Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 1: Examining Grant Funded Professional Development for White Female Teachers in Urban Schools

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 1: Examining Grant Funded Professional Development for White Female Teachers in Urban Schools

Article excerpt


As school districts throughout the country struggle with teacher quality and retention, changing student demographics create unique situations for White female teachers who serve Black and Latino student populations in many urban districts. With a focus on culturally relevant pedagogy, we discuss this phenomenon in relation to professional development for teachers from a metropolitan school district in the southeastern United States. The teachers from the urban school district participated in a large national grant for the improvement of history education. The "Seeing History in Focus Together" (SHIFT) grant, funded through a Teaching American History Grant, provided a distinctive university partnership with a focus on improving teacher quality through targeted pedagogical and content knowledge instruction. Through extensive collaboration, the grant was created in order to foster educational advancements in a number of areas. Participating teachers received unique and intensive instruction from content specialists (history professors) and pedagogical experts (social studies education professors) to help improve their teaching practice.

At the conclusion of the project, we investigated how SHIFT may have impacted the teaching practices of four White female teachers who participated in the grant and who worked in classrooms where the majority of students were African American or Latino. The following research questions were used for this study. How did SHIFT impact teachers' content knowledge? How were pedagogical tools introduced by SHIFT utilized by participants in their classrooms? How did culturally relevant pedagogy instruction through the grant translate into practice?

Through an examination of the grant activities and qualitative data, we detail how the SHIFT grant impacted study participants' content knowledge and pedagogical practices. Grant evaluation data that included a teacher test, for example, revealed increases in teachers' historical knowledge. In addition, participant focus-group interviews demonstrate that teachers considered culturally relevant pedagogies, and observations of teacher instruction substantiated these claims. We also explore the grant structure and relevant literature to corroborate this outcome. In subsequent sections, we outline the blueprint, the original goals and purpose of the grant, review the literature relevant to White female teachers within urban school systems, and examine how the theory of culturally relevant pedagogy addresses these concerns. Our qualitative study with four of the teacher participants highlights their reactions to the structure, lessons, and effectiveness of the SHIFT grant. Moreover, we share an exemplar lesson that integrates culturally relevant pedagogy and describe how the participants sought to incorporate the strategies learned within the SHIFT grant.


The SHIFT grant originated as a strong collaboration between a large urban school system and a large urban public university. The grant provided opportunities for urban history teachers to strengthen their content knowledge, learn new and innovative pedagogical strategies, gain free tuition for two graduate courses at the university, and travel to relevant historical locations through summer trips. The university faculty benefitted from having opportunities to collaborate and co-teach across colleges (College of Education and College of Arts and Sciences) and work with secondary educators to inform their own research and teaching practices. Yet, even with all of these benefits, the organization and logistics of such an undertaking produced an extraordinary amount of bureaucratic paperwork, red-tape, and scheduling nightmares; it was difficult to have these two large bureaucracies coordinate.

Certainly, many hours were dedicated to the creation of this grant, long before the first teacher ever came to class. …

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