Teacher education program incorporates community engagement
Changes in society warrant changes in education. As the United States as a whole is affected by progress in technology, developments in the economy, or shifts in values and beliefs, schools must evolve in response if they are to prepare youth for the world in which they live. Change in education occurs on a variety of levels, and a number of colleges and universities have used their resources to touch on many of these levels: from k-12 to adult to teacher education.
It is the contention of Service Matters that one of the most important changes that can occur in American society today is a renewed emphasis on community life, democratic participation, and civic responsibility. In an education reform effort to promote this kind of constructive change, the School of Education at Seattle University is providing leadership through an exemplary program that incorporates community engagement, school partnerships, service-learning, and action research.
Community engagement is seen as a key element of all education at Seattle s teacher education program. Every year, all teacher education faculty members participate in a full-day service-learning project in the Seattle community. Meanwhile, students participate in community internships that bring them into contact with nonprofit agencies and the work they do in communities. Seeing community life outside of the schools where they teach raises students awareness of the importance of community in schooling, and the effect of communities on the lives of their future students.
Seattle s program is supported by partnerships with two Seattle elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. While every teacher education program provides school sites for student teaching, these partnerships are far more than that. In addition to working collaboratively on the teacher training program at Seattle University, each partnership creates staff development opportunities for classroom teachers, and works together on the curriculum for both the school and the university. All teachers in training are placed in a partnership school within their first two weeks of training, and are involved in various collaborative projects that seek to address issues of educational reform. In the past, students have helped their partner schools survey parents about the school curriculum, and have developed a summer service leadership program for K-12 students.
The philosophy of community engagement is also integral to classroom work that teachers in training encounter and learn to use with their own students. Students who go through the teacher education program undergo a steady progression of experiences designed to make them more effective at incorporating community engagement into their teaching. Students take part in group service-learning projects early in their education to expose them to this method of teaching. Later on, all students participate in a course on Service Leadership, which exposes them to service-learning classes in K-12 schools and sends them to a conference to learn more. Still further in their development, students work with classroom teachers to develop and teach courses using service-learning and community engagement as a pedagogical method.
In addition, students introduce the idea of community engagement in schooling to current k-12 teachers and provide support and technical assistance for teachers to develop service-learning courses. Finally, before graduating, teachers in training complete action research projects that are conducted with, and for, their community partners.
By the time they have completed their education at Seattle University, students are thoroughly familiar with the power of community engagement as a way of teaching and as a goal of education. Through collaborations with the community and with schools, through service-learning courses and leadership programs, and through their own experience teaching and working with classroom teachers to use service-learning in schools, students and faculty make community engagement an integral part of education now and in the future.
From Service Matters 1998: Engaging Higher Education In the Renewal of America s Communities and American Democracy
President: Father Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
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