The Relevance of Prior Learning in Teacher Education Admissions Processes

Mark Hirschkorn, Alan Sears, Elizabeth Sloat, Theodore Michael Christou, Paula Kristmanson, Lynn Lemisko


In this paper, we argue that teacher education admissions processes would benefit from attending more to prospective teacher candidates’ cognitive frames. We begin with the introduction of a three-stage heuristic for describing teacher education. We then review the literature about constructivist notions of prior learning and teacher education program admissions processes. These processes, we argue, fail to adequately account for candidates’ preconceptions about teaching and learning, which affect their beliefs and understanding. Virtually none of the admissions processes we examined explicitly attempts to map the cognitive frames of applicants to uncover the structure of their ideas about teaching and learning. Teacher education institutions might best concentrate upon candidates’ cognitive frames within two core areas: subject area content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. These two areas have the greatest potential to influence candidates’ future cognitive frameworks, understandings, and points of reference.

            Keywords: teacher education admissions processes; identifying cognitive frames; subject area content knowledge; pedagogical knowledge


teacher education; prior learning; pedagogical content knowledge; cognitive frames; constructivism

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