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Project Title:Culture Walks—Changing Pre-Service Teachers' Perceptions of Urban CommunitiesInstitution Name:University of Nebraska at Omaha Innovation Category:Teacher Education Project Director:Dr. Connie L. Schaffer, Assistant ProfessorContact Information:(402) 554-2767, cschaffer@unomaha.eduWebsite:
Project Description:Culture Walks connect a large, public teacher preparation program with urban community and PK-12 partners to provide an experience intended to dispel urban school stereotypes commonly held by pre-service teachers. Funded by a small local grant and scheduled immediately prior to a 40 hour practicum in an urban school, Culture Walks annually bring over 250 pre-service teachers and program faculty members into urban neighborhoods. After listening to community leaders, meeting with school personnel, visiting local business and service agencies, and eating lunch catered by a neighborhood restaurant, pre-service teachers have an increased capacity to understand the urban education landscape.
  • Pre-service teachers will examine personal perceptions of urban communities within the Omaha-metropolitan area including (a) North Omaha, a historically African-American community with significant poverty, (b) South Omaha, a predominately Hispanic community with high numbers of recent immigrants, and (c) the Omaha refugee community, representative of a variety of racial and ethnic groups who have been forcibly displaced from their homelands and many of whom do not speak English.
  • The teacher preparation program will incorporate culturally responsive teaching to address "deficit" stereotypes pre-service teachers often associate with urban school students.
  • Both objectives are evaluated through pre- post experience data collection and analysis.
  • Pre-post surveys (approximately 650) indicated pre-service teachers, after completing the experience, were more comfortable in the urban communities and more informed of the strengths and assets within those communities. The surveys also indicated some pre-service teachers understood how their increased knowledge and changed perspectives would impact their work in urban schools.
  • Pre-post reflections (approximately 250) asked pre-service teachers to anonymously list, prior to and again after the walk, words or phrases that they associated with the specific communities. The lists showed a significant shift from words of apprehension (pre) to words of appreciation (post).
Challenges/Problems Encountered:Initially, Culture Walks were optional with no systematic means to ensure pre-service teachers participated in a walk before completing the program. To address this, later walks were scheduled as a part of a required urban school practicum. This led to program-wide participation and a more thorough evaluation of the initiative's impact. As individual roles within the university and urban communities change, considerable effort is needed to build and sustain the relationships that make the walks successful. Ongoing, patient, and relentless relationship building led by faculty members has established a rich pool of potential resources from within each community.
Evaluation Approach:The theoretical framework of culturally responsive teaching establishes the critical need for pre-service teachers to develop an understanding of students from a strengths-based rather than deficit-based perspective. Based on this premise, targeted outcomes were selected and the survey was created. The survey is managed by a graduate assistant. Faculty members who teach the pedagogical course associated with the corresponding practicum collect the reflections. Various faculty members and graduate assistants have shared the assessment responsibilities.
Potential for Replication:The program which implemented Culture Walks is located less than 10 miles from each of the urban communities. In other settings, transportation time to and from the urban areas may impact implementation. Those wanting to replicate Culture Walks should consider stakeholder interest. In this case, investment was pre-established as one the program's fundamental missions in serving the urban community, and the majority of the teachers employed by the project's PK-12 partner graduate from this program.
Additional Resources:

 Nancy Edick, Dean, College of Education
nedick@unomaha.edu        402-554-2719

CEO-to-CEO Contact:John E. Christensen , Chancellorjohnchristensen@mail.unomaha.edu
(402) 554-2312
Date Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014