Developing a successful university–school partnership has been a topic for research since the early 1900s. In this case study, faculty members at one university in the southern United States believes they may have found one possible answer. This university has been working toward forming a partnership with three local schools to bring about transformative change to the schools and the community. Through this collaboration, faculty members sought to intentionally trouble the pervasive top-down approach many universities take when communicating with schools and to disrupt the savior complexes that often center on these efforts. Instead, by starting to identify the community needs, listening intently to the community desire for future changes in local schools, and working in solidarity with the community, sustainable partnerships were formed, and meaningful change has already happened in the short term. Creating multi-layered relationships rooted in a commitment to culturally relevant/responsive and sustaining pedagogy, the partnerships began with a shared vision between the university and the schools to work collaboratively, responding to the individual needs of each school and the surrounding community. The university faculty members committed to working in and with the community understand that centering the culture of the community in all partnership discussions was tantamount to their success, demonstrating that cultural relevance should not be confined to the walls of the university classroom, but rather, should be a guiding principle in all interactions between universities, local schools, and communities. The success of these partnerships, and the strong relationships built as a result, has created a possible model for future university–school partnerships.
Karen L. B. Burgard and Melissa M. Jozwiak
Globally, there is a shift toward embracing educational research with a social justice intent, based on the principles of inclusion, authentic participation, and democratic decision-making. This shift toward doing research with, rather than on, participants could be seen as a reaction to the criticism of contemporary universities being exclusive and in need of finding ways to connect with traditionally marginalized groups. Universities need to be more responsive to the real learning and development needs of communities and use their theoretical knowledge to complement and facilitate, rather than direct, research conducted in partnership with those whose lives are directly affected by the phenomenon being studied. Community-based educational research accepts local knowledge as the starting point of sustainable change and the learning and development of all involved as an important outcome of the research process. Community-based research thus has an educative intent; it is also inherently political since it aims to change systems that breed inequity. Yet these very characteristics stand in opposition to the neoliberal, silo-like models of operation in academia, where the bottom line trumps social impact in most strategic decisions. Negotiating the bureaucratic boundaries regarding the ethics of community-based research becomes a major hurdle for most researchers and often leads to compromises that contradict and undermine the ideal of partnership and equitable power relations. There is a pressing need to rethink how we “do” community-based educational research to ensure it is truly educational for all. This begs the question, in what ways does the academy need to change to accommodate educational research that contributes to the sustainable learning and development of people and to the democratization of knowledge? Community-based educational research can help close the gap between theory and practice, between academic and community researcher.
Lily Orland-Barak and Evgenia Lavrenteva
The global move toward advanced strategic, constructivist, and sociocultural orientations to student teacher learning is reflected in the stated vision, mission, and curricula of local teacher education contexts worldwide. Six major themes in teacher education programs worldwide are integral to this vision: the establishment of school–community–university partnerships; bringing more of school practice focused on pupil learning into the preparation of future teachers; a shift from a focus on teaching and curriculum to a focus on learning and learners; the inclusion of activities that promote reflective practice and the development of the teacher-as-researcher; the design of academic and school spaces for fostering teacher learning that attends to social justice and inclusion; and the preparation of teacher educators and the provision of mentoring frameworks to support student teacher learning. Among the challenges shared across contexts is the need to strengthen partnerships in education, structure stable mentoring frameworks, adopt a more focused approach to student teacher placement, and better articulate expectations for student teaching. Notwithstanding these challenges, promising directions include the establishment of more meaningful links between universities, schools, and communities; developing programs that deal with authentic teacher preparation through injury- and-research-informed clinical practice, and providing mentoring models that involve different community stakeholders.