Penn GSE

Urban Teaching Apprenticeship


M.S.Ed. in Secondary Education with PA Grades 7-12 Certification


The Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program is a practice-focused program that prepares new teachers to enact student-centered learning and to use innovative teaching tools in urban schools, premised on the belief that children are curious, creative, and capable. In the secondary education program, coursework and intensive field experiences build on content expertise and support the development of pedagogical content knowledge. Graduates are prepared to use the power of teaching to deepen student learning, transform schools, and increase educational equity.


Through the secondary education program, teachers are recommended for certification in English, math, social studies, and the sciences. Depending on your certification area, you will be placed in the STEM Inquiry concentration or the Active Learning in the Humanities concentration. Both concentrations are designed to unite apprentices’ passion for their content areas with best-practices in problem-based, student-centered pedagogies.


UTAP also offers additional options for dual certifications in Language Diversity/Program Specialist in ESL, and in Special Education which can be added through additional coursework after graduating and becoming a full-time employed teacher.

Program of Study: A Unique Teacher Education Program


In the summer, students in the secondary education program explore how teacher and learner identity and contexts shape learning in urban contexts. Through integrated learning experiences they also see representations of student-centered, problem-based learning in Philadelphia.


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.


The focus in the fall is developing curriculum and pedagogy for inquiry across multiple disciplines. Students begin the school year by concentrating on the individual learner and school culture. They then turn their attention to the careful design and enactment of student-centered lessons, utilizing the core practices of Project-based learning, developed through Penn GSE’s PBL Certificate program.


Fall Fieldwork

All teaching apprentices are assigned to a full-year placement in a Philadelphia public school that serves grades 7-12. As student-teaching apprentices, students spend mornings in their placement schools or conducting cross-visits to other schools. They take courses in the late afternoon. At the end of the term, apprentices develop a question about student-centered learning that arises from their practice in the field. This is the beginning of the development of a web-based Inquiry Portfolio which will include the inquiry question, carefully developed lesson plans, and extensive reflection by the apprentice on their students’ learning, their own learning, and the analysis and response to the original inquiry question. See examples of our students’ web-based Inquiry Portfolios.


The focus of the spring session is praxis—putting educational theory into practice. The coursework moves into advanced methods across content areas. As students gain more responsibility in the classroom, their apprenticeship experiences continue to inform their web-based Inquiry Portfolio projects, which become their final projects. See examples of our students’ web-based Inquiry Portfolios.


Spring Fieldwork

Teaching apprentices take full responsibility for teaching in their high school classrooms for five full days per week, while finishing up their remaining courses and completing their Inquiry Portfolios. Being immersed in student teaching for five full days per week gives students a comprehensive field experience.


Teaching apprentices can take advantage of opportunities to dual certify in several areas of expertise.

Dual certifications

If teaching apprentices demonstrate, through transcript review, content background in multiple areas of study, they can opt to seek recommendation in 2 content areas (i.e. Math and Science; English and History, etc.). Apprentices will serve as student teachers in classes in both content areas during fieldwork and take both content methods courses.

Additional Certifications after Graduation

Additionally, in response to the growing demand for teachers who are able to address the needs of specific types of schools and students, UTAP offers the opportunity to further specialize in one of areas shown below. Apprentices who choose to add a specialty area will:

  • work in partner schools selected to support apprentices’ development in the specialty area
  • enroll in a specialty seminar during their apprenticeship year
  • complete additional coursework during the first year of teaching, if required by the specialty.

The additional certifications are:

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. This program leads to a Pennsylvania program specialist certificate and requires additional coursework during the first year of teaching.

Special Education: During the apprenticeship year, students in this specialty serve part of their time with students who have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). This program leads to Pennsylvania instructional certification in special education and requires additional coursework during the first year of teaching.

More information about these dual certification is provided upon admission.

Pennsylvania Secondary Education 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 secondary education 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.