Penn GSE

Urban Teaching Apprenticeship


The middle years are exciting and challenging for students and teachers alike. As they preare for high school, developments can be exhilarating and profound. These complexities become even more nuanced with preparation for middle-school teaching in urban contexts. The UTAP 4-8 certification program attends to these complexities through its program of study within its thematic, five-term school year, spanning 10 months and culminating with a master's degree in educatin and faculty recommendation for instructional 1 certification in a middle years content area.

Teachers in the middle years age group revel in their students' growing independence, while supporting and scaffolding this growth through robust student-centered classrooms. The UTAP 4-8 program prepares apprentice-teachers for this role.

Apprentices in the 4-8 program take courses with the PreK-4 apprentices in order to gain foundational pedagogical knowledge in the four competencies: math, literacy, science and social studies. Apprentices also take courses focused on restorative justice, implications of trauma, culturally-responsive classroom libraries and math assessment through the lens of social justice. These areas influence classroom discourse and engagement, management and instructional planning and implementation. As 4-8 apprentice teachers, apprentices take an advanced methods course in one of the four content areas.

Apprentice teachers apply coursework theory and engagement with students during their year long fieldwork experience. Apprentice teachers engage in mentored teaching in the K-8 grade range, in public or public charter schools based on their certification area. While in their classroom placement, apprentices are mentored by their host teachers, called Classroom Mentors and who are experienced classroom teachers. Apprentices are further supported by a Coach liaison who works with the Classroom Mentor to advise, guide and coach the apprentice during student teaching. Coach liaisons serve as team leaders for a particular school and where they may coach 4-5 apprentices placed at the school. This ensures that apprentices form a small learning community based on the school. School placements are selected to ensure that apprentice teachers have excellent mentorship as they develop into future teachers for urban contexts. The structure differs from traditional teacher education program wherein a student teacher spends a short period -- perhaps as little as 12 weeks -- in their field placements. Our apprenticeships intend to immerse pprentices in the teaching environment

When possible, these are schools that are developing rich environments that support design thinking, such maker-spaces, STEM classrooms, and robotics clubs. In the complex world of the tween learner, peer approval is critical. The products produced in these situations are valued by peers, encouraging the creator to work with diligence and persistence.

As with our other programs, field opportunities extend across the full 10 months of our program, offering apprentices up to 800 hours of experience, in contrast to many programs where student teaching occurs over as little as 12 weeks. Our program immerses the apprentices in the teaching environment, spending more than 850 hours by the end of the 10 month program.

Program of Study: Discovering Teacher Identity & the Community

Term I: Summer


  • School, Society & Self
  • Social Studies Methods
  • Introduction to Teaching Practices
  • Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom:  Maker Spaces

    Summer sets the stage for the program as it focuses on learning about the self in relation to students and the community during the course, School, Society & Self. The major integrated assignment for the summer is completion of a neighborhood study, for which apprentices are supported by key community members and organizations. In Cultivating Creativity, apprentices learn to integrate "making" into all disciplines with considerations as to minimal resources and expertise. This course also explores using project-based assessments as an option to paper tests. Social Studies Methods and Introduction to Teaching Practices provide an initiation into teaching the core disciplines of social studies, math and literacy, as well as providing teaching practices that apprentices can use as new teachers.

Summer Fieldwork

Beginning in the summer is a unique benefit of the UTAP program, setting it apart from other, more traditional, teacher education programs. Field placements in the summer take place in public community libraries, where apprentice-teachers are able to implement small group teaching strategies learning in their summer courses. This allows for relationahip building as apprentices navigate their emerging teacher identities as well as understandings of the students in the community. Apprentices are in libraries for half-days Monday through Wednesday each week, and on Fridays will visit community sites. Summer placements total 55 hours.

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
  • Advanced Methods (content specific)

    Math and literacy methods in the fall develop on the foundations begun in the summer course, Introduction to Teaching Practices. Math and literacy methods are re-introduced in Term II, Learning about Leaarners, evolving into Teaching Practices & Applications in Term III. Science methods equips apprentices to teach science as a core discipline through a project-based learning lens, building on the Cultivating Creativity course from the summer. Seminar is divided into three modules: (1) Responsive teaching/management & family engagement; (2) Child/adolescent psychological development: Understanding trauma for instruction & engagement; and (3) Restorative justice. These modules help apprentices develop understandings of neurological and emotional development, culture and family, as applied to their teaching practice. Middle level apprentices take one of the four high school level methods courses (math, literacy, science or social studies) during the fall term, providing more subject-specific practice as apprentices move from small group to whole group instruction.

    The integrated assignment for Term II is a Child Study, involving learning from a child's perspective. Having concentrated on an individual learner for Term II, apprentices develop an inquiry question for Term III, planning to develop a preliminary response by the end of the program. Along the journey to develop their inquiry question, apprentices plan, enact and reflect upon small group lessons in each of the content areas, which provide evidence for the Term III inquiry portfolio. Term III portfolio organization includes sections on the inquiry question, lesson plans, feedback from instructors and videos of lessons, observational feedback and self reflection. Although it is not extected that apprentices have an answer to their inquiry question by the end of Term III, the aim is to build a foundation of reflectiive practice.


During the fall, apprentices are at their placement for two whole days and two half-days per week. Apprentices are expected to begin thieir placement as small-group instructor, transitioning to whole group teaching by the beginning of Term III. Fall placements total approximately 330 hours.

Student Centered Classrrooms & Creative Unit Planning/Lesson Design

Term IV: Early Spring (January - early March)


  • Advanced Seminar: Student Centered Social Justice Pedagogy
  • Core Methods: Differentiation & Culturally Responsive Instruction & Engagement Modules
         - Math Methods: Assessment as Social Justice & Differentiation
         - Literacy Methods: Student Centered Classroom Libraries, Instruction & Engagement

    Advanced Seminar 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, the culminating assignment in Term IV. Apprentices learn how to encourage students to advocate for their communities and themselves in the scope of curriculum requirements and classroom guidelines. In support, the seminar consists of three respective modules: (1) Fundamentals of integrated unit planning; (2) Teaching diverse learners: Differentiated instruction & student centered pedagogy; (3) Teaching as a social justice leader. Teaching diverse learners provides apprentices with strategies on how to create lessons/learning accessible and exciting for all students in their classroom, understanding various needs and languages found in a classroom.

    Through Core Methods modules, apprentices understand the importance of classroom libraries that reflect their students' interests, cultures and identities. This course also examines how state testing and assessment can be used as assets in understanding student learning, and as mechanisms for social justice around math education in urban contexts.


During early spring, apprentices attend their placements for five whole days and are expected to facilitate whole group lessons regularly, including a two week takeover, during which they are the lead teacher for the entire time. Early spring placements total 280 hours.

Philosophy & Teaching for Justice

Term V: Spring (Early March to early May)


  • Advanced Seminar: Teaching as a Social Justice Leader (modules)
  • Integrating Arts in the K-8 Classroom
         - Integrating Arts in the K-8 Classroom: Visual Arts & Technology
         - Ingetrating 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. In this module, apprentices engage in mock interviews with influential educators and recruitment events with public and public charter schools in the Philadelphia School District. In the third module, apprentices enact a continuation of their social action project from Term IV.

    The modules in Integrating the Arts in the K-8 Classroom examine the inconsistencies of arts programs in Philadelphia schools, and provide practical ways teachers may integrate arts in their classrooms, while attending to academic and school requirements.

    Culiminating in Term V, students design a web-based inquiry portfolio infusing their Term III inquiry question and featuring the Term IV social action project. Evidence of performance assessments, with commentary, will appear in the final portfolio.


During late spring, apprentices are in their placements for five whole days, facilitating whoe group lessons regularly. Late spring placements total 245 hours.


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 Grades 4-8 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 middle level certificate must have completed a minimum of two English courses (one a writing course and one a British or American literature course) and two math courses. In addition, a number of courses related to the certification subject are required. 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.