AN INNOVATIVE SIMULATED ENVIRONMENT FOR ENHANCING THE USE OF EVIDENCE-BASED STRATEGIES IN TEACHER EDUCATION
Old Dominion University (UNITED STATES)
While technology for training in the simulation field has had a long history in medicine and the military, the application of emerging and innovative technologies in teacher preparation and education has been limited. TLE TeachLive™ (Teaching Learning Environment, Teaching in a Virtual Environment) is an innovative mixed-reality environment (the blending of real and synthetic content) where prospective teachers can interact with a group of virtual students. In the mixed-reality environment, novice teachers enter a virtual setting designed to replicate a middle-school classroom to work with classroom students who are virtual avatars. The attributes of these five adolescents are based on the adolescent development research of William A. Long (1985; 1989) and Rudolf Dreikurs (1958; 1968). As a result, a classroom can be populated by a group of virtual students that respond in a variety of ways that typify the attributes and behaviors unique to the middle school-age student population. Using the attributes of adolescents together with the research on facial expressions, body language, motion capture, and artificial intelligence, the developers of TLE TeachLive™ were able to create immersive virtual reality environments that can be used to support the development of beginning teachers.
The purpose of the simulated teaching environment of TLE TeachLive™ is to enhance teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention in education by allowing teachers to improve their skills with virtual students, providing a more ethical approach to learning the art of teaching. This paper provides the results of a study of pre-service teachers’ implementation of differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI) in a simulated classroom. The research design for this study was a multi-element brief experimental design with six pre-service participants and four student avatar participants. The three research study phases include baseline, intervention, and follow-up. Results indicated that the majority of participants evidenced an increase in the use of these strategies to enhance student engagement in a simulated environment. The simulated environment focuses on pre-service teachers clearly understanding behavior, diversity, and effective instruction, while providing a safety net under the novice teacher and protecting actual children from potential harm resulting from improper strategy use in a real classroom setting. Simulated teaching environments have the potential to create more and better experiential practica for pre-service teachers. In such settings, pre-service teachers may be able to practice teaching techniques like DRI without unintended negative impact on students. The responsive reactions and performance of the virtual students provide important information about pre-service teachers’ efforts that cannot be gained in teacher preparation classes. Teaching simulators do provide a responsive practice environment that results in immediate feedback from the virtual students. Finally, because the environment is simulated, each session in the simulator represents a fresh chance for pre-service teachers to re-try strategies and interventions for which they have received corrective feedback. In this sense, as the technology behind teaching simulators continue to improve their realism, teacher preparation programs should also maintain their efforts to provide additional, realistic practice environments for their pre-service teachers.