A Pedagogy of Promise: Critical Service-Learning as Praxis in Community-Engaged, Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparation

A Pedagogy of Promise: Critical Service-Learning as Praxis in Community-Engaged, Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparation

Eva M. Zygmunt (Ball State University, USA) and Kristin Cipollone (Ball State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4041-0.ch018


This chapter details an innovative teacher education paradigm that privileges community-engagement and critical service-learning in the development of culturally responsive teachers. Candidates are removed from campus and immersed in a low-income, African-American neighborhood for an entire semester's coursework, where they participate in critical service-learning alongside community mentors and members of the neighborhood community council. Differentiated from more traditional models of university service learning characterized by “doing for,” and which tend to favor those who serve over those being served, candidates participate with and alongside residents in projects identified by members of the neighborhood as integral to community vitality. The chapter details examples of critical service-learning that have been co-enacted in the eight-year history in the neighborhood. Candidate and community member reflections on their co-participation are privileged in the rich description of how this partnership is instrumental in the development of culturally responsive teachers.
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Formal institutions in the United States of America have developed based upon the White, Anglo-Saxon principles under which they were founded, and public education is no exception. In fact, the project of public education has arguably been as much about social and cultural assimilation as it has been about learning (Spring, 2004). Ample evidence exists of education for cultural assimilation with the intentional stripping away of children’s identities sanctioned by government policy—the history of boarding schools for Native American children perhaps one of the most egregious examples (Spring, 2010). In this fashion “young people would be immersed in the values and practical knowledge of the dominant American society while also being kept away from any influences imparted by their traditionally-minded relatives” (Marr, 2015, para. 1). The plight of native children is not isolated, as there are abundant historical examples of policies instituted to remedy the presumed cultural deficits of black and brown children throughout United States history (Center for Racial Justice Innovation, 2006; Spring, 2007; Whiteman, Thorius, Skelton, & Kyser, 2015).

Schools, as middle class institutions, have consistently been shown to reward the values and social and cultural capital of middle class students, while denigrating those of the working class and poor (Bourdieu, 1984; Delpit, 1988; Lareau, 2003; Rist, 1970; Willis, 1977). “As sites for the transmission of class interests and ideologies, schools sort and select students by rewarding the cultural capital of the dominant classes” (Proweller, 1998, p. 5), an assertion that certainly bears out when we look at suspension rates, special education classifications, and representation in advanced coursework (Losen, Hodson, Keith, Morrison, & Belway, 2015). Given this, it is unsurprising that race- and class-based achievement gaps persist (Carter & Welner, 2013; McKown & Weinstein, 2008; Roscigno, Tomaskovic-Devey, & Drowley, 2006; Reardon et al., 2011; Steele & Aronson, 1995; Trueba, 1988; Valencia, 1997).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community-Engaged Teacher Preparation: Embeds ethical principles into a program of educator preparation, including a united vision between university/school/community partner; mutual engagement in a shared repertoire of strategies to accomplish the vision; critical service learning alongside community members; joint participation in community mobilization efforts; and equalization of university/community power structures through privileging local wisdom.

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Teaching with promotes congruency between children’s lived experience and the content and pedagogy in schools.

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