Crossing Borders without Leaving Town: The Impact of Cultural Immersion on the Perceptions of Teacher Education Candidates

Fall, 2011

Source: Issues in Teacher Education, Volume 20, No. 2, Fall 2011, p. 23-36.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examines the impact of teacher education program courses on candidates’ perceptions of urban communities and urban teaching.


The sample consisted of 33 teacher education candidates in a midsized university located in a metropolitan area.
Candidates involved in the study were entering their senior year in college and the second year of a two-year professional education program.
Twelve percent of the respondents were candidates of color and 15.6% of the respondents were male; 81% of the respondents were White females.

Data were acquired through course reflections submitted throughout the experience; candidates were asked to keep a journal to reflect on course activities and the impact experiences had on their perceptions of teaching in urban schools.


The results reveal that candidates shared many common perceptions of urban communities and perceptions of teaching in urban schools.

1. Understanding and Appreciation for Community Agencies
As a result of the field trips, service learning activities, and internship experiences, candidates expressed a new understanding of community agencies as well as the interconnectedness of the not-for-profit sector.

2. Changed Perception of Families Including a New Understanding of Self and Others
Through this experience, candidates reflected on their own preconceived notions as well as their thought processes as they began to appreciate and relate to families in urban communities.

3. New Understanding of Community
As the candidates learned about the history of the city, they began changing their thoughts from judgment to understanding.
Many candidates began reflecting on the inequities as a result of institutional racism and segregation rather than a result of individual choice.

4. Desire to Be Involved in and Serve the Urban Community
Candidates began seeing urban communities not as those that need to be saved, but rather as places in which they want to belong and want to serve.


5. New Understanding of the Role of Teacher in Urban Schools
Candidates discovered the necessity for urban teachers to get to know their students and their communities if they are to be truly effective and transformative teachers.

Recommendations and Implications

The findings of this study show that carefully-designed, non-school experiences in teacher education can have significant impact on the preparation of urban teachers.
The results demonstrate that experiences within urban communities and engagement with families and students from urban schools are a rich and relevant means for preparing urban teachers.

Through course readings; experiences; and engagement with diverse populations within communities, candidates were exposed to and participated in the analysis of issues related to culture, language, ethnicity, race, gender, and socioeconomic status.
Candidates gained insight of themselves and others as they engaged with urban communities and families and reflected on their roles as teachers in urban schools.
The courses in this study can be replicated in other urban teacher preparation programs.
The courses and experiences are easily transferable to all urban-serving teacher education programs.
The results highlight the relevance and value of providing candidates with differentiated field experiences within and throughout teacher preparation.

Updated: Sep. 28, 2014