Penn GSE

Urban Teaching Apprenticeship


Teaching in grades PreK - 4 is a multifaceted enterprise and we acknowledge that preparation for teaching in urban contexts presents its own complexities. The UTAP PreK-4 certification program attends to these complexities through its program of study (comprising of fieldwork, courses, and academic/career workshops) within its thematic five-term school year, spanning 10-months.

Apprentice-teachers learn how to address the needs and nuances of the whole child. Our program provides a robust foundation in the four core content areas: Math, Literacy, Science and Social Studies, from the position that high-quality content instruction is key. Teaching the whole child means apprentices need experience with child development.   Courses are centered around restorative justice, the implications of trauma, culturally-responsive classroom libraries and math assessment through the lens of social justice, as these influence classroom discourse and engagement, management and instructional planning and implementation.

Apprentice-teachers are given opportunity to apply coursework theory and engage with students during their fieldwork experience. Apprentice-teachers engage in apprentice-teaching within Head Start, public or charter schools. While in their classroom placements, apprentices are “understudies” to host teachers, who are termed Classroom Mentors and are experienced teachers. Apprentice-teachers are also given the support of a Coach Liaison,  a university-based coach whose role includes working with the Classroom Mentor to advise, guide and coach the apprentice during student teaching. School placements have been meticulously chosen, in order to ensure that apprentice-teachers are given adequate mentorship in their development as future teachers in urban contexts. This structure differs from traditional teacher education programs wherein, an apprentice-teacher spends only a short period—perhaps as little as 12 weeks in their field placements. Our apprenticeships intend to immerse the apprentice in the teaching environment, with up to 850 hours of fieldwork completed at the end of the 10-month program.

Program of Study: Discovering Teacher Identity & the Community

Term I: Summer


• School, Society & Self

• Soial Studies Methods

• Introduction to Teaching Practices

• Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom: Maker Spaces

Summer coursework sets the stage for the fall student teaching. School, Society & Self focuses on the self as it pertains to students and the community. Within “Cultivating Creativity,” apprentices will learn how to integrate “making” into all disciplines with considerations for minimal access to resources and cost-effectiveness. This course also explores the use of project-based assessments as additional options to traditional paper tests. Social Studies Methods and Introduction to Teaching Practices provide introductions to teaching the core disciplines of Social Studies, Math and Literacy- as well as providing teaching practices that apprentices can utilize as new teachers. Learn more about our summer sites.


Field placement in the summer takes place in public libraries, where apprentice teachers will be able to implement small-group teaching tasks learned in their Math, Literacy and Maker-Space courses. This allows for relationship-building as apprentices navigate their developing teacher identities as well as understandings of the students in the community. Apprentices are in libraries for half-days, Monday - Wednesday each week and spend Fridays at community site-visits bi-weekly. Summer placements are a total of approximately 40 hours of fieldwork.

Core Disciplinary Methods, Authentic Assessment & Differentiation

Terms II & III: Fall


• Math Methods

• Literacy Methods

• Science Methods: Project-Based Learning Approaches

• Seminar: Understanding Child/Adolescent Development for Management & Engagement

Math and Literacy Methods in the fall terms intend to build from the foundations established in “Introduction to Teaching Practices.” Math and Literacy Methods are introduced as “Learning about Learners” in Term II, which evolves to “Teaching Practices and Application” in Term III. Science Methods will equip apprentice-teachers to teach Science as a core discipline through project-based learning, building upon “Cultivating Creativity” course from the summer term. Seminar is divided into three respective modules: “Responsive Teaching/Management & Family Engagement;” “Child/Adolescent Psychological Development: Understanding Trauma for Instruction and Engagement and “Restorative Justice.” Apprentices will develop an understanding of neurological and emotional development, culture and family as applications to their teaching practice. The integrated assignment for Term II is a Child Study which allows learning from a child’s perspective.

Having concentrated on an individual learner for Term II, apprentices develop an inquiry question for Term III, developing a tentative response by the end of the program. Along the journey to develop their inquiry question, apprentices plan, enact and reflect on small-group lessons in each content area, which will ultimately substantiate the Term III web-based portfolio. The Term III portfolio includes sections for the inquiry question, lesson plans, feedback from instructors, video footage of lessons, observational feedback, and self-reflection. Although it is not expected that apprentices have an answer to their inquiry question by the end of Term III, the aim is start building foundations as a reflective practitioner. See examples of our students’ web-based Inquiry Portfolios.


During the fall, apprentices are in their placements for two whole days and two half-days. Apprentices will begin their placement as small-group instructor, transitioning to whole-group facilitation by the beginning of Term III. Fall placements total approximately 330 hours of fieldwork.

Student-Centered Classrooms & Creative Unit Planning/Lesson Design

Term IV: Early Spring (January - beginning of March)


• Advanced Seminar: Student-Centered Social Justice Pedagogy

• Core Methods: Differentiation & Culturally-Responsive Instruction & Engagement Modules

o Math Methods: Assessment as Social Justice & Differentiation

o Literacy Methods: Student-Centered Classroom Libraries, Instruction & Engagement

Advanced Seminar: Student-Centered Social Justice Pedagogy dissects the nuance of social and academic systems that affect urban communities, and presents ways in which teachers can construct intentional, culturally-relevant lessons and classroom management practices.  This course also provides a framework for student-facilitated social action projects, which is the culminating assignment for Term IV. Apprentices are taught how to guide their students to advocate for their communities and themselves within the parameters of the curriculum and classroom.  To support this, Seminar is broken into three respective modules, with the first two occurring during Term IV and the third in Term V: Fundamentals of Integrated Unit Planning; Teaching Diverse Learners: Differentiated Instruction & Student-Centered Pedagogy; and Teaching as a Social Justice Leader.  In Teaching Diverse Learners apprentices develop ways to make lessons/learning accessible and exciting for all students in their classroom, addressing varying needs and languages often found in a classroom.

Through Core Method modules, apprentices come to understand the importance of classroom libraries that are reflective of their students’ interests, identities, and cultures. Core Methods also provides guidance in analyzing how state testing and assessment can be used to understand student learning and as mechanisms for social justice around math education in urban contexts.


During early spring, apprentices are in their placements for five whole days. Apprentices are expected to facilitate whole-group lessons regularly, including a “two-week takeover” during which apprentices become the lead teacher for the entire two weeks. Early spring placements are a total of approximately 280 hours of fieldwork.

Philosophy & Teaching for Justice

Term V: Spring (beginning of March - early May)


• Advanced Seminar: Teaching as a Social Justice Leader

• Integrating Arts in the K-8 Classroom (modules)

o Integrating Arts in the K-8 Classroom: Visual Arts & Technology

o Integrating Arts in the K-8 Classroom: Music

Advanced Seminar: Teaching as a Social Justice Leader explores how high-quality, content-rich, student-centered instruction is an act of social justice. During this module, apprentices have opportunities to engage in mock interviews with influential educators and meet & greets with public and charter school representatives in the Philadelphia School District. During this third module of Advanced Seminar, apprentices also prepare and enact a continuation of their social action project from Term IV.

The modules within Integrating Arts in the K-8 Classroom address the inconsistencies of arts programs within Philadelphia schools and provide practical ways apprentices can integrate arts in their classrooms while attending to academic and school-based requirements.

To culminate Term V, analogous to a Master’s thesis, students complete the design a web-based Inquiry Portfolio that expands on their Term III inquiry question and highlights their two-week takeover from their Term IV social action project. Evidence of performance assessments, with commentary, appears in the final portfolios. See examples of our students’ web-based Inquiry Portfolios.


During spring, apprentices are at their placement for five whole days. Apprentices are expected to facilitate whole-group lessons regularly. Late spring placements are a total of approximately 245 hours of fieldwork.


In response to the growing need for teachers who can address the needs of specific types of schools and students, UTAP offers the opportunity to begin work in specialty areas. Apprentices who choose to add a specialty area will work in partner schools that are selected to support the development of the specialty area and enroll in a specialty seminar during their apprenticeship year. These specialties require additional coursework during the first year of teaching.

Language Diversity/Program Specialist in ESL: Apprentices work as student teachers in partner schools with ESL, bilingual, and dual language students and programs. Currently UTAP seeks apprentices who speak Spanish and Mandarin for bilingual classrooms. Apprentices seeking ESL program specialist certification need not be bilingual.

Special Education: During the apprenticeship year, apprentices in this specialty serve part of their time with students who have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Upon completion of the apprenticeship year, candidates will complete coursework for the specialization for the special education certificate Pennsylvania PreK-4


Upon successful completion of all components of the Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program (required coursework and student teaching apprenticeships), including obtaining clearances and completing prerequisite coursework, students receive faculty recommendation for instructional 1 certification, which is awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. PDE requires that all applicants for instructional 1 certification be either U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are willing to submit a form indicating intention of applying for U.S. citizenship. All applicants for the PreK-4 certificate must have completed a minimum of two courses in English (one a writing course and one a British or American literature course) and two math courses. Upon admission, we work with students to determine if they need additional courses to satisfy these certification requirements.  While we offer faculty recommendation for Pennsylvania certification, many of our students obtain Pennsylvania certification and then move to other states or countries. There is a NASDTEC Interstate Agreement to facilitate movement by teachers among states. We recommend, therefore, that students obtain Pennsylvania certification even if they plan to teach in other states.