Schools of Education


Educational Sciences


Institutional influences on “learning”

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … aspects necessary to the definition and maintenance of society
  • Knowing is … appropriate social action
  • Learner is … member of society
  • Learning is … development of self-in-context
  • Teaching is … participation in viability of society


In the 1800s, as Normal Schools in Europe; in the mid-1900s, as common units within accredited universities


We use the phrase Schools of Education to refer to formal academic units in institutions of higher education that are involved in investigation of educational phenomenon and preparation of teachers for all levels of schooling. Schools of Education play major roles in influencing how “learning” is understood, in large part through the discourses on learning that they assume, emphasize, critique, and/or investigate within and across their organizational divisions. To this end, in the table below we have described and contrasted typical organizational divisions across two eras: firstly, in the mid-1900s, when many Schools of Education were moving into or being formed within established universities; secondly, today, as Schools of Education and their organizational divisions have evolved. (We have also attempted to trace these evolutions on the map at the bottom of this entry.)  
Focus/ Concern Typical units/divisions in the mid-1900s Typical units/divisions today
Curriculum and Pedagogy Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) – Collecting subject-matter experts from across disciplines,Curriculum and Instruction units tended to emphasize Correspondence Discourses as they prepared teachers to plan lessons and manage learners. Curriculum Studies – Gathering specialists across disciplines who are oriented by Coherence Discourses, research and teaching in Curriculum Studies units typically address how people learn with/in various disciplines, complemented with an attentiveness to contemporary social, cultural, and ecological issues.
Educational Theory Educational Foundations – With strong empirical leans and especially attentive to Epistemology, Educational Foundations units brought together interests in philosophy, Sociology, and history of education. Critical and Cultural Studies in Education – Attentive to social justice and collective dynamics (see, e.g., Activist Discourses and Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses), Critical and Cultural Studies in Education units combine knowledge of the past with disciplined hope for the future.
Ongoing Education Industrial and Vocational Education – Strongly aligned with a training model of teaching, Industrial and Vocational Education focused on equipping laborers with the competencies needed in a burgeoning-but-evolving industrial economy. Adult Education and Lifelong Learning – Combining the insights and attitudes drawn from Andragogy and Lifelong Learning, Adult Education and Lifelong Learning units typically embrace ecological and evolutionary sensibilities as they aim to support mature learners to participate effectively in a constantly evolving ecosystem of careers.
Psychology Educational Psychology – Principally oriented by Positivism and related sensibilities, Educational Psychology units focused mainly on studying and assessing learning in formal educational settings (dominated by Behaviorisms and Cognitivism), with secondary interests in the psychology of teaching, career advising, and student counseling. School Psychology – Most prominently drawing on the Medical Model of (Dis)Ability, Motivation Theories, and Developmental Discourses, School Psychology units focus on the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral and learning issues.   Counseling Psychology – Typically drawing on Well-Being Discourses and Personal Agency Discourses, Counseling Psychologyunits aim to support schooling success and career development by focusing on individuals’ senses of self, social relationships, and overall functioning
School Management Educational Administration – Concerned with maintaining schools and school jurisdictions, Educational Administration units typically drew from business and industry for advice on management. Educational Policy and Leadership – Informed by Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses, and, increasingly, Emergent Complexity Discourses, Educational Policy and Leadership units focus on and engage educational leaders in studies of complex, evolving educational ecosystems.
Teacher preparation Normal School – Arising first in Europe in the 1800s, the Normal School was designed to be a place where prospective teachers would learn the rather narrow and rigid norms of behavior deemed appropriate for educators. Regarding learning, they tended to assume Folk Theories. Teacher Education – Typically trans-department administrative offices that coordinate course offerings from across multiple units in Schools of Education, Teacher Education divisions can seem somewhat schizophrenic, as they juggle emphases rooted in Standardized Education (e.g., classroom management and lesson planning) with philosophies consistent with Authentic Education and Democratic Citizenship Education.
Technology and Education Educational Technology – One of the younger divisions of Schools of Education, Educational Technology units drew heavily on Behaviorisms, Cognitivism, and Motivation Theories as they attended to the effective use of rapidly emerging digital technologies in formal educational settings. Learning Sciences – Bringing together Cognitive Science, Educational Psychology, Educational Technology, Learning Design, and other domains, Learning Sciences units are concerned with the neurological, psychological, social, and cultural dimensions of learning and are prominently focused on improving education through creating, studying, and modifying technologies and environments to support learning.
  While not divisions within Schools of Education, the following discourses are increasingly prominent in institutions of higher education:
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) – an umbrella notion applied to efforts of instructors in higher education to improve their own teaching through self-study that takes into account context and student learning, and that (usually) makes the findings public
  • 4M Framework – a refinement of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning that elaborates the focus on one’s own practice to include considerations of multiple levels of influence – specifically, four M’s: Micro (individual), Meso (departmental), Macro (institutional), and Mega (social–cultural–ecological)


The above lists of units in Schools of Education are based on our experience of structures of schools/faculties of education in North American universities, as well as divisions represented in major conferences and research organizations. As such, the lists and descriptions are not representative of all Schools of Education; however, they are reflective of past and current structures.   This entry is included on the site for two main reasons. Firstly, we believe that much can be inferred about popular conceptions of learning by looking at Schools of Education. Physical structures and academic programs embody entrenched assumptions and beliefs – which, it appears, often depart little from the Folk Theories that dominate public discourse. Secondly, and more optimistically, Schools of Education are explicitly charged with interrogating popular beliefs about learning and for offering alternatives – and so, we imagine, tracking their evolutions should afford insight into emerging (and missed) educational possibilities. To that point, it is not at all evident that Schools of Education are operating in a space that might be described as coherent, theory-informed, and evidence-based.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Extremely diffuse

Status as a Theory of Learning

From the beginning, Schools of Education have explicitly participated in the development of, research into, and explicit teaching of specific theories of learning. Indeed, in terms of the diversity of sensibilities represented on this site, Schools of Education could be argued to be the cultural institution most concerned with discourses on learning. That said, and as reflected in the descriptors above and the map below, there is little coherence in the treatments of the topics that are afforded in most Schools of Education.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Officially, Schools of Education are charged with investigating, selecting, and transmitting evidence-based and theoretically defensible teaching practices.

Status as a Scientific Theory

No matter how innovative they are intended to be, cultural institutions are products of their histories and contexts – and thus encumbered by unspoken assumptions and hidden agendas. Schools of Education are not exceptions to this rule – and so, despite being mainly located in research institutions, we are aware of none that can be properly characterized as fully subscribing to the criteria for scientific discourses used on this site.


  • Adult Education and Lifelong Learning
  • Counseling Psychology
  • Critical and Cultural Studies in Education
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Curriculum Studies
  • Educational Administration
  • Educational Foundations
  • Educational Policy and Leadership
  • Educational Psychology
  • Educational Technology
  • 4M Framework
  • Industrial and Vocational Education
  • Learning Sciences
  • Normal School
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
  • School Psychology
  • Teacher Education

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2023). “Schools of Education” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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