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Teacher Candidates Explore Project Based Learning and Reflect on Inequity in Schools

How can one design and teach an engaging project-based learning unit if one hasn’t experienced it personally as a learner themselves? How could you, as the teacher, tell if what you’ve implemented was successful if you’re not sure what measures to look for?

NCE Middle Grades Chair Hannah Graham tackled this head-on with her students this Fall term, developing a three-week project-based learning experience grounded in this guiding question: How can we reduce racial inequity in schools? After reviewing various readings and videos related to the inherent assets Black and Brown students bring to schools coupled with reflections on the opportunity gaps faced in Chicagoland, candidates heard from three high school students attending South Loop’s Chicago Freedom School on challenging racism in schools and creating inclusive spaces. Based on these responses, NCE candidates in small groups reflected on possible solutions, interventions, and disruptions specific manifestations of inequity in schools. These solutions were shared with nonprofit Umoja, experts in whole-school SEL capacity-building especially within CPS, who provided candidates with feedback on their ideas.

After the first three weeks of the course, candidates expressed overwhelming excitement at the possibilities associated with PBL and interest in continuing to explore topics related to race and schooling. After the three-week unit, students put together personal syllabi with tailored texts to continue growing in their varied understandings and interests regarding race, racism, and racial inequity. Guiding questions for these syllabi include:  How does white supremacy culture manifest in American institutions?; What can K-12 schools learn from HBCUs?; What is the history of Indigenous people in Illinois and how can I include this history in my teaching?; How can Black teachers remain true to themselves and preserve energy when teaching in predominantly white spaces?; What is the history of race, and why is it such a salient issue in our society? These syllabi will be annotated, presented,  and compiled for future groups to draw and learn from. 

A wonderful example of NCE’s constructivism (and community partnership) roots at work!


    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632
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    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

    620 Tollgate Road
    Elgin, IL 60123
    (888) 658.8632
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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

    5202 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (888) 658.8632
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    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532
    (888) 658.8632
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    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
    Wheeling, IL 60090
    (888) 658.8632
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    Established in 1988 and located in one of Tampa's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to its classrooms, the National Louis University Tampa Regional Center features a computer lab, student lounges, and conference room.

    5110 Sunforest Drive, Suite 102
    Tampa, FL 33634
    (800) 366.6581
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