Preparing Teachers Alongside Community Scholars as a High Leverage Practice
Recent trends in education and teacher preparation have prioritized the integration of students’ identities, experiences, and communities with classroom learning to create school environments in which students’ identities truly matter. To this end, the UChicago Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) is grounding pedagogical practices in the context of community knowledge and asset-based thinking to expose various deficit paradigms — both societal and individual — and reimagine community-university partnerships. The forthcoming paper “Solidarity not Charity: Preparing Teachers Alongside Community Scholars as a High Leverage Practice” by Dr. Kavita Kapadia Matsko, Dr. Kay Fujiyoshi, and Dr. Laura Ramirez studies how teacher candidates’ engagement with mutually beneficial relationships between communities and universities impacts their preparation to practice in urban settings.
UTEP’s curriculum integrates the critical examination of urban society with future teachers’ involvement with Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) to show teachers firsthand how community-led development, knowledge, and determination interact with history, culture, political economy, and public policy to influence the way urban society functions. The study provides evidence that embedding future teachers in the lived realities and work of CBOs pushes them to rethink dominant beliefs about how knowledge is produced, who produces it, and its value in the classroom. When future teachers shift their perceptions of knowledge and the community’s role in its production, they enter their schools with greater humility and self-awareness, which better enables them to make classroom learning relevant, applicable, and intellectually challenging.
Why It Matters
UTEP’s prioritization of intentional conversations surrounding biases, processes of identity formation, and manifestations of privilege enables teachers to openly interrogate and address these issues within their cohort as preparation for engaging with CBOs. In emphasizing admission of internalized biases as the first step towards effective teaching, UTEP strives to prepare anti-racist and equity-oriented teachers who value and exemplify honesty and authenticity. This transparency is important in the classroom because it enables students and communities to form deeper bonds of trust with teachers, knowing that they have nothing to hide about their work and intentions.
Ultimately, UTEP’s partnerships with CBOs are vital to the development of teachers as they work towards building a more equitable society. The lived experience that creates community knowledge can and should be utilized by teachers to make classroom spaces in which students and their communities are truly equal partners in learning.