Developing Teachers within their Context

Matsko, K. K., & Hammerness, K. (2013). Unpacking the “Urban” in Urban Teacher Education: Making a Case for Context-Specific Preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(2), 128–144. doi:10.1177/0022487113511645



The article questions the status quo of teacher preparation colleges across the country.  In most cases teacher colleges prepare teachers in a very standard way across the country.  The coursework focuses on pedagogical practices, content knowledge and special education instruction.  The article in question focuses on the need for context specific teacher preparation as opposed to a standardized curriculum across the country.   The authors cite numerous studies that examine how the teaching environment can affect classroom culture and outcomes and the authors attempt to study the various context specific teacher colleges around the country.


The authors study Uchicago UTEP’s teacher preparation program and the steps they take to prepare teachers in a context specific way that supports them to enter the classroom in the communities close to the school.  Of note about the UTEP curriculum are a couple of things.  Graduates are educated about theories around “funds of knowledge” and the unique perspectives that students bring to the classroom.  Teachers are also required to spend clinical hours in a local charter school to ground themselves firmly in a local classroom experience.   They also focus on two major projects which are the “school study”, a project where students engage deeply in a study of the community and an “interactive read aloud” which gives teachers perspective on the classroom experience.


The authors conclude that this context specific design  for a more nuanced teacher preparation program is very valuable for new teachers.  The context based education helps to unpack the “urban” in urban education and dispel some of the biases that new teachers may have upon entering the classroom.  The authors develop a framework that can be used for context base teacher preparation in an urban setting.


Review Comments


The author organizes the article by first giving purpose to their cause of study.  The need for  specialized education for urban education seems obvious as the urban setting requires teachers to be able to adapt their classroom to the students that enter and allow flexibility throughout a school year.  The authors then go on to describe the various context specific teacher programs that exist across the country.  The authors analyze and draw comparisons between these programs to develop a context specific framework.  The authors close the study by establishing their framework and again arguing for the need for context specific teacher preparation programs in an urban setting.


Contribution to Field

The article serves to further claims regarding the unique type of teacher skills that are required in an urban setting.  The “urban” teacher needs to be hyper reflective and willing to adapt and learn from the “funds of knowledge” that students bring to the classroom.  The authors contribute to this sect of educational research by building a framework for context specific teacher preparation.  The specific framework serves to inform teacher preparation programs across the country on how they can prepare urban teachers.


Theoretical Framework

The framework of this study is actually a case study of various teacher preparation programs across the country.  The authors seek to compare and contrast teacher preparation programs and their varying philosophy to find a framework for future context specific teacher preparation programs.  By doing a case study of the Chicago UTEP campus the authors are able to identify key levers in creating a context specific teacher preparation program.


Data Collection

Data is collected through qualitative observations and interviews of and with the candidates at the teacher preparation college.  The authors did an in-depth qualitative analyses of the methods utilized in the UTEP program.  The authors synthesized this data to create a framework for future programs.



The authors found that there were key factors that differentiated the UTEP program from traditional teacher preparation programs across the country.  The authors offer a framework that grounds teacher preparation in multicultural education in an emphasis on social justice and equity.  The framework takes important steps to develop teachers in a way that gives them insight into their teaching context from socio-political norms to local community practices.  This is important because it will prevent teachers from making broad and unreal generalizations about their students and their community.  In multicultural education a context specific education is essential to help prepare teachers to appreciate the funds of knowledge that their students bring to the classroom.  The framework that is developed can be used for teacher preparation programs across the country that seek to read teachers for urban communities.

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