Before 1920 
  The Future

Before 1920:
Empirical Knowledge Base for Education

Influences on this period:

  • The Twentieth Century
  • Darwin's Descent of Man (1871)
  • William James' Principles of Psychology (1890) inspired a growing number of graduate-students including Thorndike.
  • First school museum opened in St. Louis. Visual instruction's importance was realized by educators. (1905)
  • World War I (1914-1918)

Films and film making became important as the Visual Instruction Movement grows.

  • The first catalog of instructional films was published. (1910)
    Later that year, the public school system in Rochester, NY was the first to implement the usage of films for instruction.
  • National professional organizations were established. Teacher training institutions offered visual instruction courses, and journals devoted to visual instruction were published.
  • Thomas Edison proclaimed "Books will soon be obsolete in schools….It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture." (1913)

This period was dominated by a fundamental shift in thinking about education which was supported by the advent of scientific investigation into human and animal learning.

Up until this time, instruction had been dominated by the idea that the mind, like the body, could be developed with exercise ("mind as muscle"). It was thought that the study of certain disciplines would improve the mind just like calisthenics improves certain muscles.

One of the most influential contributors to this shift to an empirical knowledge base for education was E.L. Thorndike, a professor of educational psychology at Columbia University. Thorndike was also a strong advocate of educational measurement which was significant in establishing education as a science.

More information:

Publications Online:

Thorndike, Edward L. (1910). The contribution of psychology to education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1, 5-12.

John Watson

Publications Online:

Watson, John B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158-177.

Watson, John B. (1916). Behavior and the concept of mental disease. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 13, 589-597.

Watson, John B. & Rayner, Rosalie. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1-14.