Penn GSE

Urban Teaching Apprenticeship


Teaching in grades PreK-4 is a complex enterprise. We like to speak of teaching the whole child. The UTAP PreK-4 program is built around this idea, moving the teaching apprentice through five stages of inquiry and development, with courses and mentored teaching intertwining to support the apprentice.

Apprentices are placed in select neighborhood settings, Philadelphia public or special charter schools, and in preschool or Head Start programs. In the school placement, the apprentice works with an experienced teacher, whom we term the Classroom Mentor, and is supported by a University-based Penn Mentor who visits the classroom on a weekly basis. Apprentices are clustered within schools but the schools vary by city neighborhood. This permits rich discussion when differing neighborhood and school cultures are discussed in class.

Teaching the whole child means that in addition to developing competence and confidence in the four core academic areas (math, literacy, science, and social studies), apprentices must understand the urban setting, child development, and be prepared to support their students to become creators though writing, visual arts, music, drama, and digital activities including coding and robotics.

The apprenticeship differs from traditional teacher education programs where the student teacher spends only a short period—perhaps as little as 12 weeks—student teaching. Our apprenticeships span 10 months, with up to 800 hours of fieldwork, and are intended to immerse the student in the teaching environment.

Program of Study: A Unique Teacher Education Program

SUMMER: Inquiry into neighborhoods and Community

The focus of summer work is learning about the children, families, and neighborhoods in which apprentices will be placed. The major integrated assignment is the development of a map of the neighborhood, including assets identified by members of the community and supportive narrative. Learn more about our summer sites.


All of these courses can be thought of as the introduction to ideas that continue across the year. Modules here include: Urban Education: How Did We Get Here?, Kids are Creative and Capable, Setting Yourself Up for Success, Rituals and Routines that Support Learning and Positive Classroom Management, and Working with English Language Learners.

Summer Fieldwork

Students begin their apprenticeship working with youth in summer programs situated in neighborhoods where they will student teach during the school year. Starting in the summer is a unique benefit of the UTAP program, setting it apart from other teacher education programs. Summer placements are approximately 20+ hours of fieldwork. Learn more about our summer sites.

Early Fall: Inquiry into Learners

As apprentices enter their fall placements, they begin to engage in coursework around the core disciplines as well as continuing to build understanding of learners. The integrated assignment that helps to tie all of this together is Learning from a Child. With the help of the Classroom Mentor each apprentice chooses a child and develops an understanding of that child that includes personal dispositions and interests, friendships and family, as well as formative assessment of the child’s understanding and application of math, literacy, science, and social studies.


Special Topics

Click here to learn more about Special Topics Seminars.


Apprentices spend two full days per week in the assigned classroom, and one morning per week in an associated preschool setting.

Late Fall: Inquiry into Pedagogy

Having concentrated on an individual learner while learning classroom routines and school culture, apprentices turn their attention to the careful design of lessons. Apprentices develop a question about pedagogy and come to a tentative answer as a result of planning and enacting a small group lesson for each content area. This assignment is produced as a web-based Inquiry Portfolio which includes sections for the inquiry question, planning and feedback on lesson plans, notes taken by an observer during each lesson, and reflection by the apprentice on their students’ learning, their own learning, and how they would move forward from each lesson, in addition to the tentative answer to the original question. See examples of our students’ web-based Inquiry Portfolios.


The courses above continue.


After the completion of the PreK placement, apprentices spend 2.5 days per week in their K-4 placement.

Early SPRING: Inquiry into curriculum

In January and February, the focus is on curriculum. Apprentices develop and enact an integrated unit of study, with science at its core, using a backward planning design from their fall class. Staying in the fall placement classroom through February allows apprentices to plan for a class and classroom that they know well. The curriculum created becomes part of the web-based Inquiry Portfolio.



Apprentices spend 4 days per week in their placement in January, and 5 days per week in their placement in February.

Late Spring: Praxis

Praxis is the practice of all that has been learned. This begins with the enactment of the integrated unit in February, but continues in a new placement, in accordance with the Pennsylvania state requirement of a placement at each end of the K-4 band. In this new setting, apprentices can design lessons, teach lessons created by the Classroom Mentor, and engage in all other teaching activities as permitted by the Classroom Mentor.

In lieu of a master’s thesis, students design a web-based Inquiry Portfolio that addresses a critical issue that arises from their teaching and supports their arguments with artifacts from their teaching experience. Evidence of performance assessments, with commentary, will appear in the final portfolios. See examples of our students’ web-based Inquiry Portfolios.


The courses above continue.


Apprentices spend 5 days per week in their placement in March, 5 afternoons per week in their placement in April, and 5 days per week in their placement in early May. Being immersed in student teaching for five full days per week gives students a comprehensive field experience.

Mornings in April will include time for writing the web-based Inquiry Portfolios as well as a choice of workshops to complete EDUC 545.



In response to the growing need for teachers who are able to 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 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 Certification

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.