An interdisciplinary team of researchers from ’s College of Education and College of Engineering and Technology were funded in 2017 by a three-year, $599,939 grant through the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program (Grant #). This project focuses on the development of discourse on math and science topics between teacher candidates and students using an immersive classroom simulator to practice math and science methods with student avatars. This project follows cohorts of students through a mathematics methods course or a science course, and into their internship in schools. The goal of the project is to determine if the integration of interactive classroom simulation activities (ICSAs) in math and science education courses improves teacher candidates ability to communicate and to facilitate discussion on math and science topics. Pre-service teacher candidates exposed to the immersive classroom simulator are compared to a control group of pre-service teachers who practice math or science methods through peer roleplaying.
The immersive classroom simulator used in this project features a diverse group of five student avatars who have distinct personalities and aptitudes. Teacher candidates have multiple opportunities in their math methods course or a science course to lead a short lesson and subsequent discussion with students in the immersive classroom simulator. In addition to leading lessons, students also have multiple opportunities to observe other pre-service teacher’s lesson delivery in the simulator. Each session is recorded allowing students to critique their own interaction with students and to learn from their successes and failures. Each session is immediately debriefed by the student’s professor with both positive and negative feedback provided.
The immersive classroom simulator is designed to provide opportunities for rehearsal that will improve teacher-facilitated discussions on various topics fundamental to engineering practice including the engineering design process, experimental design, arithmetic, data analysis, and hypothesis testing. This study is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of immersive classroom simulators in the preparation of STEM educators. This study also addresses issues of diversity in STEM education by examining the types of interaction pre-service teachers have with each of the students in the classroom to determine if the interactions are equitable or if certain students are addressed differently based upon disability status, gender, or race.
Videos of each session have been recorded, transcribed, and coded. Preliminary analysis of data collected during the first year of the project are presented including documentation of teacher moves and evaluation of the level of discourse elicited by pre-service teachers through their lesson delivery.
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