1. Jamie Mikeska
  2. Associate Research Scientist
  3. Developing Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Ability to Facilitate Goal-Oriented Discussions in Science & Mathematics via the Use of Simulated Classroom Interactions
  4. Educational Testing Service
  1. Heather Howell
  2. Associate Research Scientist
  3. Developing Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Ability to Facilitate Goal-Oriented Discussions in Science & Mathematics via the Use of Simulated Classroom Interactions
  4. Educational Testing Service
  1. Carrie Straub
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/carriestraub/
  3. Executive Director
  4. Developing Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Ability to Facilitate Goal-Oriented Discussions in Science & Mathematics via the Use of Simulated Classroom Interactions
  5. Mursion
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Heather Howell

    Heather Howell

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2017 | 08:32 p.m.

    Welcome and thank you for taking a look at our video! Our project is in its first year and we are excited about getting some feedback that would be useful as we develop our performance tasks and begin to collaborate with teacher educators to integrate these performance tasks into science and mathematics elementary method courses. We are especially interested in your thinking about the following:

    1. What do you see as the potential for using simulated classroom environments to support pre-service elementary teachers in learning how to productively engage their students in content-focused discussions?
    2. What are some of the challenges that you envision in integrating these types of tools into teacher preparation?
    3. How might you apply some of what we are doing on this project to your own context or work?
  • Icon for: Kathy Kennedy

    Kathy Kennedy

    PISA2 Program Manager
    May 15, 2017 | 07:48 a.m.

    Heather,

    What an interesting project!  I think the simulated classroom could support deeper "reflection on action" discussions within groups and create more opportunities to examine class dynamics.

    I also see the potential for not only novice pre-service teachers but also potential for supporting classroom teachers who are transitioning to the NGSS and working to create student driven classrooms focused on argumentation from evidence. Many teachers need support in this area.

    How do you support the post simulation discussions in the methods class? Do all of the teachers go through the same simulation, and how much variation is possible within student responses? 

    Thanks,

    Kathy Kennedy

  • Icon for: Heather Howell

    Heather Howell

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 02:00 p.m.

    Thanks for your comment! At the moment the post-simulation discussion is in the hands of our collaborating teacher educators, and we are interested in learning what they do with it. Our hunch is that there is enough contextual variation that what is appropriate to do will vary pretty widely, and that observing that variation may help us figure out what supports are needed.

    Your question about the sameness is a great one - they do go through the 'same' simulation in that the initial task set up is the same, and the interactors on the back end are really well-trained in how to respond in ways that are reasonably consistent, so if two preservice teachers use really similar moves their experiences should be more similar.  But its not scripted, and the minute the preservice teacher says anything it becomes a (somewhat) unique experience. Our hope is that there's enough similarity across experiences to support a kind of in-class discussion that isn't available in the real world -- our students (preservice teachers) have never taught the same lesson to the same five kids. But their exact experience varies depending on what they do and say. 

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 15, 2017 | 08:20 a.m.

    An interesting idea.  In the video, I see the avatars ranged as though focused towards the teacher, and I understand that the student teacher is to practice leading a discussion.  Do you plan also to develop scenarios in which the students are talking with each other, and the student-teacher has to make sense of what's going on?

     

  • Icon for: Carrie Straub

    Carrie Straub

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 10:45 a.m.

    Great question!  Yes, one of the main areas of the project is to improve candidates' ability to coordinate discussions, and the virtual environment has the capability to do so.  The avatars can turn and speak to each other, engage in activities like "Think-Pair-Share", and can hold discussions separate of the teacher candidate in which the candidate can intervene.  

  • Icon for: Heather Howell

    Heather Howell

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 03:16 p.m.

    Its an interesting idea. I know Nicole Kersting does some work having people make sense of teaching videos. You could imagine ways in which this could be a convenient way to generate examples of things like students talking to one another, with the ability to limit complexity and generate exactly the example you want. Of course you wonder then if people will perceive it as manufactured and react differently. One thing I'm curious about is whether interacting with the students directly might prime someone's thinking in ways that would let them see those examples of the same students interacting as authentic. 

  • Small default profile

    Meg Bates

    Researcher
    May 15, 2017 | 11:30 a.m.

    Very interesting project. I have two questions:

    • How do you see a simulated classroom as different or better than "microteaching" experiences where preservice teachers practice teaching a lesson in front of their fellow preservice teachers (who are often told to behave/respond in certain prescribed "simulated student" ways)?
    • How do you design the simulation to respond to the different teachers and the many possible ways they might organize/lead the discussion?

     

  • Icon for: Carrie Straub

    Carrie Straub

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 10:53 a.m.

    Meg,

    I am happy to respond to your first question!  The simulated classroom allows for teacher educators to more tightly control and standardize the microteaching experience.  One of the challenges of microteaching (also known as role-play) is the authenticity of having your peers act as students you are teaching.  They may not authentically portray a student conception related to content or may inappropriately "dial up" behavior, switching the instructional focus from content to classroom management.  In science and mathematics, candidates are still learning student conceptions related to content, so having them authentically portray a student thinking profile is challenging.  The virtual environment allows a performance profile to be consistently delivered.  Please let us know if you have any other questions about this very interesting work!

  • Icon for: Heather Howell

    Heather Howell

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 01:21 p.m.

    I'll try to jump in on the second question but I'll admit it may be an unsatisfying answer -- the truth is we do our best to anticipate everything knowing that we can't but that we can anticipate a lot and being prepared to deal with those cases will reduce the interactor's cognitive load in responding to things that we really didn't expect. How do we do that? First we constrain things as much as we can without going nuts, by providing student work that has already happened, for example, so that its more likely the preservice teacher will respond to that work than taking a total tangent. And we communicate directly in the task materials about things they don't need to do so that they won't be distracted. And we try our best to anticipate the common approaches and prepare for them. And we do small-scale tryouts to see if those anticipations are right and to gather more ideas. And the interactors are really skilled and highly trained in staying with their student profiles, so even if the teacher does something unexpected the interactor can respond in ways that are plausible to that student's personality and thinking. 

  • Icon for: Jamie Mikeska

    Jamie Mikeska

    Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 07:56 a.m.

    Thanks for your questions Brian. All of the scenarios that we are developing are designed to provide opportunities for the teachers to facilitate student-to-student interaction during the discussion -- that is actually a key part of what we hope to see in these discussions and what we plan to measure with our scoring rubric. Although the student avatars are facing forward in the image shown, all of the student avatars are able to physically turn towards one another so they can direct their comments to each other during the discussion. In fact, they can even break up into smaller groups to talk in more depth (e.g., like a think-pair-share). In the scenarios that we are developing, we also create profiles for each of these students that provides the teacher candidate with some information about how each student avatar thinks about the particular content and how they are likely to interact with one another around different ideas. We provide this information to the teacher candidate before they facilitate the actual discussion so that they can take into account students' ideas during their planning; the hope is that this background information also provides a rich content for the students and teacher to engage in sense-making together during the actual discussion.

  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 10:36 p.m.

    Wow...this is an interesting project. I "get" the notion of a "flight simulator" for pre-service teachers to help them hone their craft before they could "crash" the plane when attempting to land on the runway for the first time in real time. To your questions, at NSTA we work with about 100 universities with science methods professors via the NSTA Learning Center. There may be potential there for a discussion (at the risk of sounding too commercial-apologies--just to answer your question). I suspect you all attend and will present at ASTE, may be another venue to gather feedback for your queries.

     

    Is it possible to provide a URL that might present some "canned video" of the simulation in action seeing/hearing/reading the pre-service teacher responses as they engage in the simulation experience?

     

    I think there is potential here, and think there is a similar/rich body of literature to draw from the Association of Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT). See: http://aect.site-ym.com/ They have handbooks that provide rich chapters about the power of simulations, the learning impact of realism (too little/too much), avoiding cognitive load in multimedia design, etc. I think you have something here, to the degree that the end-user as you state perceives the authenticity of the interactions (avoiding canned responses). I remember similar research comparing undergraduates perceptions of virtual labs as compared to remote labs, and some notion of the "simulations" not providing serendipitous moments that occur in actual "physical" environments.

     

    To that point, how might you compare the pros/cons to watching different classroom videos with paused keyframes, where pre-service teachers might interject, then see how the teacher "in-situ" in the video handled a response or how the class reacted next?

     

    Please do not mistake the nature of the question to detract from my enthusiasm for the potential of this platform. If this is developed as robust immersive environment (3D rendered gaming engine) like Halo, allowing a rich, high fidelity experience with variable pathways and autonomous and complex interactions--this may indeed be "the killer app" for teacher-student practice facilitating discourse...

  • Icon for: Jamie Mikeska

    Jamie Mikeska

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 10:58 p.m.

    Albert -- thanks for your questions, suggestions, and insights about our work. The NSTA Learning Center and ASTE presentations are both great ideas for follow up discussions about both the potential of and the challenges associated with using simulations in teacher preparation settings. I have presented at the ASTE conference a number of times and hope to be able to share some of this new work at one of their upcoming conferences.

    Since we're still in the first year of the project, we are currently finishing up the development of the simulated classroom environment and student avatars -- they will be live starting next month and we plan to have a video to share so others can 'meet the students.' We'll also be piloting our first two performance tasks in June and will likely have some video examples to share later this year to show the simulation in action.

    I agree that there are many different ways that these types of interactive simulations can be used to engage teachers in learning, and it's critical to compare some of these different approaches to learn about the affordances and limitations of them. We imagine that the teacher educators we work with on this project may engage in some of what you mention above, and we have the ability to build in some of those learning opportunities for the teachers -- although, as you note, it is not possible to fully replicate everything that may occur in a "physical" classroom. The question about how immmersive the simulated environment needs to be in order to provide a rich learning environment for teachers learning to teach is a good one, and one that we hope to be able to say more about in the next three years based on what we learn in this research project.

     
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    Albert Byers
  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 11:17 p.m.

    Agreed Jamie...thanks for the response! It may be a matter of fidelity/dosage...I look forward to what you all learn. If you want to reach out for a follow-up, please contact Flavio Mendez @ NSTA, who manages the Learning Center (fmendez@nsta.org/703-312-9250). Onward and upward!

  • Icon for: Lynn Goldsmith

    Lynn Goldsmith

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 06:33 p.m.

    It's exciting to jump into a robust and enthusiastic conversation. I have one question that's a point of clarification: did I understand correctly that the "students" the teacher candidate is interacting with are represented as avatars, but the interactions themselves are with trained teacher educators who are taking on the roles of students with different "degrees" of  mathematical understanding--and perhaps other characteristics as well (e.g., eagerness/confidence  to share ideas, clarity of explanation).  If I've got this wrong, could you describe a little more about what the actual experience of participating in a simulation is like (from the perspective of the teacher candidate and the teacher educator)?

    Thanks!

  • Icon for: Jamie Mikeska

    Jamie Mikeska

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 07:49 a.m.

    Thanks so much Lynn for your questions. Yes, the teacher candidates will be interacting with the five student avatars that you see in the picture above. There is a person behind the scenes -- called an interactor or simulation specialist -- who is trained to act and respond during the simulation as all five student avatars. The teacher candidate does not see this person behind the scenes; they only see and interact with the student avatars. The student avatars are designed to look, sound, and respond as upper elementary students and are displayed on a large TV screen during the interaction. Mursion, our research collaborators, have trained a cadre of experienced simulation specialists in how to use the technology to engage in the interaction (acting as the five student avatars) with the teacher candidates. In addition, we do a lot of work beforehand to train the simulation specialists in our particular performance tasks so that they understand the math or science content that is the focus of each task as well as the ways in which students at these grade levels would think about the content and engage in the particular discussion. In our study, the teacher educators will be using the video recorded performances from the teacher candidates' simulations to inform their own instruction in the elementary methods course. During the methods course, the teacher candidates will have multiple opportunities to lead discussions in the simulated classroom and then reflect on and debrief their performances back in their methods course. We imagine that teacher educators will make use of this data in varied ways, and might want to engage in modeling this teaching practice in the simulated environment during the methods course. This last part is a key focus of our study -- learning from and with teacher educators about the varied uses of these tools to promote teachers' ability to facilitate these types of discussions and the challenges that they encounter when doing so.

  • Icon for: Anne Gold

    Anne Gold

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 10:37 p.m.

    What an interesting project and a great opportunity for pre-service teachers to train the classroom interactions virtually. How are you assessing the impact of the model? Do you have teachers run through multiple iterations of interactions and score them on a rubric? Do you use self-report/reflection data from the teachers? 

    Since the Avatar environment is new to me - how do you train the Avatars to respond age appropriately? 

     

  • Icon for: Heather Howell

    Heather Howell

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 01:30 p.m.

    We do plan to have the preservice teachers enter the simulator multiple times (with different tasks) over the course of a semester, and will also have a pre/post simulation so that we can track overall change and growth across time points. We are also planning to do just the pre/post in a control section of the course that runs the year before, to establish a sense of how much they might improve just by virtue of it being a second try or by being enrolled in a program of study in which they are learning. The performance will be rubric scored; in fact our first set of tryouts is coming up in which we will learn how well our draft rubric is working! And we are also collecting brief self-report from the teachers with respect to how they think they did, what they feel they learned, and how authentic it seemed. 

    I'll let Carrie weigh in on the second question as that's a strength the interactors bring to the table:)

  • Icon for: Carrie Straub

    Carrie Straub

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 12:50 p.m.

    Thanks, Heather!  Great question, Anne.  Simulation specialists are professionals trained in improvisation and interactive performance - they come to us with these skill sets, so that they can authentically portray characters (it's a real talent!) and then we train them on performance profiles of children.  We start with personality types and vocal qualities, then layer on back histories.  The back histories come from interviews with real children and research online into children hobbies and trends.  We update the children's profile regularly with new information. Finally, we work with content experts like Heather and Jamie to develop the children's mental models related to the content.  

  • Icon for: Deborah Hanuscin

    Deborah Hanuscin

    Professor
    May 18, 2017 | 09:44 a.m.

    What a unique tool-- I'm excited to see this in action!

     
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    John Ward
  • Icon for: Jamie Mikeska

    Jamie Mikeska

    Presenter
    May 22, 2017 | 05:53 p.m.

    Thanks for taking a look at our video -- we are excited too to see the ways in which elementary teacher educators use this tool to help preservice teachers learn how to facilitate these types of discussions.

  • Small default profile

    Christine Reyes-Swank

    May 19, 2017 | 08:59 a.m.

    Pretty excited about this. My teacher preparation program gave me lots of opportunities to interact with students via small group lessons and discussions with students who attended programs held on campus on weekends. I usually did not get feedback on those interactions, however, and they were not controlled such that specific skills were being practiced or evaluated. I see a real need for this.

  • Icon for: Carrie Straub

    Carrie Straub

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 12:52 p.m.

    Glad to hear this, Christine.  We think repeated practice in a safe environment is very important with the idea; it is  much better to learn from mistakes with avatars rather than real children.

  • Small default profile

    Ravi Ramaswamy

    May 20, 2017 | 11:25 a.m.

    Carrie good going...

  • Icon for: Carrie Straub

    Carrie Straub

    Co-Presenter
    May 20, 2017 | 12:17 p.m.

    Hey, Ravi!  We are having all of the fun over here with our new avatars!  Very exciting work that Jamie and Heather are doing, and we are so excited to continue our partnership with ETS.  I hope you are well, Carrie

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.