Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 437–462 | Cite as

Strange bedfellows in science teacher preparation: conflicting perspectives on social justice presented in a Teach For America—university partnership

  • Jill McNew-Birren
  • Tyra Hildebrand
  • Gabrielle Belknap
Original Paper


Teach For America (TFA), a widespread and well-known route into the teaching profession, frequently partners with university-based education programs to prepare and certify its corps members. However, university-based teacher education programs frequently emphasize very different understandings of socially just education and priorities for training teachers from those of TFA. Accordingly, science teachers trained through TFA-university partnerships encounter conflicting understandings of science education, justice, and urban communities as they are introduced to teaching practice. In this ethnographic case study we explored the experiences and reactions of a cohort of TFA corps members in a science methods course as they engaged with TFA’s perspective focused primarily on enhancing students’ social mobility and the methods course emphasizing democratic equality through scientific engagement. The study considers intersections between TFA’s approach to teacher preparation and sociocultural perspectives on equitable science teaching. The study also lends insight into the contradictions and challenges through which TFA science teachers develop understandings about their role as science teachers, purposes and goals of science education, and identities of the students and communities they serve.


Teacher preparation Urban science Teach For America 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill McNew-Birren
    • 1
  • Tyra Hildebrand
    • 1
  • Gabrielle Belknap
    • 1
  1. 1.Education Policy and LeadershipMarquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA

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