Roles of Urban Indigenous Community Members in Collaborative Field-Based Teacher Preparation

Nov. 01, 2016

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 67(5) 363–378, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to explore the roles and perceptions of Indigenous community partners as co-teacher educators working to improve teacher preparation for Indigenous education.

The authors explored the partnership between Kateri Center of Chicago (Kateri; 2013)—an urban Indigenous community organization—and Loyola University Chicago’s (Loyola) Teaching, Learning, and Leading With Schools and Communities (TLLSC)—a field-based, teacher preparation program. Through the Kateri–TLLSC partnership, Kateri community members and university faculty worked to prepare candidates for the specific needs of urban, Indigenous students by engaging candidates with the Indigenous community.
The author used a qualitative case study method in order to collect data through focus groups, participant observations, and interviews.

Discussion and Conclusions

The author found that community partners identified three themes of active involvement to support the needs of urban Indigenous children and their teachers: (a) experiences with Native peoples, (b) professional development, and (c) community. Each of these facets advanced the conversations around the perceptions and roles of Indigenous communities as sovereign stakeholders committed to decolonization in primarily non-Indigenous teacher preparation.

a) Experiences With Native Peoples
The participants believed that as community partners they must take an active role in affording candidates direct experiences with Indigenous peoples to understand and meet the needs of urban Indigenous children. The participants moved beyond accepted models of teacher preparation and suggested that urban Indigenous community members must actively engage with candidates, facilitate opportunities for candidates to have direct experiences with

Indigenous peoples, and assist candidates in developing relationships with Indigenous families and communities to understand what it means to be Indigenous in an urban setting. The author argues that university administrators and faculty must embrace decolonization, redefine who they consider experts in preparing teachers for urban Indigenous communities, and collaborate with Indigenous peoples to design curricula inclusive of Indigenous education as a short-term goal.

b) Professional Development
Community partners explained their responsibility to address the instruction and curriculum present in public schools. The participants described instances where they initiated trainings for teachers serving Indigenous children, and identified opportunities for expanding community-led professional development for inservice teachers in an urban district.

c) Community
The participants discussed the importance of urban Indigenous communities forming extended networks. These networks offer support away from tribal resources, and placed increased responsibility on communities to come together to facilitate communication with non-Indigenous teachers to express their children’s needs. Community partners emphasized the importance of Indigenous peoples taking leadership roles in educational programming as they held knowledges and experiences not represented in public education. To sustain these efforts, community partners emphasized the need to work together and also the challenges in doing so. The author argues that indigenous communities worked to maintain their values and traditions to preserve their cultures for future generations.

The roles and perceptions of community partners as co-teacher educators described in this study were a passive continuation of unequal partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous institutions. In this sense, the Kateri– TLLSC partnership (a) acknowledged the historical and current oppression present in Indigenous communities, but failed to, (b) recognize the need to decolonize the educational system to develop a postcolonial state, (c) endeavor to heal prior traumas, and (d) respect the assets Indigenous communities possess.


The author recommends that valuing Indigenous communities’ knowledges as important assets in teacher preparation will require universities to address underlying beliefs of faculty members as the holders of information. Indigenous community members hold knowledge candidates need to better serve urban Indigenous children; thus, university-based teacher preparation programs must create space for community partners as valued resources in preparing candidates for Indigenous education. Fully engaging in such efforts, in collaboration with Indigenous communities, holds the potential for universities to address historical wrongdoings and act as allies to strengthen Indigenous education and commit to aspirations of postcolonialism beyond reform.

Updated: Sep. 24, 2017