A new piece from the Brown Center Chalkboard reviews innovations in teacher preparation taking place at the University of Virginia that make the most of classroom simulators. Excerpts appear below:
In teacher preparation, simulated practice is designed to complement—not to replace—student-placement experiences. However, it also has the potential to powerfully address “experience gaps” that we know exist and improve upon typical pre-service experiences in multiple ways. First, the technology ensures that all novice teachers have chances to practice instructional skills that are essential, but challenging, in classroom settings. Second, the platform provides opportunities for novice teachers to “do over” teaching tasks until they have mastered the technique. Third, simulations provide a chance for novice teachers to try new teaching methods without risk of harming live children or their caregivers. Fourth, the technology allows novice teachers the chance to practice teaching skills remotely—often from their own living rooms and at times that are convenient to them. Finally, by moving practice into coursework, teacher educators can observe novice teachers while providing extensive and customized feedback that was previously impossible.
Studies at the University of Virginia show that offering simulated practice opportunities paired with coaching most consistently improves novice teachers’ instructional skills. We see enormous benefits from coaching, even when teachers have no prior relationship with the coach supporting them over Zoom. In some cases, repeated practice without coaching was related to negative outcomes for novice teachers’ development.