Source: Teaching Education, Volume 21, Issue 2 (June 2010), pages 119 – 130.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
Many teacher education programs in the United States (US) face increasing demands to better prepare teachers for entry into and retention in urban schools.
Through a US Department of Education grant, a university-school partnership was formed to develop a community-based model (CBM) of teacher preparation that placed pre-service teachers in urban schools for a full year.
After four years of grant funding and work in the schools, researchers wished to explore the sustainability of the CBM of teacher preparation. The researchers ask:
Did new teachers feel as though the CBM met their needs to be successful in hard-to-staff schools?
How and to what degree did university faculty alter their curriculum to prepare teachers for urban schools?
In spring 2008, data were collected through surveying faculty and both pre-service and new teachers who graduated from the CBM-based teacher preparation program. Both the faculty members and the pre-service teachers they teach are largely white, middle-class females.
Researchers developed surveys to explore faculty perception on their personal role and the university's role in preparing pre-service teachers to teach in urban schools.
Furthermore, pre-service teachers who were currently enrolled in the elementary and early childhood programs at the university and who had participated in the CBM program were also surveyed. Pre-service teachers were in a traditional four-year undergraduate program that included a series of foundation and methods courses required before internship.
Lastly, surveys were sent to new teachers who were currently working in urban schools and were recent graduates of the university. All new teachers were teaching in kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms.
Throughout the development and implementation of the CBM, researchers were challenged by faculty on the need to alter curriculum and include on-site field experiences that were supervised by faculty. Throughout the process of developing this model, grant funds were available to faculty to participate in the model and very few took advantage of the support.
Along with resources, universities must establish a vision and commitment to support faculty working and learning alongside their pre-service teachers in the schools where the pre-service teachers will be accepting their first teaching assignment.
As the federal grant ends, faculty, who worked to establish the processes reported here, wonder if the university will continue to support the CBM model. The conclusions drawn from this research do not point to sustainable, systemic change at the university level. Despite efforts to draw the wider faculty into the CBM at this university, few availed themselves of the opportunity.
Indeed, although the faculty members working directly on building the CBM supported one another, there was not widespread support for the program. Pre-service teachers and university faculty resisted participating when they did not feel comfortable working in an urban school. After several years of defending the process, the set of teacher preparation courses that use the CBM is only a choice - not a requirement - for pre-service teachers in elementary and early childhood programs.
The authors conclude that university classrooms may give pre-service teachers the theoretical tools, but without guidance on how to use these tools the value of the lesson is diminished. To engage pre-service teachers in authentic reflective practice, university faculty must be on-site where they can learn alongside the pre-service teachers and intervene in the process when needed.