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A Legacy of Innovation in Education, Psychology and Health

Teachers College’s seventh President, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Lawrence Cremin, wrote that the College “has been at the forefront of every major movement, issue, and conflict in American education.” Yet education, in the words of TC philosopher and psychologist John Dewey, “is not preparation for life, but life itself.” Thus from its inception, the College has been committed to a vision of education writ large that focuses equally on education, psychology and health and that leverages the connections among fields to create a smarter, healthier, more peaceful and equitable world. Indeed, interdisciplinary work that stands at the nexus of science and practice is in our DNA. TC was initially founded by Grace Hoadley Dodge to teach immigrant women health and hygiene along with the domestic arts. James Earl Russell, TC’s first dean, established a model for “training which would enable the student to see the relationships existing everywhere in the various fields of knowledge, even the unity of all knowledge.” 

Thanks to this approach, TC has produced a remarkable track record of “firsts.” Today, the largest campaign ever conducted by a graduate school of education is enabling our faculty and students to extend our legacy as innovators and creators of new fields and practices into the 21st century. 

Read more about TC's legacy of innovation in Education, Psychology and Health.


TC’s most iconic figure, philosopher and
psychologist John Dewey, pioneered pedagogies
based on his discovery that children learn
best by doing.

TC has made major and enduring contributions to education at all levels—work that we continue to build on today. These include:

The inquiry-based, K–12 classroom, reflecting philosopher and psychologist John Dewey’s belief that all children (and all people) learn best by doing—in other words, by making sense of their surrounding environments, finding personal relevance in the knowledge and skills they master, and putting their knowledge to work. For the past 30 years, through our Institute for Learning Technologies and Center for Technology and School Change, we have led the re-conception of learning environments both in the classroom and online.

Vice Dean and Evenden Professor
of Education A. Lin Goodwin created
the TR@TC2 teaching residency
program and a new doctoral specialization
in teacher education.

Teacher Preparation

From its earliest days TC has sought to prepare teachers with the skills to build on the knowledge that learners from different backgrounds bring with them into the classroom. Today our signature TR@TC2 medical residency-style program prepares diverse, highly-qualified teachers of English as a second language, students with disabilities, science biology and general science, and science students with disabilities. Reflecting our belief that the teaching of teachers requires a special expertise all its own, we have recently launched a new doctoral specialization in teacher preparation.

School Leadership
TC is a longstanding leader in preparing superintendents and principals. We are home to the Cahn Fellows for Distinguished Public School Principals; the Summer Principals Academy; the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership; and the Urban Leaders Program and Superintendents Work Conference.
Application of the scientific method. TC psychologist E.L. Thorndike conducted “puzzle box” experiments that demonstrated how animals learn through trial and error. Efforts to establish a scientific understanding of how learning occurs now pervade every area of the College, including our programs in neuroscience, speech and language pathology, cognitive psychology and learning analytics.

Teachers College Community School

Teachers College Community School

The community school, a natural outgrowth of the College's breadth of disciplines. In 1902, TC launched the Speyer School, which included courses on health and sanitation, two social workers on staff, lectures for adults and a library open to the neighborhood community. Today, the College is a leader in modeling university–public school partnership through the Teachers College Community School, a pre-K–8 school located in West Harlem that provides comprehensive services to students and their families, and a partnership with a network of upper Manhattan public schools.

International and comparative education. The ideas of Dewey, Russell, and others were deeply influenced by European education models. In 1898, Russell, newly returned from Europe, taught TC students the world’s first course on foreign school systems. The field has since been shaped and reshaped by TC luminaries whose impact includes introducing quantitative and statistical methodologies. TC has profoundly shaped the development of education systems in China, East Africa and Afghanistan. Today, the College partners with Ministries of Education, universities and schools in China, Jordan, Iceland, India, Pakistan, Brazil and elsewhere.

The late education anthropologist
George Clement Bond was widely credited
with identifying and representing the
historical narratives of indigenous
African peoples.

Educational anthropology. Beginning with the work of Margaret Mead, who taught at TC from 1948 through 1960, the College played a leading role in focusing anthropologists on schools in the U.S. and abroad. The late George C. Bond worked from the historical narratives of indigenous people to help overturn the longstanding view, in the words of the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper in 1963, “there is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness.” Today, through the George C. Bond Center for African Education, the College is helping African nations develop their education systems, including those that serve refugees and displaced persons, and enabling U.S. public schools to better serve students who have emigrated from Africa.

Special education. In the early 20th century, Elizabeth Farrell, a public school teacher working on New York City’s Lower East Side, began tailoring instruction to the varying needs, interests and abilities of boys deemed “incorrigible” and “mentally deficient.” At TC, Farrell and psychologist Leta Hollingworth established the nation’s first graduate program in special education. Farrell’s work also gave rise both to the Council for Exceptional Children and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) now required nationwide for every special education student. 

"TC’s blueprint for inclusive education
calls for balanced classes, professional
development, and triple certification."

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the psychologists in what was then TC’s Department of Special Education helped lay the groundwork for the present-day inclusive education movement, contributing to passage in 1975 of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, since reenacted as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The department became the nation’s foremost destination for students in the field and as a national research hub.

Today TC is a global leader in designing programs to help hard of hearing students and those on the autism spectrum. TC’s federally funded “QUIERE” program (for “quality universally inclusive early responsive education”) provides pre-service teachers with triple certification in early childhood general education, early childhood special education and bilingual education. Through the TC Inclusive Classrooms Project, the College is helping New York City schools accommodate the growing number of special needs students entering mainstream classrooms.

The late A. Harry Passow helped to
launch the fields of gifted education
and of urban education, focusing new
attention on the needs of disadvantaged

Gifted education. During the 1950s, TC’s A. Harry Passow launched the Talented Youth Project. Passow’s article, “Are We Short-Changing the Gifted?” became one of the most widely reprinted pieces of the 1950s, particularly after the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik. TC social psychologist Abraham Tannenbaum broadened the commonly accepted definition of giftedness to include not only intellectual ability or aptitude but also the ability to perform or produce work “that enhances the moral, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, or aesthetic life of humanity.” Today the College’s Hollingworth Center develops model programs in early childhood education and offers enriched educational services for children, families, and educators. 

Social Studies Education. During the 1930s, TC faculty member Harold Rugg published the first series of pamphlets that linked the study of history to contemporary issues and problems relevant to students’ lives. He later co-founded the National Council for Social Studies. TC’s current Social Studies Education program prepares educators who challenge students to become engaged, critically independent citizens. TC faculty have created innovative curricula such as the nationally distributed “Teaching the Levees” (intended to accompany the Spike Lee documentary Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath), “Understanding Fiscal Responsibility” and “Loot Inc: Cowin Financial Literacy Project.”

Ernest Morrell is the TC Macy Professor of
English Education and Director of the College’s
Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME),
founded by psychologist and professor emeritus
Edmund Gordon.

Urban Education.  A 1962 conference convened by TC’s A. Harry Passow led to the publication of the volume “Education in Depressed Areas,” which became the bible on teaching urban disadvantaged youth. In a subsequent massive study of the dysfunctional Washington, D.C. school system, Passow proposed reforms that have since become staples of urban school reform nationwide. Today, TC’s Office of School & Community Partnerships serves as an incubator for applying cutting-edge, research-based strategies in New York City schools, while the College’s Department of Education Policy & Social Analysis is a leader in analyzing governments, markets, and societal conditions that shape schooling.

Supplementary Education. Building on Passow’s work, TC psychologist Edmund Gordon championed the concept that disadvantaged children need a range of community services to compete on an equal footing with their wealthier peers. Today, TC’s Campaign for Educational Equity is a leader in demonstrating the feasibility of this approach, which has given rise to efforts such as the Harlem Children Zone and the federal Promise Neighborhoods.

Associate Professor of Education
Mariana Souto-Manning directs TC's
QUIERE (Quality Universally-Inclusive
Early Responsive Education) Project.

Early Childhood Education. In 1905, TC’s Patty Smith Hill, subsequent co-founder of the National Association of Nursery Education, taught the first class in early childhood education. Today, TC’s National Center for Children & Families is a global leader in studying and shaping early childhood policies, and has assisted in the creation of early childhood learning standards in more than 45 of the world’s poorest nations.

Community College Education. During the 1970s and 80s, Teachers College prepared a generation of the nation’s leading community college presidents. Today its Community College Research Center is a leader in studying and improving policies and practices at these institutions, which are the major path to higher education for the nation’s poor and minority students. The College’s program in Higher and Post-Secondary Education is a leader in refashioning curriculum and teaching for institutions serving diverse student populations.

Adult Education. During the 1970s, Teachers College faculty member Jack Mezirow introduced his theory of transformative learning, which shifted the focus of the adult learning field from the mastery of basic skills to reassessment of the assumptions and expectations that frame learners’ thoughts, feelings and actions. The theory has helped trigger sweeping changes and ongoing debate on fronts ranging from social activism to graduate and adult education, to human resources development.

Under the leadership of Associate Professor
of Cognitive Studies Ryan Baker, TC has
launched the first master’s degree
program in learning analytics.

Today, TC is a leader in the adult learning field through the AEGIS (Adult Education Guided Intensive Study) doctoral program Mezirow founded.

Educational Assessment & Learning Analytics. The field of educational assessment was created at TC through the work of E.L. Thorndike, and over the decades, TC educators and psychologists such as Irving Lorge, Elizabeth Hagen and Kikumi Tatsuoka have created increasingly sensitive approaches to diagnose students’ strengths and weaknesses. Today the College is a leader in the field of psychometrics, particularly in identifying the fixed, stable misunderstandings of “sub-skills” that may underlie student test performance; correcting for raters’ biases in evaluating essays and other “constructed response” items; and conducting deeper analysis of student performance on international assessments such as TIMSS, PERLS and PISA. More recently, TC has emerged as a leader in learning analytics—the use of technology and large-scale data to, in essence, learn how learners learn—launching the first master’s degree program in the field.



Teachers College has long been home to some of the world's best-known and most influential psychologists. The field of educational psychology was launched at TC in 1899 with the arrival of Professor Edward Lee Thorndike—the same year that John Dewey, who would join our faculty in 1904, was elected president of the American Psychological Association—and since then, Teachers College has been the focal point for applying psychological theory to educational, organizational and therapeutic practice. Our psychology faculty have included eminent scholars and thought leaders such as Arthur Gates, Naomi Norsworthy, Percival Symonds, Leta Hollingworth, Goodwin Watson, Morton Deutsch, Leonard Blackman and Edmund Gordon. Our alumni have included luminaries such as Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis and Rollo May. Today roughly one-fourth of our faculty are psychologists in different fields, and TC’s Dean Hope Center for Educational and Psychological Services serves low-income families. The College’s major contributions to psychology have come in the areas of:

Edward Thorndike

The field of educational psychology
was launched in 1899 with the
arrival of Professor
Edward Lee Thorndike at TC.

Educational psychology. In 1899, E.L. Thorndike conducted the first scientific studies of animal intelligence and learning. His subsequent series of groundbreaking texts established the field of educational psychology. Thorndike also launched the modern field of educational assessment by developing the first “standard scale” to measure student learning. Current faculty do basic and applied research on a host of relevant issues, such as effective curricular and technology design, developmentally appropriate mathematics instruction, and the cognitive underpinnings of reading, note-taking and scientific reasoning skills.

Cognitive Psychology. From the College’s inception, TC experts have helped explicate essential learning processes and developed theories and technological applications that enhance learning. Today, cognitive psychologists at TC are leaders in advancing the theory of grounded cognition, which holds that learning becomes more profound through sensory experience, and in exploring the role of motivation and emotion in learning. TC psychologists are also at the forefront of identifying the learning processes of very young children, and in shedding new light on spatial language and thinking, event perception and cognition, and gesture. 

Edward Lee Thorndike Professor
of Psychology and Education
Warner Burke is an expert on
multi-rater feedback, leadership,
learning agility and organizational

Social-Organizational Psychology. Founded originally in 1963, the Program in Social–Organizational Psychology reflects an exceptional intellectual legacy, with current faculty building on the work of TC giants such as Morton Deutsch and Goodwin Watson. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences (JABS), founded here by Watson, has returned home under the editorship of current faculty member Bill Pasmore. Today, the faculty’s work focuses on organizational change, leadership, conflict resolution, group dynamics, diversity, demography and inclusion and is world-renowned.

The Program offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, as well as a unique mid-career degree program in executive change management (XMA). Through its Eisenhower Leadership Development program, TC is helping the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to train a new generation of more collaborative commanding officers.

Behavior Analysis. Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) – widely recognized as an empirically based form of teaching – grows out of the Law of Effect, demonstrated in the early 20th century by the pioneering TC psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike and subsequent work by Harvard’s B.F. Skinner. In 1969, Dr. Douglas Greer taught the first ABA course at Teachers College, and since then, the CABAS® Model (for Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to Schooling), developed by Greer and his students, has been applied to general and special education in the U.S. and other countries, systems of schooling, and pervasive developmental disorders, especially verbal and social disorders. TC’s CABAS programs have produced more than 200 PhD dissertations since 1969. All of the MA and PhD students train and do research in publicly funded demonstration schools for children with and without disabilities.

Marla Brassard

Marla Brassard is Professor of
Psychology and Education
and Director of Clinical Training.

School Psychology. The College’s School Psychology Program is one of the oldest in the nation. TC’s Gertrude Hildreth was a founder of the field.  During the 1960s-70s, Professor Mary Alice White helped establish the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Division of School Psychology, APA accreditation for school psychology PhD programs, and the American Board of Professional Psychology Diplomate in School Psychology and founded/edited the Journal of School Psychology. Current faculty have helped shaped worldwide practices and standards in dealing with the psychological abuse and neglect of children; the treatment of childhood post-traumatic stress disorder; content area reading instruction for secondary school students; and the development of key academic skills, especially reading, writing and note-taking, and test development.

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn is the Virginia
and Leonard Marx Professor of Child
Development and Education and
Co-Director of the National Center
for Children and Families.

Developmental Psychology. TC researchers have played an important role in some of the major longitudinal studies demonstrating the powerful and often multigenerational effects of poverty on emotional and intellectual development; in identifying which concepts children are ready to learn at different stages of development, and in what degree of depth and complexity; and in studying the ability of children to learn to regulate their own emotions.

Counseling Psychology. After World War II, TC faculty member Roger Myers played a major role in setting accreditation and licensing standards in the emerging field of counseling psychology, which addressed the reintegration of veterans, the rehabilitation of the physically disabled, guidance in schools, career development and other issues that many clinical psychologists did not see as falling within their purview. Today, the College is a leader in preparing psychologists who are sensitive to issues of culture and identity as well as meeting the needs of different individuals, organizations, and populations.

Professor of Psychology and Education
Derald Wing Sue is an authority on the
psychological impact of micro-aggressions.

TC has recently launched new programs/concentrations in bilingual and Latino mental health and sexuality, women and gender. Faculty members are also leaders in studying the effects of micro-aggressions, quantifying the health consequences of discrimination and perceived racism, and better understanding the psychological impact of intersectionalities, poverty, and minority stress.

Clinical Psychology. Over the past 20 years, Teachers College faculty have been leaders in overturning conventional views of loss and trauma, introducing new paradigms in the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional abuse, and the depression that often afflicts survivors of war, displacement and disaster.

TC's Global Mental Health Lab, led by
Associate Professor of Counseling and
Clinical Psychology Lena Verdeli,
stands at the forefront of dealing with
psychological fallout from the worldwide
refugee crisis.

In 2012, TC launched the nation’s first Ivy League master’s degree concentration in spirituality and psychology. TC's Spirituality Mind Body Institute (SMBI), program is a unique blend of faith and science that emphasizes integration of students’ own spirituality, exposure to a wide range of spiritual practices from other cultures, faiths and fields, and scientific findings about spirituality’s physiological and mental impact. Today, the College’s Global Mental Health Lab stands at the forefront of dealing with psychological fallout from the worldwide refugee crisis, while TC’s Loss, Trauma and Emotion Lab and recently established Resilience Center for Veterans & Families are creating new strategies for enhancing human resilience under the most adverse circumstances.

TC psychologist and Professor Emeritus
Morton Deutsch is widely regarded as
a founding father in the
field of conflict resolution.

Conflict resolution. TC psychologist and professor emeritus Morton Deutsch is widely regarded as a founder of the field of conflict resolution. His research showed that a cooperative mindset and skills lead to the constructive resolution of conflicts while, conversely, when both sides adopt a competitive approach, communications break down because neither can trust the other's intention. Today, TC’s Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR), founded by Deutsch in 1986, conducts state-of-the-art research, instruction, applied field projects and publishes extensively for scholars/practitioners around the world, while The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, co-edited by Deutsch and current MD-ICCCR director Peter T. Coleman, is the standard in the field. 


Health Education. From its earliest days, TC has believed that the physical wellbeing of students, their families and the surrounding community has a profound impact on learning and performance in school. Current faculty are championing a school-based model of health care as a strategy to overcome the nation’s education achievement gap; partnering with European researchers to import preventive strategies to fight teen drug and alcohol abuse; conducting ground-breaking research on factors that lead to gun violence by youth. TC’s Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education is a pioneer in delivering school health education and urban science education through the creative activity of youth making rap and hip-hop videos, songs, and artistic products. Most recently, a new TC Center for Early Language and Social Development (CELSD) is forming to gather the expertise of special educators in their respective fields to meet the therapy needs of underserved children diagnosed with autism, deafness, and developmental disabilities.

TC was home to the first university-based
instructional program for nursing educators
and administrators, created by
Mary Adelaide Nutting.

Nursing Education. In 1898, TC faculty member Mary Adelaide Nutting piloted the first university-based course for prospective nursing administrators and nursing educators. Nutting joined with Isabel Maitland Steward in developing the National League of Nursing’s Standard Curriculum for Schools of Nursing, which in turn, sparked the establishment of university-based nursing programs across the country. Our alumni include several nursing “Living Legends,” such as Claire Fagin, Ruth Lubic, Margaret McClure and Mathy Mezey. Today the College approaches the education of nurses through programs that address the need for chronic management of conditions such as diabetes and that respond to the growing executive function of nurses in many medical organizations. TC is also is launching a new doctoral program devoted to the pedagogy of teaching nurse educators. 

Joan Gussow

Mary Swartz Rose Professor Emerita of
Nutrition Education Joan Dye Gussow is
hailed as the mother of the "eat locally,
think globally movement."

Nutrition Education. During the early 20th century, TC faculty members Henry Sherman and Mary Swartz Rose launched the field of nutrition education, produced the field’s first scholarly text and established the nation’s first nutrition education lab. Rose served as founding president of the American Society for Nutrition. During the 1970s and 80s, Joan Dye Gussow, now Professor Emerita, launched a movement focused on eating locally and thinking globally. Today’s the College’s program in nutrition education, led by TC’s Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education and Policy, is at the forefront of studying and overcoming personal and societal barriers to healthful nutrition.


Neursocience and Education. During the 1970s, TC established one of the first neuroscience programs in a graduate school of education. Today, through centers such as our Neurocognition & Language Lab, our neuroscientists are leaders in explicating the development of language skills, the impact of poverty and other social conditions on the brain, and the workings of practices such as mindfulness and social and emotional learning.

Professor of Movement Sciences
Carol Ewing Garber has created a
Movement Science Clinic to provide testing
and scientifically-based, individualized guidance
on how to improve sports or exercise performance.

Movement Sciences/Kinesiology. Teachers College awarded the nation’s first doctorate in physical education, now called movement sciences/kinesiology. Josephine Rathbone, a professor of health and physical education at TC from 1930 to 1958, is considered among the pioneering American scholars in the field of physical education and activity for those with disabilities, and was the lone woman among the group of scholars who founded the American College of Sports Medicine. Today TC’s Center for Cerebral Palsy Research is a leader developing and implementing treatments for children with cerebral palsy. The College is also in the vanguard of research and an emerging teaching approach in physical education that emphasizes connections among attitude, motor skills, knowledge and fitness outcomes. Through a recent gift from a generous alumna, the College is expanding its movement science laboratories with a clinic that will serve people at all levels of fitness and help them increase speed, endurance and strength.

Speech/language pathology. Since the early 1960s, when the pioneering speech pathologist and audiologist Edward D. Mysak assumed leadership of what was then the College’s Speech and Hearing Center, TC has been a leader in researching and treating a range of communication disorders. Today the program in Communication Sciences and Disorders is dedicated to the advancement of science and art associated with the study of all aspects of human communication, and the prevention and treatment of its disorders across the lifespan. The program also annually sends groups of students to Bolivia and Ghana (where it received a humanitarian service award) to work on the treatment of speech and language disorders. The College’s Edward D. Mysak Clinic for Communication Disorders offers a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic services to individuals of all ages with communication disorders.

Did You Know?

There are more than 5,000 students enrolled at Teachers College.

Columbia University Alma MaterIn 1898, Teachers College became affiliated with Columbia University as a professional school for the training of teachers while retaining its legal and financial independence. Later that year, Teachers College and Columbia University adopted an affiliation agreement.

Mary Adelaide Nutting TC was home to the first university-based instructional program for nursing educators and administrators, created by Mary Adelaide Nutting.

James Earl RussellThe field of comparative international education originated at TC, where James Earl Russell taught the world’s first course in foreign school system.

John DeweyIn 1904, John Dewey, influential proponent of the progressive education movement, joined the faculty.

There are nearly 5,400 students enrolled at Teachers College.

TC offers the world's first graduate program in Learning Analytics through an innovative curriculum dedicated to improving education through technology and data analysis.

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