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Introducing Simulations into Teacher Preparation Programs

Author: Michelle Patterson;

In a recent CIDDL  blog, “Integrate Scenario-Based Learning Into Teacher Preparation”, we discussed how teacher candidates developed responses to text- or video-based scenarios with an opportunity to reflect and receive feedback in a study. Simulations in teacher and therapist preparation embed those scenarios into mixed reality or virtual reality environments, allowing for greater teacher engagement. Similarly, in our recent Research to Practice Brief, Dr. Lisa Dieker shared the value of simulations for teacher candidates. Simulations are not intended to replace real classroom experiences, but to provide the practice and scaffolded support that teacher candidates need. In this blog, we continue our conversation around using simulations in teacher preparation.

A Bit of Background

The technical vocabulary around simulation technology should not be a barrier to incorporating simulation in your teacher/therapist preparation program.  Mixed-reality simulations include both human and virtual elements, with humans behind the scenes controlling the avatars. These simulations provide the most immersive engagement of different simulation types, and require more planning for scheduling and resources as they are usually done synchronously.  These might fit best into a regularly scheduled course period. Preparation programs may incorporate social learning theory by having small groups watch one candidate engage in the simulation. Online resources such as CREST and Mursion provide mixed-reality simulations. Virtual reality simulations do not have the human element and are preprogrammed so they can be done asynchronously on candidates’ own time. This may provide additional practice for teacher candidates beyond what is available only in the classroom. Resources such as SimSchool, Simucase, and Kognito provide virtual reality-based simulations.

Connect with Pedagogy

Simulations should connect to the goals of the teacher preparation program, from instructional practices for special education, classroom management, and other responsibilities. Teacher candidates can use simulation to build their skills in instructional practices, building from a single skill in isolation to a sequence of skills, such as facilitating a full lesson. Simulation provides candidates an opportunity to build classroom management skills, including how to respond to student behaviorand also how to recognize and respond to students who may be at risk in regards to mental health. Additionally, teacher candidates can strengthen their practices through simulations for educator responsibilities outside of the classroom, such as teacher-to-teacher collaboration and parent interactions, such as IEP meetings, parent conferences, and supporting families to access services. Those in preparation for therapy programs, such as Speech/Language, Occupational, or Physical Therapy, can practice skills from screening and assessment to intervention and reporting.

The learning does not end after the simulation stops. Teacher/therapist preparation programs must consider the simulation as part of a larger learning cycle. Candidates should receive coaching, either during or immediately after the experience. Additionally, candidates should reflect on their practice, noting what worked well, what to improve, and what they learned about themselves and their students.

Tell Us Your Thoughts!

As you consider the use of simulations in your teacher preparation programs, what other questions or thoughts do you have? Where are you in your use of scenarios and simulations? We would love to continue this conversation with you in our community. Come share with us!