Project Title:Culture Walks—Changing Pre-Service Teachers' Perceptions of Urban CommunitiesInstitution Name:University of Nebraska at Omaha
Innovation Category:Teacher Education
Project Director:Dr. Connie L. Schaffer, Assistant ProfessorContact Information:(402) 554-2767,
Project Description:Culture Walks connect a large,
public teacher preparation program with urban community and PK-12 partners to
provide an experience intended to dispel urban school stereotypes commonly held
by pre-service teachers. Funded by a small local grant and scheduled
immediately prior to a 40 hour practicum in an urban school, Culture Walks
annually bring over 250 pre-service teachers and program faculty members into
urban neighborhoods. After listening to community leaders, meeting with school
personnel, visiting local business and service agencies, and eating lunch
catered by a neighborhood restaurant, pre-service teachers have an increased
capacity to understand the urban education landscape.
- Pre-service teachers will examine personal
perceptions of urban communities within the Omaha-metropolitan area including
(a) North Omaha, a historically African-American community with significant
poverty, (b) South Omaha, a predominately Hispanic community with high numbers
of recent immigrants, and (c) the Omaha refugee community, representative of a
variety of racial and ethnic groups who have been forcibly displaced from their
homelands and many of whom do not speak English.
- The teacher preparation program will incorporate
culturally responsive teaching to address "deficit" stereotypes
pre-service teachers often associate with urban school students.
- Both objectives are evaluated through pre- post
experience data collection and analysis.
- Pre-post surveys (approximately 650) indicated
pre-service teachers, after completing the experience, were more comfortable in
the urban communities and more informed of the strengths and assets within
those communities. The surveys also indicated some pre-service teachers
understood how their increased knowledge and changed perspectives would impact
their work in urban schools.
- Pre-post reflections (approximately 250) asked
pre-service teachers to anonymously list, prior to and again after the walk,
words or phrases that they associated with the specific communities. The lists
showed a significant shift from words of apprehension (pre) to words of
Challenges/Problems Encountered:Initially, Culture Walks were optional with no systematic
means to ensure pre-service teachers participated in a walk before completing
the program. To address this, later walks were scheduled as a part of a
required urban school practicum. This led to program-wide participation and a
more thorough evaluation of the initiative's impact. As individual roles within
the university and urban communities change, considerable effort is needed to
build and sustain the relationships that make the walks successful. Ongoing,
patient, and relentless relationship building led by faculty members has
established a rich pool of potential resources from within each community.
Evaluation Approach:The theoretical framework of culturally responsive teaching
establishes the critical need for pre-service teachers to develop an
understanding of students from a strengths-based rather than deficit-based
perspective. Based on this premise, targeted outcomes were selected and the
survey was created. The survey is managed by a graduate assistant. Faculty
members who teach the pedagogical course associated with the corresponding
practicum collect the reflections. Various faculty members and graduate
assistants have shared the assessment responsibilities.
Potential for Replication:The program which implemented Culture Walks is located less
than 10 miles from each of the urban communities. In other settings, transportation
time to and from the urban areas may impact implementation. Those wanting to
replicate Culture Walks should consider stakeholder interest. In this case,
investment was pre-established as one the program's fundamental missions in
serving the urban community, and the majority of the teachers employed by the
project's PK-12 partner graduate from this program.
Nancy Edick, Dean, College of Education
CEO-to-CEO Contact:John E. Christensen
, Chancellorjohnchristensen@mail.unomaha.eduDate Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014