*Content pulled from proposal materials
This inter-departmental and inter-institutional community-based project aims to strengthen Lake Forest College’s relationship with Waukegan School District partners. The Lake Forest College Education Department’s long-running partnership with Waukegan Public Schools requires pre-service teacher candidates to complete a semester-long fieldwork practicum in a Waukegan elementary or middle school. Lake Forest College aims to build a stronger, more collaborative partnership with the District to mutually benefit Lake Forest College teacher candidates and Waukegan cooperating teachers (CTs), principals, K-8 students and their communities, and to better align with Lake Forest College Education Department’s social reconstructionist and anti-racism framework.
The primary goals of the Teacher Community Project are: 1) to collaborate with Waukegan District principals and CTs to operationalize and actualize culturally sustaining pedagogy, and 2) to revise Lake Forest College curriculum to appropriately and effectively foster teacher candidates’ asset-based orientations to underserved communities such as Waukegan. These foci aim to support a positive, culturally sustaining experience for Waukegan Public School K-8 students through developing an ongoing, robust, collaborative, mutually educative and beneficial relationship between the multiple stakeholders at Lake Forest College and Waukegan Public Schools.
Since Lake Forest College pre-service teacher candidates conduct their fieldwork practicum (150 hours) in Waukegan Schools, it is imperative that the teacher candidates develop a deeper, asset-based familiarity with Waukegan communities that Lake Forest College Education and other partnering departments alone cannot provide. This project will provide structured opportunities for the Waukegan CTs and Lake Forest College teacher candidates to collaboratively create authentic, culturally sustaining learning experiences for the elementary and middle-school Waukegan students that draw on K-8 students’ and community assets. In turn, this process will support the Departments’ ability to integrate the Waukegan community context into the Lake Forest College curriculum from a more fully informed, asset orientation. This collaborative instructional design process will involve Waukegan Schools stakeholders (CTs, principal, district leaders, and community members), the Lake Forest College Education Department faculty and students, and Lake Forest College content-area faculty who are members of the Education Advisory Council (EAC; disciplinary experts that mentor secondary and K-12 teacher candidates in Spanish, Biology, etc.).
The Teacher Community Project has two goals: 1) to collaborate with Waukegan District principals and CTs to operationalize and actualize culturally sustaining pedagogy, and 2) to revise Lake Forest College curriculum to appropriately and effectively foster teacher candidates’ asset-based orientations to underserved communities such as Waukegan. Lake Forest College faculty and Waukegan principals and CTs will collaboratively co-design the particular activities of the project within the larger aforementioned goals. Through a collaborative process, they will establish a shared vision for the development and implementation of an assets-based framework.
The primary activity will be recurring meetings throughout the 2023 calendar year between Lake Forest College and Waukegan stakeholders (e.g., Waukegan District personnel, Waukegan community members, and Lake Forest College Education faculty, teacher candidates, and EAC content faculty). Lake Forest College Education faculty and a cohort of Waukegan CTs and District stakeholders will initially define the specific direction and content of the work based on self-assessed needs and goals. Meetings will progress to what we call curriculum circle workshops, which will involve defining and developing asset-based resources, pedagogical and relational knowledge, and culturally sustaining learning experiences for the relevant K-8 Waukegan classrooms. Lessons/projects developed through this process will be implemented in Waukegan classrooms where teacher candidates are placed.
Additional activities include professional development opportunities to build participants’ collective knowledge about culturally sustaining pedagogy, such as guest speakers or Lake Forest College Faculty-led professional workshops in areas of identified needs.
Lake Forest College Education faculty will submit a report to the wider ACM network about our process for strengthening the University-Community partnership, the project activities and outcomes, and the process for informing our ongoing work with Waukegan Public School partners. This collaboration will inform the work of University-Community partnerships on the possibilities and challenges of doing community-based work. This knowledge will be shared with Project LEAD (Leaders in Education Advocating for Diversity), a current state-wide education partner that works to diversify the teacher candidate pipeline and that hosts two annual conferences (Fall and Spring). Lake Forest College Education department is an active member of the Project LEAD initiative and plays pivotal roles in shaping outcomes across institutions. We would also submit a manuscript detailing what we learned through the process to Project LEAD’s bi-annual journal, Voices for Educational Equity. The outcome of the process will also be considered for a special issue of the journal, Paedagogia: Journal of Teacher Action Research, which is managed and published by graduate teacher candidates at Lake Forest College. Lastly, we plan to apply to present this knowledge at the National Community Schools and Family Engagement Annual Conference hosted by The Institute for Educational Leadership, to be held in June 2024.
Outcomes and Significance
The project outcomes include 1) an initial set of co-designed and enacted curricula that represent culturally sustaining pedagogical approaches to support Waukegan students’ learning in multiple content areas and grade levels, and 2) revisions to Lake Forest College curriculum that supports teacher candidates’ asset-based orientations, informed by the curriculum circle process and products. The curriculum circle collaboration will be continually implemented each spring semester after the grant period, thereby institutionalizing a mutually beneficial educative feedback loop between Waukegan Public Schools and Lake Forest College.
At Lake Forest College, Education and EAC faculty mentor and support teacher candidates through multiple program checkpoint assessments, fieldwork and student teaching observations, and academic advising. These feedback loops inform and strengthen our institutional practices for preparing outstanding teachers who commit to asset-based partnerships with their future students and communities through the development of culturally sustaining, community- and asset-based orientations.
This community-based collaborative initiative deepens Lake Forest College’s long-standing partnership with Waukegan Public School District by identifying student/community assets and needs around which to implement community-based pedagogies reflective of shared visions. Using this project to initiate and institutionalize this new phase of community-based practices that is built around asset as pedagogy enables Lake Forest College Education and other content-area departments (see departments and faculty list above) to strengthen our existing interdisciplinary collaboration in providing excellent teacher education.
Fostering robust multi-department collaborations with a community partner will immediately and ultimately support asset-based, culturally sustaining learning outcomes of Waukegan students, CTs, school leaders and the Waukegan community.