Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Moving from Traditional Teacher Education to a Field-Based Urban Teacher Education Program: One Program's Story of Reform

Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Moving from Traditional Teacher Education to a Field-Based Urban Teacher Education Program: One Program's Story of Reform

Article excerpt

For the past two decades, teacher education has faced the challenge of reform from public leaders and scholars. In 1997, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future released a report of exemplary teacher education programs. In this report, Darling-Hammond (1997) identified distinct qualities of programs whose graduates were successful in both teaching diverse learners effectively and demonstrating pedagogical skills that enabled them "to teach the challenging material envisioned by new subject matter standards aimed at higher levels of performance and greater understanding" (p. 30). Programs highlighted in the report had clear visions of good teaching; extended clinical experiences with "strong relationships, common knowledge, and shared beliefs among school- and university-based faculty"; and were grounded in pedagogical content knowledge "taught in the context of practice" (Darling-Hammond, 1997, p. 30). The report called for teacher education to implement reform with the goal of increasing the quality of teachers and teaching in the United States. In 2009, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated, "We should be studying and copying the practices of effective teacher preparation programs-and encouraging the lowest-performers to shape up or shut down" (Duncan, 2009, p. 1). More recently, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE; 2010) released a Blue Ribbon Panel Report calling for the transformation of teacher education through clinical practice.

Both reports called for significant changes in the way teacher education approaches its work. Recommendations common to these reports include (a) fieldwork central to the curriculum with careful alignment to coursework, (b) extended and carefully designed clinical components, (c) opportunities to work with diverse learners, and (d) fieldwork closely supervised and supported by clinical educators and mentors (Darling-Hammond, 1997; NCATE, 2010). NCATE's report further emphasized the critical need for universities to partner equally with districts and schools, to enlist more rigorous selection processes for teacher education candidates, and to provide opportunities for candidates to work in hard-to-staff schools. These recommendations were echoed by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE; 2010) in a report citing studies linking programs with rigorous clinical practice to student achievement, teacher retention, and a sense of preparedness. The AACTE report urged teacher education programs to provide opportunity for candidates to "practice and reflect on teaching while enrolled in their preparation programs" (AACTE, 2010, p. 6).

Grossman (2010) supports the recommendations for clinical preparation, stating that "providing high-quality practice opportunities for prospective teachers is fundamental to the enterprise of teacher education" (p. 7). Hollins (2011) further supports the recommendations for clinical practice by proposing a model for practice-based teaching in which "learning to teach integrates academic content knowledge and experience for teaching practice in an authentic context guided by a theoretical perspective and a philosophical stance" (p. 404). This article details one institution's efforts to realize the recommendations from the literature in reforming its early childhood and elementary programs toward practice-based teacher education. It is our hope that details of the promising practices and our journey of reform will help inform other teacher education programs as they embark on reform.

Context of Project CAUSE

Our university is located in a Midwestern city "known for failing school systems, racially segregated communities, and socioeconomic divides between the inner city and outlying communities" (Waddell, 2011, p. 24). While our university has a focus on urban community engagement and the School of Education holds a mission of being "urban-serving"; the university historically has not had a positive relationship with that community. …

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