for regular intramural study. Unfortunately the scarcity of teachers made it impossible for these students to continue with graduate work as they were practically forced to accept teaching positions when the number of vacancies in the high schools increased during the autumn months of 1941."

Clearly the Faculty of Education wasn't about to set the world on fire in 1942. But its very being was an affirmation of a vision in which faculty status was only a first step. Nowhere else in Canada was the vision of university education for all teachers pursued so steadfastly as in Alberta, where LaZerte, Hubert C. Newland, William Barnett and other visionaries led the way. As a result, teacher education became exclusively a university responsibility in Alberta sooner than it did in any other Canadian province: in 1945 the Alberta Department of Education closed its normal schools in Calgary and Edmonton and turned control of teacher education over to the University of Alberta.

In his 1978 biography of LaZerte, Gladly Would He Teach, John W Chalmers gives some idea of how radical such a decision was:

At that time there was not a single province in Canada where elementary teachers were professionally educated in a university. Although a secondary school teacher might be deemed to be a professional and to need a university degree for his work, the same was not considered true for elementary teachers. A high school education and a few months in a normal school were deemed more than adequate — after all, in times of emergency and teacher shortages, permit teachers with no training in pedagogy were commonly thought to be adequately prepared. Despite The Teaching Profession Act, reference to teaching as a profession was usually more a courtesy than anything else.

In that same book, Chalmers aptly characterizes the difficulties inherent in integrating the normal schools into the Faculty of Education when he describes it as "a case of Jonah swallowing not one but two ‘great fish.'"

The problems of the transition, including the incorporating of the normal school instructors into the University, were eventually sorted out, however, and the Faculty emerged as the largest and strongest school of education in the country, benefitting from levels of governmental and university support not enjoyed by any other of its Canadian counterparts. The new arrangement also saw the Faculty move to quarters commensurate with its new challenges: from the confines of the east wing of St. Joseph's College it relocated to the handsome Edmonton Normal School building, which soon became known as the Education Building and now bears the name Corbett Hall.

Although Fortune could be seen to be smiling on the new faculty, having sole responsibility for teacher education was something of a mixed blessing. Under the terms of the agreement with the provincial government, the University was obligated to continue to offer a one-year program to students who would have been admissible to the normal schools but were not necessarily qualified for entrance to the University — this was expedient because the post-war period was a time of marked teacher shortages, and the schools often had to be staffed with teachers who had only a modicum of preparation for their duties. By accepting these less-qualified applicants, as it had no choice but to do, the Faculty opened itself to the criticism of having lower standards than did other University faculties, and this perception would continue long after it could be supported on any objective grounds.

While the move to Corbett Hall provided much-needed space, it too was not ideal in that the Faculty's physical location on the outer edge of the campus tended to reinforce a perception of it as being on the periphery of the University in other ways as well. (There was also, of course, the inconvenience for students who had to get back and forth — often in less than ten minutes time — between their Education classrooms and the Arts and Science buildings. This stretch soon became known as "the four-minute mile.") Its move to the new Education Building in 1963 not only placed the Faculty closer to the heart of the University physically, it contributed to the success of Dean Coutts's tenacious efforts to encourage the Faculty's over-all assimilation into the larger institution. (In the mid-1970s the Faculty's physical presence on campus was increased when its space was very nearly doubled by the addition of a north wing to the Education Centre.)

His faculty's history has helped forge for it a unique spot in Canadian education, says acting dean Zingle. "The fact that we were first in Canada has had a lot to do with our becoming the paramount Canadian faculty of education in terms of educational research," he says, adding that his Faculty continues to receive that recognition: "That image is there."

As illustrative of the national recognition accorded his school, the acting dean offers his experience during a recent visit to New Brunswick, where he taught a three-week summer course at UNB. "The professors there, when they have an outstanding master's student looking to do a PhD, would almost to a person give them this place (the U of A) as a first choice — not Toronto, not McGill, even though those are closer. For them it's almost ‘Boy! I got one of my students to be admitted to the U of A.' "

When tracing his school's rise as a major force in educational research, Zingle mentions two names in particular: G.M. Dunlop, professor and first head of Educational Psychology, and Arthur W. Reeves, who was his counterpart in Educational Administration. Reeves was a 1936 Alberta graduate who went on to do a doctoral degree at Stanford. Dunlop came from Saskatchewan to do his master's degree ('31 MA) at the U of A and later earned his doctorate at Columbia University.

"They came from their American training with the idea of research," says Zingle. "Education here wasn't like that then — it was the normal school idea of teacher training, a trade school as it were. And here were these people who had a different kind of vision."

From the research milieu fostered by Dunlop, Reeves and others originated the Alberta Journal of Educational Research. Zingle puts forth the journal, now in its 37th year, as a good example of how his faculty is regarded as a leader in educational research. "This is a world-class journal," he says. "It is subscribed to by over 300 university libraries — that puts it, probably, right up there with the Harvard Educational Review or some of the other prestigious journals."

A corollary to the Faculty's research strength is its significant involvement in graduate studies. In the past year the Faculty, which had an undergraduate enrolment of 4,252 also supported the studies of 869 graduate students. Of these, 548 were working towards master's degrees and 321 were involved in doctoral studies. These students came not only from Canada but from more than 20 different countries.

Until 1950 the Faculty of Education functioned as an undifferentiated whole. Specialization came that year when three administrative divisions were created: Elementary Education, with principal responsibility for preparing elementary school teachers; Secondary Education, which had the same responsibility for secondary teachers but also taught classes in educational foundations and school administration; and Educational Psychology, which contributed courses related to learning, human development and counselling.

The Divisions of Elementary and Secondary Education were responsible for organizing student teaching in their separate realms, but all faculty members were expected to take some responsibility for supervising student teachers.

By 1955 the foundations for the Faculty's strong research activities and graduate programs were being laid. In that year, specialized master's and doctoral programs were first established with the organization of a fourth division, Educational Administration. The first graduate students in these new programs commenced their studies in the 1956-57 academic year.

Propelled by the work being done in Educational Administration and Educational Psychology, the Faculty had a strong impetus towards graduate studies and research by the late 1950s. In the next two decades, the scattering of graduate level courses and supervision of small numbers of individual programs gave way to programmatic efforts in graduate studies and greatly increased research activities.

In 1961 the Faculty's academic units were reorganized to become departments rather than divisions and a fifth department, Educational Foundations, was created to support undergraduate and graduate studies in educational philosophy and history, which had, until then, been the responsibility of the Secondary Education division.

The Faculty's sixth department, Industrial and Vocational Education — later renamed "Adult, Career and Technology Education" — was organized soon after. Its creation was prompted by the passing of the federal Technical and Vocational Training Assistance Act: the Faculty was able to take advantage of funding made available through this act to shape the new department by revamping and substantially enlarging the industrial arts program which had been offered since 1945 in cooperation with Calgary's technical institute.

As the departmental structure of the Faculty developed, there also arose units providing services to faculty and students and, in some cases, members of the public. The Centre for Research in Applied Measurement and Evaluation provides graduate students and faculty assistance in research design, statistics, measurement and data analysis, and with various computer applications. The Division of Clinical Services conducts research and provides services through four clinics: counselling, testing, reading and language, and speech. The Instructional Technology Centre provides microcomputer and audiovisual labs as well as related services. The Division of Field Services coordinates practicum experiences for students and facilitates research and development projects involving other educational agencies in the Edmonton region.

Because the Faculty wanted to mark its 50th year not only by celebrating the past but also by looking to the future, it chose the theme "Vision 20-21" — an acknowledgement of the individual and collective farsightedness that brought the Faculty into being and kept it vital and, at the same time, a call to look into the century ahead. Throughout the anniversary year, a number of conferences, lectures and other special events will address issues relative to the future of education.

For his part, the Faculty's acting dean admits that he's "not much of a visionary - my hindsight is a lot better," but he is willing to discuss the trends that he believes will shape his faculty as it enters the next century.

"Over the past, a big part of our resources has been put to just turning out the BEd - the teacher," says Zingle. "Now a very large percentage of teachers in the province have BEds and courses beyond the BEd. When we started, there were an awful lot of people out there who had one year of normal school and were coming summer after summer trying to get their degree."

Zingle believes that this changed condition will have a decided impact upon the Faculty in the decades ahead: "We'll be focusing more on specialty training and more and more on graduate diplomas and degrees." This, he says, will involve reaching out and being more flexible. "We've got to be the University of Alberta and not just the University of Edmonton. That's going to mean working on maybe making residence requirements more flexible. As well, I think that we have got to really move towards teleconferencing or other ways of delivering courses up in the North and other places."

And, he adds, the presence of highly-qualified personnel in the field will make itself felt not only in the focus of the Faculty but in how it approaches the design and delivery of its programs. "More and more we will be involved in partnership kinds of relationships," says Zingle, who sees the Faculty involved in consortia arrangements where school superintendents, school districts and others at the educational front lines are involved in identifying further education needs and designing and implementing initiatives to meet those needs. "I think that's a way we've got to go. There are a lot of people out there with high levels of expertise who could become a part of the delivery."

He also sees the expertise available in the field — "there are a lot of people with PhDs out in the schools" — being put to good use in the initial preparation of teachers. In particular, he believes that it is time to take a close look at the way student-teaching is evaluated. He says that while it was reasonable to send out faculty evaluators when the teachers with whom the students were working (the cooperating teachers) tended to have minimal training themselves, that is no longer the case. "We're sending our student teachers out now to teachers who have lots of experience and maybe have as much academic training as many of our staff. So now we suddenly have to think: does it make sense for us to have the cooperating teacher score on one notch and have the faculty consultant going out there as the expert? Why couldn't two teachers in one school work with this student teacher — one acting as a kind of mentor and the other as the evaluator?"

Concerning another aspect of the future for his faculty, when asked if the "greying faculty" phenomenon is a concern, Zingle says that he would have answered the question differently not long ago, but some early retirements and resignations in the past few years have made a difference. "There is now getting to be a better balance — three or four years ago we had something like three-quarters full professors, and now suddenly we are getting a bunch of assistant professors. We've hired about a fifth of our staff in the last maybe four or five years." (The Faculty currently has approximately 150 faculty members with full-time academic appointments.)

Zingle is excited about the quality of the new people who have been hired in recent years, stressing that their value is greater than their individual contributions: "It's not only what they bring themselves, but they stimulate the whole place." In its 50th year his faculty is celebrating the people of vision who contributed to its proud history. Zingle believes that the future is also in good hands: "When I look at the new people we have hired — these 30 or 35 people who have come in the past few years — these people are talented, bright, bright people. I am obviously not negative about what has happened in the Faculty so far, but this is going to be better."

Published Autumn 1991.

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