Advancing Community-Engaged Teacher Education Through Narrative, Poetry, and Performance

Advancing Community-Engaged Teacher Education Through Narrative, Poetry, and Performance

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3877-0.ch029
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Learning to become a democratic educator requires listening to and learning from the perspectives, values, goals, and concerns of local communities. Obtaining and learning from this knowledge, however, is not without its challenges. This article will present an overview of community-engaged teacher education as well as some of the challenges inherent to this endeavor. This article will then present an argument for how three particular methodologies of arts-based research (narrative, poetry, and performance) may be effective means through which to capture and share the knowledge possessed by community stakeholders.
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Community-Engaged Teacher Education

Community-engaged teacher education (Barnes, 2017; Haddix, 2015; Zeichner, 2020) is an approach to university-based teacher preparation that respects and incorporates the voices of the citizens being served by public education. This approach stands in contrast to neoliberal policies that suggest that public education (and, likewise, teacher education) be run like a business, valuing market principles over civic responsibility (Giroux & Saltman, 2009; Hogan, Thompson, Sellar, & Lingard, 2018; Hurst, 2015; Lipman, 2011). In the light of this contemporary educational context, which threatens to disenfranchise vulnerable citizens in favor of private corporate interests, the onus is on university-based teacher education programs to prepare a generation of teachers that can both recognize and oppose these antidemocratic neoliberal trends (else preservice teachers become symptoms of these trends).

To become a democratic teacher, preservice teachers must, first and foremost, learn how to recognize, value, and champion the interests of local communities (Zeichner, 2020). Preservice teachers must ask questions such as, “What does this community value?...What kinds of things do people want for their children?” (Cipollone, Zygmunt, & Tancock, 2018, p. 719), and preservice teachers must learn how to effectively collaborate with community stakeholders in constructing answers to these questions. If, alternatively, preservice teachers and teacher educators devalue local knowledge and local interests in favor of standardized, for-profit educational solutions (see Regan & Jesse, 2019; Roberts-Mahoney, Means, & Garrison, 2016; Saltman, 2016), then teachers (and teacher educators) may themselves become the adversaries of democracy (Zeichner, 2016; Zimmerman, 2018).

Thus, the formation of robust university-community partnerships is central to the cultivation of democratic educators; yet, while the call to build such partnerships in the context of teacher preparation is not new (see Cuban, 1969; Goodlad, 1994), this commitment is not always reflected in programmatic design (Guillen & Zeichner, 2018; Kretchmar & Zeichner, 2016; Matsko & Hammerness, 2014). This may be due, in part, to the reluctance of university-based teacher education to relinquish its epistemological hegemony.

Specifically, research has found that in order for community-engaged teacher education to be reciprocally beneficial for both preservice teachers and community stakeholders, community mentors must be incorporated integrally into the curriculum and instruction of teacher education (Baquedano-López, Alexander, & Hernández, 2013; Cipollone et al., 2018; Hong, 2012; Zeichner, Bowman, Guillen, & Napolitan, 2016; Zygmunt & Cipollone, 2018). As Zeichner (2016) writes, community-engaged teacher education must utilize the funds of knowledge of community stakeholders:

One would expect teacher educators in programs that espouse a social justice mission to take a democratic approach to the issue of whose knowledge counts in the education of teachers. In such an approach, multiple stakeholders would work to incorporate the expertise in schools and communities into their work with prospective teachers. These would include teachers in the elementary and secondary schools that serve as sites for clinical placements in programs, local community members who provide educational and other services in communities outside of schools, and the families of who send their kids to the local public schools. (p. 153)

In other words, in order to establish reciprocal relationships between university and community, teacher candidates and teacher educators need to learn how to learn from a variety of community stakeholders (Guillen & Zeichner, 2018; McDonald, Bowman, & Brayko, 2013).

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