Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

From "Urban" to Urban: Engaging Schools and Communities in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

From "Urban" to Urban: Engaging Schools and Communities in Teacher Education

Article excerpt


The need for sophisticated and highly skilled educators in urban schools is painfully obvious, even to the most casual observer. National and local test data demonstrate that students in urban schools are generally not achieving at the same levels as are their suburban and more affluent peers. Teacher educators in urban areas struggle with how to best prepare and encourage their students in teacher preparation programs to enter city schools to assist in changing this bleak picture.

The Teaching and Learning faculty of Loyola University of Chicago's School of Education face this challenge. Part of our school's mission is to serve the educational needs of Chicago and the surrounding areas (Loyola University of Chicago [LUC], 2013a). We revised our master's degree program in secondary education in 2008 to better prepare teacher candidates for work in schools that serve predominantly low-income students in the region's urban communities. Although many faculty members already had relationships with the public and Catholic schools in Chicago, we felt that there was a need to be more explicit about our commitment to urban education. This resulted in a redesign of the program to better prepare teacher candidates to be effective educators in urban schools and to improve the quality of education offered to youth in the Chicago metropolitan area.

The revised master's program concentrates on preparing teacher candidates who can demonstrate the critical elements of effective urban teaching and of promoting social justice. These include a strong sense of self-efficacy, an understanding of how broader social and historical issues affect teaching and learning, an in-depth understanding of subject matter and pedagogy, and a commitment to learning from students and their communities (Ryan, 2006). There also is a significant need for teacher candidates to demonstrate resilience and to possess the ability to respond constructively to challenging situations (Bondy & McKenzie, 1999; Steinhardt, n.d.).

In this article, we focus on the impact of a new core course that anchors teachers to, and broadens how we prepare teachers to engage in, urban communities: Teaching and Learning in Urban Communities. Our examination of this new course focused on the following question: To what extent and in what ways does Teaching and Learning in Urban Communities have an impact on teacher candidates in terms of their understanding of: (a) social justice, (b) the relationship between their identity and their pedagogical practices, and (c) urban communities as educational resources?

Students in this course consider the social, economic, political, cultural, and historical factors that shape urban teaching and learning. In addition, by examining the relationship between their own social and cultural identities and their pedagogical practices, they also reflect on the importance of educators' understanding themselves as members of the communities in which they work. An essential element of the course is students' exploring school-community relationships through a field experience with a community organization. In this regard, Anderson and Stillman (2010) stated:

Student teachers need more than mere experience in placements that approximate the conditions and challenges they will face as beginning teachers. They need to see and, whenever possible, be apprenticed by adaptive experts who are successfully engaging in equity-minded practice in the face of typical policy- and resource-related challenges in urban, high-needs schools. (p. 130)

Students work with organizations on an educational initiative and research the relationship between the organization, community, and local schools, which includes their developing community and organiza- tional asset maps (Kretzmann, McKnight, Dobrowolski, & Puntenney, 2005). Most teachers' beliefs about urban teaching are associated with the degree to which their previous schooling and life experiences were monocultural or multicultural (Kyles & 01afson,2008; Parker & Howard, 2009; Richardson, 1996). …

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