National Urban Alliance starts with the premise that every child must be taught that they have the ability to learn and overcome challenges. We believe that every child’s intelligence can be nurtured through school, and every child’s spirit can be inspired by a teacher.
“Human beings have the unique characteristic of being able to modify themselves no matter how they start out. Even inborn barriers and traumas can be overcome with belief and the right mediation.”
The NUA Professional Development model is framed upon The Pedagogy of Confidence, an approach to learning and teaching that is based on the fearless expectation that all students are capable of high intellectual performances when provided High Operational Practices™ that motivate self-directed learning and self-actualization. These High Operational Practices are:
- Identifying and activating student strengths
- Building relationships
- Eliciting high intellectual performances
- Providing enrichment
- Integrating prerequisites for academic learning
- Situating learning in the lives of students
- Amplifying student voice (Jackson, 2011, p. 71).
These seven High Operational Practices are the fulcrum around which the “gifted” education of the Pedagogy of Confidence revolves, gearing the objectives for each practice to facilitate students exploring and acting on their potential to produce the high intellectual performances that can motivate self-directed learning, self-actualization, and self-transcendence. The inherent strategies and actions used to identify and build on strengths, provide enrichment and create schema that connects to a student’s cultural frame of reference inherent in “gifted education” serve to enhance comprehension that results in strengthened competence, confidence, resilience and high intellectual performances (Jackson, 2017).
NUA pays particular attention to developing materials and strategies that attack the issue of cultural relevance head on. Specifically, the NUA approach aims to:
- Help prepare teachers who feel unprepared to meet the needs of students of color or economically disadvantaged students. Classroom relationships are especially challenging for many of these teachers. Not knowing what is meaningful and relevant to students and misunderstanding reasons for their underperformance intensifies these challenges. NUA’s specialized approach gives teachers the information they need to feel confident with students from varying circumstances.
- Give teachers strategies for connecting teaching to students’ lives. This helps students achieve in class and, just as importantly, builds their confidence.
Underpinning all of our activities is our powerful advocacy for children and youth. First and foremost we believe that an important adjunct to the Pedagogy of Confidence is what we call a pedagogy of hope borrowed from the work of Paulo Freire. We work with students, teachers, superintendents, central office staff, principals, building-based leaders. and communities to advocate for:
- High expectations for all
- Authentic tasks
- Active learning
- Instruction that maximizes opportunities to deepen meaning
- Literacy-rich environments
- Quality resources
- Schools that are connected with home, culture and community
- Problem-focused learning
- Collaborative and applied work on issues of deep concern to the students and the community
- Access to rigorous content and pedagogy for all
- Common Core Curriculum Standards
- Engagement in substantive dialogue, discussion and debate among students about instructional substance of content
- Peer and adult coaches and mentors
The NUA Professional Development model follows these building blocks:
- NUA starts by listening. Through surveys or discussion groups, NUA takes time to find out what kind of professional development teachers say they need.
- NUA provides teachers with guidance about what nurtures students’ intellectual development and affects the learning process. Armed with this understanding, teachers are more articulate about the type of professional development that could address the learning needs of the students.
- NUA gives teachers strategies that elicit students’ strengths and interests while connecting learning directly with their experiences. These strategies are best learned by having students model and demonstrate class instruction to their teachers with coaching from NUA mentors. NUA mentors also provide on‐site guidance to teachers in each participating school on best instructional practices, and guide teachers in implementing best practices in their classrooms.
- NUA shares strategies with teachers to help them connect learning with the lives of their students. This helps students understand concepts and other classroom material and, just as importantly, allows them to demonstrate understanding and build their confidence.
- NUA includes students in professional development sessions. Students often have a remarkable sensitivity to what interests their classmates, how to make them attentive and how to motivate them. They also have the ability to get their classmates’ attention when they are in charge of the classroom. That’s just one reason why we include them in professional development sessions. For example, we have let students lead professional development sessions for as many as 35 adults. The result was an incisive and intellectually stimulating presentation on culturally relevant teaching methods. One outcome from this session was that students from this majority African-American school wanted teachers to stop calling them minority students or students who are “at risk.” That’s not how they thought about themselves. They felt that projecting those labels on them reinforces negative stereotypes and, potentially, low expectations. Students are also astute at pointing out concepts and terms that simply won’t resonate with other students and potentially will derail a classroom.
- NUA helps districts and schools provide greater leadership. Too few principals are adequately involved in professional development, and the result is a gap between leadership, support and lasting momentum. NUA works closely with principals to assure their buy-in and assist in providing the kind of leadership that is needed in schools.
Perhaps most importantly, NUA helps districts design professional development that is part of long-term learning objectives that are embedded in curriculum, rather than one-shot workshops where an expert swoops in for the day. We work closely with districts and teachers—engaging students in the process—to set high expectations and develop strategies and accountability measures to meet these expectations.
Contact us to learn how you can bring NUA to your district. Contact our Executive Director Stefanie Rome.