In a time when the United States is faced with continued racism and social unrest, it is more important than ever to prepare teachers who can advocate for marginalized students and social justice. This article describes the evolution of a seminar course called Theory and Reality: Practicum in Math and Science Teaching in High-Need Schools within the context of a predominately White teacher-preparation program. Guided by scholars of culturally relevant education and our professional and personal journeys as equity-focused teacher educators, we sought to design experiences to prepare preservice science and mathematics teachers to teach in high-poverty or underfunded schools. Specifically, the course was intended to (1) develop an understanding of pedagogical practices and educational strategies for successful teaching in a high-need school setting, especially in mathematics and science classrooms, and (2) cultivate both cultural self-awareness and cross-cultural consciousness in one’s ability to adapt to the high-need environment in a culturally responsive way. We describe the evolutionary rationale for changes made to course assignments and readings to promote cultural competence and early advocacy skills for teacher candidates interested in teaching in schools facing poverty. We highlight preservice teachers’ reflections that evidence their early conceptualizations of teaching in a high-need school context and how assignments promoted their relationship-building and advocacy skills for marginalized students.
The purpose of this paper is to exemplify how teacher candidates can be engaged in discussions around social justice and equity in science methods courses while also learning about and practicing essential science teaching strategies and skills. Our aim is that science teacher educators who do not feel confident enough to explicitly address these important issues in methods courses are encouraged to think creatively about how they can modify or alter their current practices in a way to prepare science teachers for the changing demographics of science classrooms. We present an engineering design activity that is coupled with critical literacy skills, called ‘Build a Child.” Upon identifying the problem, we introduce the context of the preservice teachers’ science methods course and reason for this work, followed by defining critical literacy and how it pairs well in science education. We then share the “Build a Child” engineering project and how we asked preservice teachers to critique and reflect on their creations, thus bringing in a critical literacy framework to the curriculum. Next, we share three findings based on our data analysis, and we end with the importance of science methods courses implementing social justice education and suggestions on how to reexamine our science curriculum to make it more culturally relevant and equitable for all students.