Toward Teacher Education 3.0

For Ken Zeichner, amplifying school and community voices is key to socially just teacher education


When Boeing Professor of Teacher Education Ken Zeichner began his career in teacher education more than 40 years ago, it was in a federal program called the National Teacher Corps. One of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives, the Teacher Corps trained candidates to work in high poverty settings—both urban and rural—by immersing them in the communities where they would work.

“It was a school-based model like the Seattle Teacher Residency,” Zeichner said. “There was instruction in the program from both the school district and the university staff, along with a strong community presence. Teacher candidates were required to live in the community where they were learning to teach for two years—to really learn about it and connect with it.”

Despite promising results, America’s shifting political landscape meant the Teacher Corps was abandoned long ago. But a return to its underlying premise—that sharing responsibility for teacher preparation among universities, schools and communities leads to better educational results for kids—is advocated in Zeichner’s paper, “Teacher Education Advancing Social Justice and Democracy in Teacher Preparation 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0.” This paper will be published in Zeichner’s new book, “The Struggle for the Soul of Teacher Education” that will be released in October by Routledge.

As Zeichner notes, 1.0 programs are traditional, university-based teacher preparation programs that have dominated the preparation of teachers in the U.S. for the last 50 years. 2.0 programs are alternative, and often fast-track, teacher education programs run by a variety of providers. Zeichner argues that neither of these models often lives up to their stated commitment to social justice, because they lack a key element of what he calls Teacher Preparation 3.0—creating strong partnerships between teacher candidates and the communities, families and schools they hope to serve.

Moving toward 3.0

Zeichner said that while no university in the country, including the University of Washington, is fully doing teacher education using the 3.0 model he envisions, he and others are encouraged by significant efforts currently taking place here to give teacher candidates more meaningful connection to the schools and communities they will eventually serve, and with the families of students they’ll teach.

“This is an essential goal for the College to work for,” said Patrick Sexton, College of Education assistant dean for teacher preparation. “We believe strongly in both content-based and contextualized teacher education. The closer we can get to candidates feeling the agency and having the skills to work in respectful ways with their students’ families and learn about the communities in which they’re teaching, the closer we’re going to get to improving learning for all kids.”

“The idea is trying to de-center the knowledge base from the university exclusively,” Zeichner said. “We have good research coming from the College—things like work being done by [professors] Elham Kazemi and Sheila Valencia in school-based training for elementary teachers—that clearly shows how, when you contextualize teacher training, good things happen for kids.”

Following the 3.0 model also makes good things happen for novice teachers, Sexton said. “When you’ve got alignment between preparation context and job context, it’s a much smoother transition into that first teaching position. That’s why it’s so important to me that our candidates learn as much as they can about the communities in which they teach. And honor whatever valuable learning resources they find—regardless of poverty or other barriers. That’s the goal for me.”

A new vision for teacher education

See how pairing special education teacher candidates with mentor families is giving a greater voice to families served by these future educators, and providing more a robust experience for teacher candidates.

Challenges and opportunities

Both Zeichner and Sexton agree that there are inherent difficulties in trying to get closer to the ideal of full partnership between universities or other program providers, communities, families and schools.

It’s expensive, both in terms of money and time, to connect candidates with schools, community organizations and families, Zeichner said. It also requires a willingness to shift ingrained beliefs within universities about “whose knowledge matters.”

“The cultural barriers to doing this work can be hard for everyone to navigate,” Sexton said. “Who has voice? Who gets to structure the space? As a research institution, how can we do these things in a sustainable way? I do think that colleges of education are uniquely positioned to put the whole package together. If we as educators can see value instead of barriers, and resources instead of limitations, I believe this approach will result in a better education for kids.”

Teacher Education 3.0 in practice at the UW

The College of Education has many research-practice projects that include community and school engagement as vital components. A few notable examples include:

Professor Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl’s partnership with Neighborhood House to bring after-school STEM learning to low income, mostly immigrant middle school students.

Professor Ann Ishimaru’s equitable parent-school collaboration project in South Seattle, for which she was recently awarded the American Educational Research Association’s highest honor for advancing practice-engaged research.

Professor Megan Bang’s work with urban Native American families in the Northwest combining STEM and arts education.

Here are three other notable efforts by College of Education faculty that move toward the vision of Teacher Education 3.0.

Building equity in secondary math education

Faculty Member: Assistant Professor Filiberto Barajas-López

Program Highlights

  • Math teaching methods courses for teacher candidates are embedded at Cleveland High School and/or Seattle World School

  • Focus on how race, culture, language, gender and class impacts understanding of math, along with exploration of how different cultures engage with different forms of mathematics

  • Emphasis on all students’ ability to succeed at rigorous math, despite language or cultural differences

  • Privilege given to student experience and family knowledge

  • Strong emphasis on collaboration with and learning from practicing classroom teachers

  • Partnership has led to the placement of nine teacher candidates in permanent positions at Cleveland High School

“Teacher candidates come with ideas about what they might see in urban schools and in nondominant communities. They then see that youth from nondominant communities can learn rigorous mathematics. That immediately disrupts some assumptions—it shifts teacher candidates view from deficit to asset-based. If our teacher candidates can build on youth’s life experiences and cultures, and can take that with them and make it a part of their practice as teachers, then we’ve moved beyond most programs—and that’s what we’re trying to do as a starting point.”

Filiberto Barajas-López

Learning from families of young children with disabilities

Faculty Members

Professor Susan Sandall, Assistant Professor Kathleen Meeker, Teaching Associate Ariane Gauvreau

Program Highlights

  • Early childhood special education candidates are paired with mentor families who have a child with a disability and spend time with mentor families in their homes and communities

  • Goal is for pre-service teachers to gain insight into the everyday successes and challenges these families experience

  • Project is in addition to candidates’ four required practicum placements, which include a year-long student teaching placement

  • Initial study suggests authentic, hands-on opportunities may be more effective in facilitating family-centered beliefs and practices than traditional course and fieldwork alone

  • Teacher candidates report increased clarity of how to transfer theory to practice, and a better understanding of how to collaborate with families of children with a range of abilities, in and out of schools

“Teachers who completed this project shared that it gave them a greater understanding of families of kids with disabilities outside of school. It helped them better translate the theories they were learning inside their classes into practice. It gave them a better understanding of why a teacher’s suggestion might work in a family’s home or community, and why something might not work. They talk about having better ideas about how to accommodate families—and a stronger sense of what it’s like trying to access high quality special education services from the family’s perspective.”

Ariane Gauvreau

School-based methods for elementary teacher candidates

Faculty Members

Professors Sheila Valencia and Elham Kazemi

Program Highlights

  • Methods classes for elementary teacher candidates held in area high-poverty schools

  • Emphasis on collaboration in instructing teacher candidates with partner classroom teachers

  • A social justice orientation to address inequities in communities, schools and classrooms

  • Systems and structures that support the complex work of teaching through collaborative inquiry in partnership with schools, communities and families

“We work collaboratively to tailor what we’re teaching our candidates to capitalize on what our partner teachers are doing in their classrooms. It’s critical for teacher candidates to experience and learn how to work with children from a wide range of cultural, ethnic, racial and linguistic backgrounds. Children come to school with enormous resources that we can’t take advantage of as teachers if we don’t know about them. So it’s critical that we start there.”

Sheila Valencia

  • Methods classes for UW elementary teacher candidates include a social justice orientation to address inequities in communities and schools.

  • Early childhood special education candidates are paired with mentor families to gain insight into their everyday experiences.

  • Professor Filiberto Barajas-López is helping teacher candidates build on youth’s life experiences and cultures to improve secondary math education.