Penn GSE

Urban Teaching Apprenticeship


In the secondary education program, coursework and mentored teaching apprenticeship mutually inform one another. Teaching apprenticeship placements are carefully selected in Philadelphia public schools to provide critical preparation for teaching in urban contexts. Unlike in typical student teaching placements, teaching apprentices spend a full academic year in content-specific (i.e. math, science, English, or history) fieldwork and take two content-specific methods courses (in the fall and spring) to develop their pedagogical content knowledge. We offer certification in English, Math, Sciences, and Social Studies.

We also offer specializations dual certifications in Project Based Learning, Language Diversity/Program Specialist in ESL, Special Education, and STEM.

Program of Study: A Unique Teacher Education Program

SUMMER: Inquiry into learners, Neighborhoods, and community

In the summer, students in the secondary education program explore how teacher and learner identity and contexts shape learning. Courses are divided into modules to allow students access to a broad range of faculty and practitioner expertise. Modules address key teaching competencies and may span the whole year. Modules that begin in the summer include: Learner Identity, Instructional Design, History and Purpose of Schooling, Racial Literacy, Inquiry into Practice/Teacher Research, Digital Fluency, and Professional Life.


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 inquiry into curriculum and pedagogy. Students begin the school year by concentrating on the individual learner and school culture, then turn their attention to the careful design of lessons. Apprentices develop a question about pedagogy and come to a tentative answer. 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.


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.


The focus of the spring session is praxis, or the practice of teaching. Students begin to understand how to put 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 or specialize 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.


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 current specialties are:

Project Based Learning: Apprentices work at one of the School District of Philadelphia’s Innovation Network schools, learning how to develop performance assessments, design interdisciplinary curriculum, and develop core practices for PBL.

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 speciality 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.

STEM: The STEM specialty is a collaboratively designed program that engages the Penn School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Penn College of Arts & Sciences, and Philadelphia schools focused on STEM learning. Through this specialty, apprentices seeking certification in math and science will have access to renowned Penn STEM faculty and will learn how to integrate engineering concepts such as robotics, design maker spaces in schools, and explore technologies that support STEM learning.

More information about specialties 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.