14 SES 01 A, Place based Education: the Role of Teachers and Communities
Attention to place-based teacher preparation has sharpened recently, based on concern that too many teacher education programs offer generic, decontextualized preparation intended to be applicable across a variety of schools and settings (Matsko & Hammerness, 2014; Zeichner et al., 2016). The purpose of this paper is to deepen understandings of the role of place in teacher education, specifically teaching and learning in particular urban places.
Place-based teacher preparation is increasingly relevant to the European context where recent reports emphasize the need to support children from low socio-economic, migrant, or disadvantaged minority backgrounds in urban areas (European Commission, 2013). In these reports, urban places are treated as synonymous with particular types of vulnerable students. Urban teaching is frequently presented as being uniquely challenging (OECD, 2013), and even undesirable (Hill & Robertson, 2009), given deficit conceptions of the students occupying those spaces (Noguera, 2003; Watson 2011). Moreover, research indicates that teachers in urban schools are frustrated by “various ‘urban related’ problems” (Gaikhorst et al., 2017, p. 57), which affect their retention.
However, individuals who have deep understandings of and affective ties to urban places and schools, through their own experiences as urban residents and students, bring place-based funds of knowledge to pre-service teacher education programs (Authors, 2018) and to their teaching careers. These urban-to-urban teachers arrive in teacher education programs already possessing multicultural capital and an understanding of how to navigate the system (Donnell, 2007) across complexities of culture and bureaucracy (Authors, 2018). Moreover, these teachers are more likely to find urban places desirable to live and work in (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005).
Currently, there is little existing research on how these teachers leverage those funds of knowledge to promote student learning as teachers of record, leading to a lack of clarity about what actually distinguishes “urban” teaching from other types of teaching (e.g., Milner, 2012). Our study focuses on individuals who 1) attended New York City (NYC) public schools as students; 2) underwent a place-based NYC teacher preparation program; and 3) now teach in NYC public schools, conceptualize what it means to teach and learn in NYC public schools. In an effort to understand how teachers who have experienced multiple roles in NYC public schools describe what it means to occupy those roles, and how their work as NYC public school teachers, specifically, draws upon those varied experiences to promote student learning, we ask:
How do participants describe being from, in and of a particular urban place, i.e., NYC?
How do participants describe what it means to teach and learn in NYC public schools?
How do participants draw upon their lived lives in NYC for their role as NYC public school teachers?
Our study builds upon previous work (Authors, 2018) that found that pre-service teachers who had previously been students in urban schools before attending an urban teacher education program demonstrated an emerging place-based pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Place-based PCK included multicultural capital (Poyatos Matas & Bridges, 2009), an ability to navigate bureaucracy and political structures, and PCK. Shulman (1986) defined PCK as the blending of “content knowledge and “pedagogical knowledge”; our research extended Shulman’s concept by integrating knowledge of place with content and pedagogical knowledge such that instruction was deliberately informed by and therefore responsive to context and the students in that context.
Undoubtedly, NYC offers a specific perspective on and example of both urban and place, yet shares many characteristics in common with today’s European city centers and urban districts such as population density, the juxtaposition of multiple diversities across language, socio-economic, cultural, and racial dimensions, and contemporary experience, and history, of receiving, and educating, immigrant students.
In order to explore NYC teachers’ understanding of place, and how those teachers conceptualize and utilize place within their own work, we constructed a case (Dyson & Genishi, 2005) of 21 graduates of an urban teacher residency program designed to prepare teachers for NYC schools who 1) self-identified as having attended elementary and/or secondary schools in NYC; 2) currently teach in NYC public schools; and 3) consented to participate in research. These participants spanned a range of graduating years, 2011-2017, meaning they were in their first year through seventh year of teaching. Participants were selected from a pool of 125 total graduates of this 14-18 month graduate-level urban teacher residency program, 26 of whom had attended NYC schools as students. Data sources included: 1) admissions essays that participants wrote before entering the program; 2) autobiographical analysis essays and unit plans completed during the preparation program; 3) unit plans and student work related to place from their current work as teachers; and 4) a semi-structured interview about the role of place in their current work as teachers. Across these sources, participants describe their initial interest in a place-conscious urban teacher residency/preparation program, their thoughts on what it means to teach and learn in NYC public schools, their reflections on their personal history regarding NYC schools, and concrete examples of how they incorporate their personal history and knowledge into their current work as teachers. Data were analyzed by a research team consisting of three researchers who have also had multiple roles in the urban teacher residency program, as the creator and director of the program, as a graduate research assistant, as the Partnerships Coordinator, as supervisors, and as a course instructor. In addition, we have our own deep local knowledge of urban schools having all been students and teachers in urban public schools, including in NYC public schools. We used both deductive coding and inductive coding based on our theoretical framework (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007) to understand how participants conceptualized the role of place in education, and to find examples of participants demonstrating place-based PCK.
Participants described drawing upon their own histories as NYC students in their work as NYC teachers in many ways, and exhibited multiple examples of place-based PCK. For example, one teacher used her own lived experiences as a NYC student to reflect on the “prototypical New York City public high school” as one characterized by “mis-education…of many Black and Latino students living in disenfranchised neighborhoods across America” (Admissions Essay), noting that her high school did not prepare her well for college. Her own experiences served as a motivation for becoming a NYC teacher, and a frame for considering her NYC students’ needs. Data collected from program graduates also showed evidence of their use of place-based PCK to promote student growth and learning to form connections among content knowledge, local communities, and students’ lived experiences. For example, one teacher developed curriculum that linked critical community issues around public health and nutrition with state standards via a study of food deserts and high rates of diabetes among students’ families. Another drew upon resources from local higher education institutions to give students the academic and other skills necessary for college success. Although situated within the specific context of NYC, this study has broader implications and addresses the question “can regional experiences and insights be ‘internationalised’ or must we work from context to context?” (ECER, 2018, p. 1). Internationally, there has been discussion around the benefits (and challenges) of teachers engaging with their students’ communities and employing them as a source for learning (Maguire, Wooldridge, & Pratt-Adams, 2006). Moreover, our study offers one case of purposefully targeted teacher preparation to illustrate and illuminate broader principles undergirding place-based teacher education, including the tapping of the valuable experiences that pre-service teachers can bring that are relevant to teaching diverse students in urban areas.
Authors. (2018). Bogdan, R. & Biklen, S. (2007). Qualitative research in education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). The draw of home: How teachers’ preferences for proximity disadvantage urban schools. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24, 113-132. Donnell, K. (2007). Getting to we: Developing a transformative urban teaching practice. Urban Education, 42(3), 223-249. Dyson, A. H., & Genishi, C. (2005). On the case. New York: Teachers College Press. ECER. (2018). Call for Proposals. Retrieved from https://eera-ecer.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Documents/ECER_Documents/ECER_2019_Call_for_Proposals.pdf European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice. (2013). Education and training in Europe 2020: Responses from the EU member states. Eurydice Report. Brussels: Eurydice. Gaikhorst, L., Beishuizen, J., Roosenboom, B., & Volman, M. (2017). The challenges of beginning teachers in urban primary schools. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(1), 46-61. Hill, D., & Robertson, L. H. (Eds.). (2009). Equality in the Primary School: Promoting good practice across the curriculum. A&C Black. Maguire, M., Wooldridge, T., & Pratt-Adams, S. (2006). The Urban Primary School. McGraw-Hill Education (UK). Matsko, K. K., & Hammerness, K. (2014). Unpacking the “urban” in urban teacher education: Making a case for context-specific preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(2), 128-144. Milner, H.R. (2012). But what is urban education? Urban Education, 47(3), 556-561. Noguera, P. (2003). City schools and the American dream. New York: Teachers College Press. OECD (2013), "What Makes Urban Schools Different?", PISA in Focus, No. 28, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5k46l8w342jc-en. Poyatos Matas, C., & Bridges, S. (2009). Framing multicultural capital to understand multicultural education in practice. The International Journal of Learning, 16(10), 379-395. Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14. Watson, D. (2011). What do you mean when you say “urban”? Speaking honestly about race and students. Rethinking Schools, 26(1), 48-50. Zeichner, K., Bowman, M., Guillen, L., & Napolitan, K. (2016). Engaging and working in solidarity with local communities in preparing the teachers of their children. Journal of Teacher Education, 67(4), 277-290.
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