Community-Engaged Teacher Education: Enhancing Partnership Collaborations to Shift Teacher Knowledge

Year: 2018

Author: Lampert, Jo, Bosetti, Lynn, Barbousas, Joanna, Coff, Kathryn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For teacher education, the challenge of engaging more deeply with community is about righting imbalances and giving community members a voice in how those teaching their/our children will be prepared. It involves a systemic shift in governance and power. This shift requires an institutionally embedded strategy to allow Indigenous and other historically underserved communities an audible voice at the decision-making table, in central rather than tokenistic ways. In this paper, we report on the early stages of a teacher education intervention based on the research question, ‘How can teacher education be done differently to represent the desires of families and communities most seldom heard?’ 
We premise this paper on our understanding that the education system, including teacher education, is political. How teacher education is conceived, organized and practiced may appear neutral, but, of course, it is as contextually dependent and historically produced as any other aspect of education. We may argue that teacher education is at the whim or mercy of global, national and local policy, teacher registration and teacher standards, but what is left out of teacher education is as important as what is included. What we ask pre-service teachers to study, read and do on professional placement represents priorities that may have little to do with how historically excluded communities wish their children to be cared for and what they want all teachers to understand about learning and teaching. Community voice is regularly missing in decisions about how we educate future teachers, and the needs, desires and dreams of the communities we serve can become invisible. In this paper, we argue that to improve the current system, teachers and teacher educators must find genuine ways to engage with communities, especially those most seldom heard, such as families in rural and diverse, high-poverty communities.  
Local communities should have a more powerful, active place in influencing teacher education, because “it matters who participates and on what terms” (Fraser, 2008, p. 1). Nancy Fraser’s (2008) ideas about inclusivity and participatory parity, weak and strong publics are useful concepts when trying to re-imagine teacher education and genuine community engagement. Opinions generated without input from the very communities most affected by how teachers are prepared is negligent. Through our research we aspire to “bridge the gap between culture and power between parents and educators” (Warren et al., 2009, p. 2211). This requires explicit effort as well as political and institutional intent.