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“When Things Get Messy”: New Models for Clinically Rich and Culturally Responsive Teacher Education

by Alice Ginsberg, Marybeth Gasman & Andrés Castro Samayoa - 2021

Background/Context: Many teacher education programs are trying to build partnerships with local schools to create ongoing opportunities for their candidates to observe and practice in authentic settings. Prior research on university–school partnerships, however, has found that the structure and design of these partnerships have a huge impact on whether they turn out to be mutually beneficial, meaningful, and sustainable. One of the most commonly cited challenges is the lack of regular communication, respect, and trust between university professors and PK–12 classroom teachers and administrators.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question: This article focuses on Blocks, an initiative in the teacher education program at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Candidates spend their entire day at a single elementary school site, alternating between coursework and clinical practice.

Research Design: We conducted qualitative interviews and focus groups with teacher education professors, teacher candidates, and classroom teachers and administrators in the Blocks program to understand the core components and strategies that buoyed its success, as well as the major challenges and opportunities inherent in such a transformative model.

Findings: Given that NMSU is a Hispanic-serving institution that already prioritized university–school–community relationships, we were also interested in how the Blocks model might be replicated in teacher preparation programs at predominantly White institutions. Key findings include that (1) Blocks is a nonhierarchical model based on mutual respect and full collaboration, wherein professors and classroom teachers are both viewed as having equally valuable knowledge about teaching and learning, and both parties share ownership of the success of the program; (2) candidates’ coursework and clinical practice are not simply held at the same site, but are strategically sequenced and integrated to raise real-time questions of practice and provide candidates with a more cohesive and authentic preparation for becoming teachers of record; and (3) candidates do more than “observe” or “student teach”; they are given meaningful, progressive, and scaffolded opportunities to be involved in lesson planning, coteaching, student assessment, parent conferences, and extracurricular activities, all of which help them develop stronger teacher dispositions and identities.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Key recommendations for teacher education include the importance of intentionality and mutual respect when designing and forging university–school partnerships, including ensuring that all participants have a clearly defined role and a valued voice in the process; that clear communication and opportunities for self-reflection are strategically built into the collaborative process; and that faculty are rewarded for work that takes place in community settings.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 4, 2021, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23667, Date Accessed: 5/15/2021 6:37:14 PM

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About the Author
  • Alice Ginsberg
    Rutgers University-Newark
    E-mail Author
    ALICE GINSBERG, Ph.D., is professor and researcher of urban education, teacher education, and higher education, with a focus on issues of racial equity, social justice, and minority-serving institutions. She is the author or editor of Gender and Urban Education (Heinemann, 2004), The Evolution of American Women’s Studies (Palgrave, 2008), and Embracing Risk in Urban Education (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012). She currently serves as director of Programs, Partnerships and Strategy at the Collective Success Network (CSN), which supports low-income first-generation college students.
  • Marybeth Gasman
    Rutgers University
    E-mail Author
    MARYBETH GASMAN, Ph.D., is the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education and a Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. She also serves as the executive director of both the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity & Justice, and the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions. She is the author of Educating a Diverse Nation (with Clif Conrad) (Harvard University Press, 2015) and Making Black Scientists (with Thai-Huy Nguyen) (Harvard University Press, 2019).
  • Andrés Castro Samayoa
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    ANDRÉS CASTRO SAMAYOA, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Lynch School of Education & Human Development at Boston College. His research focuses on the framing and use of social identities in higher education research and policy, and well as culturally responsive practices within minority-serving institutions. He has served as the editor of three books, including A Primer on Minority Serving Institutions (with Marybeth Gasman) (Routledge Press) and Contemporary Issues in Higher Education (with Marybeth Gasman) (Routledge Press).
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