Preservice teachers' perceptions toward the meaning and purpose of democratic education in urban schools: A case study

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Teacher Training|Education, Social Sciences




Teacher education programs that reflect the agendas of the National Network for Educational Renewal and of the Holmes Partnership (formerly the Holmes Group) may offer the philosophic and structural foundation for the simultaneous renewal of America's schools, its teaching profession, and the subsequent reinvigoration of democratic education into the American educational landscape. Encouraging research has shown that individuals emerging from teacher education programs that reflect these two agendas are often times more sensitive to diversity. Building upon these research findings, this study attempted to develop an understanding of how individuals attending a teacher education program that reflects the agendas of the National Network for Educational Renewal and of the Holmes Partnership, and who also carried out their master's level internships in urban settings, perceive the meaning and purpose of democratic education. ^ A qualitative case study design was used. Data was collected via individual and focus group interviews and by narrative data analysis. Thick descriptions of the participants' perceptions regarding democratic education were elaborated on via direct and participant observation of the informants in various educational settings. The results of this study highlighted the importance of varied clinic and internship experiences for preservice teachers during teacher preparation. In addition, the results showed that the direct and purposeful exposure of teacher candidates to concepts and principles related to democratic education, in an academic atmosphere that employs constructivist teaching methodologies such as reflection, dialogue, and inquiry, may help to promote the internalization of democratic principles into preservice teachers' emerging philosophies of education. Thus, the findings from this study seem to add to the growing body of literature that suggests that teacher education programs with certain characteristics can and do influence conceptions, i.e. moral dispositions, of preservice teachers toward teaching and learning. ^