It’s a Family Affair: Teacher Education at Minority Serving Institutions

This blog entry begins a month-long MSIs Unplugged series on teacher education at federally-designated Minority Serving Institutions from the contributors to Teacher Education across Minority Serving Institutions: Programs Policies, and Social Justice, edited by Emery Petchauer and Lynnette Mawhinney. Authors will draw from their chapter to illustrate some of the important work happening in MSI teacher education programs. We hope this series helps move MSI teacher education into the view of both education scholars and the general public.

As educators working at an HBCU in the past, we have been surprised by the lack of awareness around HBCUs and MSIs more broadly, particularly in the world of teacher education where there are consistent calls for a more racially diverse teaching profession. Often times, when people asked where we worked, we often responded with pride, “At an HBCU!” To our dismay, people didn’t know what that was or would reply, “You work in banking?” mistaking the acronym for Historically Black College and University acronym for the international bank, HSBC.

Little did they know: Teacher education programs at MSIs have been answering the call for a more racially diverse teaching profession for quite some time. In fact, many MSI teacher education programs are ahead of the curve in responding to challenges that historically and predominantly white institutions are only starting to confront.

MSIs produce an oversized proportion of teachers of color in the country, as illustrated by figures from 2015. Enrolling about 20 percent of all students in higher education, MSI teacher education programs produced:

  • 54.1 percent of Latinx students who received undergraduate degrees in education
  • 32.8 percent of Black or African American students who received undergraduate degrees in education
  • 57.7 percent of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander students who received undergraduate degrees in education
  • 17.4 percent of Asian American students who received undergraduate degrees in education
  • 11.7 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native students who received undergraduate degrees in education

Given this lack of awareness toward MSI teacher education, we set out two years ago on a mission to co-edit a book on this topic. Our goal was to make the teacher education work at MSIs more visible to teacher educators, education scholars, and policy makers. We wanted to shed light on this work that is so often overshadowed.

It was important for us in this project to work with scholars at MSIs, especially teacher educators, because their knowledge and expertise is often invisibilized. Over the course of this project, we worked with seventeen 17 authors, most of whom were teacher educators at MSIs. As we and our interviewees have experienced, scholars at MSIs often have some of the heaviest teaching loads in all of higher education. While professors at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, we routinely taught 16 credit hours each semester in addition to administering multiple programs, mentoring students, and maintaining a presence on campus often every day of the week. At teaching-heavy institutions, these duties leave little time to pursue book contracts and peer-reviewed articles. Knowing how real the struggle is at some institutions, we wanted this book to identify and insert the work of MSI teacher educators directly into the purview of scholars, policy makers, and the public.

Through this project, we came to see that the goal of creating a more racially diverse teaching profession only scratches the surface of what is happening in MSI teacher education programs. For instance, tribal institutions are building teacher education around the Native communities their teachers will serve. Hispanic Serving Institutions are leaders in “grow your own” teacher education programs that recruit young adults to become teachers in their own communities. Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Institutions are building support systems around their students to pass teacher licensure exams that often unfairly screen candidates of color out of teacher education programs. Historically Black Colleges and Universities are the originators of justice-oriented pedagogy and continue pushing teachers to think about equity and justice in a changing world. We came to understand that MSI teacher education programs do much more than create a more racially diverse teaching profession. They shape teacher education in important ways not always evident at historically and predominantly white institutions.

From completing this project, we also came to see MSIs not as four separate institution types under one umbrella term but as a family of institutions. We think about this term “family” and what it offers to the ways we think about institutions. Individual family members are not identical, but they share a common lineage. Of course, there are families by birth and families by earth. Some family members might not share biological lineage, but their circumstances and journeys (like adoption) have given them family bonds nonetheless. The diversity among family members is what makes them sturdy and strong. We see something similar among MSIs and their teacher education programs. Although there is great variety among them, it is useful to see their commonalities and intersections. Doing so reveals the collective thrust they can have on teacher education.

What came from this year of work was Teacher Education Across Minority Serving Institutions: Programs, Policies, and Social Justice, which was just released by Rutgers University press. This blog entry starts a month-long series on MSIs Unplugged based upon the contents of the book. Authors will draw from their chapter in our volume to illustrate some of important work happening in MSI teacher education programs. We hope this series helps move MSI teacher education into the view of both education scholars and the general public.

Lynnette Mawhinney Ph.D., is associate professor and co-coordinator of urban education program at The College of New Jersey, where her work focuses on the professional lives of aspiring and current urban teachers and urban schooling. She began her career in teacher education at Lincoln University (PA), the oldest historically black university in the country. She is the author of We Got Next: Urban Education and the Next Generation of Black Teachers (Peter Lang, 2014), co-editor of Teacher Education across Minority Serving Institutions: Programs, Policies, and Social Justice (Rutgers University Press, 2017), and co-author of her upcoming book There Has to Be a Better Way: Lessons from Former Urban Teachers.

Emery Petchauer, Ed.D., is associate professor of English and Teacher Education at Michigan State University, where he also coordinates the English education program. His work has focused on urban education, teacher education, high-stakes testing, and hip-hop studies. He is the author of Hip-Hop Culture in College Students’ Lives (Routledge, 2012) and the co-editor of Schooling Hip-Hop: Expanding Hip-Hop Based Education Across the Curriculum (Teachers College Press, 2013). He began his career in teacher education at Lincoln University, the oldest historically Black university in the country.

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