Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Transformational Learning at Ruiz School

Undergraduate students from Roosevelt University have had the unique opportunity to continue their quest to become the teacher leaders of the future in the south and west side neighborhoods of Chicago. These areas of the city are culturally diverse in many positive ways, but also experience difficult challenges, such as elevated crime rates, high student mobility rates, issues regarding immigration, student violence, and in some cases socio-economic despair.

These urban settings are not reminiscent of where many Roosevelt University undergraduates have grown up or attended schools. However, there is something about the experiences they have had as part of a transformational learning course at Roosevelt that has compelled them to stay and become a part of these communities.

In the College of Education, Dr. Elizabeth Meadows has incorporated transformational service-learning into her pre-student teaching class to help solidify her students’ knowledge and teaching skills. Her students attend her seminar and spend one day a week in a kindergarten through 6th grade classroom in a public school on the south side of Chicago. In the field, Roosevelt students initially provide small group and one-on-one instruction; they progress to teaching a specific subject area each week. This process requires careful planning and coordination with the mentor teachers in the classroom. Dr. Meadows visits each elementary classroom throughout the semester and uses her observations to enrich her students’ learning during the seminar discussions. In the spirit of reciprocity, the principal of Irma C. Ruiz Elementary School, Mr. Dana Butler, co-teaches several seminar sessions that are held at Ruiz and shares his invaluable knowledge and experience with the undergraduate students.

One way that students are typically evaluated in a transformational learning class is through journaling. In their journals, Dr. Meadows’ students think critically about their experiences. They consider why teachers do things in certain ways, examine their own assumptions, and speculate about how they would handle certain situations if they were the teacher.

Transformational learning has allowed these undergraduates to serve in communities that many had not visited. This powerful experience has also motivated them to work in urban education, and several have requested additional teacher preparation experiences at Ruiz School. Several of these students will be doing their student teaching at Ruiz. After two years of hosting Roosevelt University undergraduates at his school, Mr. Butler has seen the positive effects for his young students’ learning and for his school as well.

For more information, contact Prof. Elizabeth Meadows at emeadows@roosevelt.edu or Mr. Dana Butler at dabutler1@cps.k12.il.us. Mr. Butler is a Roosevelt Alumnus (Master of Arts in Educational Administration and Supervision, Class of 1998).