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Teacher Moments: A Digital Simulation for Preservice Teachers to Approximate Parent–Teacher Conversations

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Interactive simulations allow preservice teachers to connect education theory and pedagogy in scaffolded environments. We created digital simulations with scenarios from in-person simulations and used them to prepare novice teachers for conversations with parents. Using a design-based approach we implemented the simulations in an education class, gathered data through surveys and observations, and incorporated feedback into subsequent designs. Novice teachers perceived the simulation as authentic and practiced maintaining composure and articulating pedagogical approaches. Recordings of novice teachers’ responses produced by the simulation enabled self-reflection and peer and instructor feedback. Results suggest that these digital simulations hold promise as low-cost, flexible tools for novice teachers to engage in targeted practice in a low-stakes setting.
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Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education
ISSN: 2153-2974 (Print) 2332-7383 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ujdl20
Teacher Moments: A Digital Simulation
for Preservice Teachers to Approximate
Parent–Teacher Conversations
Meredith Thompson, Kesiena Owho-Ovuakporie, Kevin Robinson, Yoon Jeon
Kim, Rachel Slama & Justin Reich
To cite this article: Meredith Thompson, Kesiena Owho-Ovuakporie, Kevin Robinson, Yoon Jeon
Kim, Rachel Slama & Justin Reich (2019) Teacher Moments: A Digital Simulation for Preservice
Teachers to Approximate Parent–Teacher Conversations, Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher
Education, 35:3, 144-164, DOI: 10.1080/21532974.2019.1587727
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/21532974.2019.1587727
Published online: 14 May 2019.
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Teacher Moments: A Digital Simulation for Preservice
Teachers to Approximate ParentTeacher Conversations
Meredith Thompson, Kesiena Owho-Ovuakporie, Kevin Robinson,
Yoon Jeon Kim, Rachel Slama & Justin Reich
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract
Interactive simulations allow preservice teachers to connect education theory and pedagogy
in scaffolded environments. We created digital simulations with scenarios from in-person
simulations and used them to prepare novice teachers for conversations with parents. Using
a design-based approach we implemented the simulations in an education class, gathered
data through surveys and observations, and incorporated feedback into subsequent designs.
Novice teachers perceived the simulation as authentic and practiced maintaining composure
and articulating pedagogical approaches. Recordings of novice teachersresponses produced
by the simulation enabled self-reflection and peer and instructor feedback. Results suggest
that these digital simulations hold promise as low-cost, flexible tools for novice teachers to
engage in targeted practice in a low-stakes setting. (Keywords: digital simulation,
approximation, practice-based teacher education, parent-teacher conversations,
teacher education)
Novice teachers require ample practice to develop the requisite skills and professional
judgment to support effective teaching (Ball & Forzani, 2009), but prior work sug-
gests that novice teachers have insufficient opportunities to practice critical compe-
tencies in low-stakes settings (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009; Grossman &
McDonald, 2008; Levine, 2009). As teacher education incorporates more online learning
into teacher certification programs, digital simulations hold promise for increasing opportu-
nities to approximate professional practice. The growth in online learning for teachers
occurs in parallel with a move toward practice-based teacher education (e.g., Grossman
et al., 2009), which tasks teacher educators with designing curricula centered on pedagogies
of enactment (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Ball & Forzani, 2009). Under this model, teaching is dis-
tilled into essential elements through decomposition, allowing novice teachers to learn and
practice those elements through approximation (Grossman et al., 2009).
The movement for practice-based teacher education has advanced in parallel with efforts
by teacher education researchers to explore the affordances of digital simulations for teacher
education. Technology-based simulations such as SimSchool, Quest2Teach, and TeachLivE
introduce preservice and in-service teachers to the complexity of the classroom by engaging
with students, parents, and colleagues within a virtual environment. Digital teacher educa-
tion simulations offer a variety of different approaches to approximation, with features that
include data recording and analysis, asynchronous use, and repeated opportunities for indi-
vidual practice. These simulations, like many existing approaches to approximation, attempt
in various ways to replicate the full complexity of teaching. We argue that simulations can
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DOI: 10.1080/21532974.2019.1587727
also play a powerful role in helping teachers practice more discrete skills and develop judg-
ment that can be later integrated into the complex assemblage of teaching.
In this study, we create digital simulations using new software called Teacher Moments.
Teacher Moments is a mobile Web application that immerses students into vignettes and
calls on them to respond improvisationally to challenging moments in teaching. We created
digital versions of a pair of clinical simulations developed by Benjamin Dotger (Dotger,
Dotger, & Maher 2010). These scenarios provide novice teachers with opportunities to
practice challenging interactions with parents: challenges that are common during the
induction years but may not be encountered during preservice field placements. We demon-
strate that education students using Teacher Moments have learning experiences analogous
to those of preservice teachers who participate in live, role-played, clinical simulations using
trained actors.
Background and context
Developing novice teachersskills and professional judgement through
approximations of practice
Our investigation into simulations is motivated by the increasing demands for a shift in the
curriculum and pedagogies of teacher education from a predominant focus on theory and
knowledge toward a focus on a practice-based curriculum (Darling-Hammond & Sykes,
1999; Forzani, 2014; Loewenberg, Ball, & Forzani, 2009; McDonald, Kazemi, &
Kavanagh, 2013; Zeichner, 2010,2012). Through pedagogies of enactment, preservice
teachers learn to develop teaching skills and professional judgment through iterative cycles
of learning, rehearsing with peers, enacting them with students, and analyzing and reflecting
on their performance (Grossman et al., 2009; McDonald et al., 2013). Calls for preparation
through practice are also reflected in the structure of current teacher residency programs
embedded within school settings (Berry et al., 2008; Guha, Hyler, & Darling-Hammond,
2017; Lampert et al., 2013).
Grossman et al. (2009) suggest that novice teachers can develop their skills and facilitate
transfer of those skills into their practice through approximations of practice.
Approximations of practice are a set of experiences that purposefully focus on specific aspects
of teaching with varying levels of complexity. Limiting the scope of the experience allows
education students to develop teaching skills and to try piloting the waters under easier con-
ditions(Grossman et al., 2009, p. 2076). Approximations have a range of authenticity based
on how closely the activity approximates actual practice. Engaging in a live role playis
rated relatively low on the spectrum of authenticity. By contrast, a feature of the most
authentic representation of practice is that it is closer to real time with no stops and starts
(Grossman et al., 2009, p. 2079). Another feature of approximations of practice in the
Grossman et al. (2009) framework is that the professional educator can help unpack the
experience with the group of students, providing support and feedback while novices learn
to paddle [that] may better equip them to navigate the rapids of real practice(p. 2077).
A critical open question in research related to teaching approximation involves the
appropriate granularity and complexity of teaching approximations. Teaching is a cogni-
tively complex activity, requiring simultaneous attention to substantive content, teaching
methods, timing, student behavior and affect, and other factors that influence student learn-
ing (Lampert et al., 2013). Research on complex learning suggests that breaking complex
tasks into discrete pieces can help learners develop fluency in discrete tasks than can be
integrated into the broader whole (Van Merri
enboer & Kirschner, 2017). However,
Grossman et al. (2009) cautions that in educational contexts, trying to develop teaching
skills in isolation can lead to problems of ecological validity: Approximations of discrete
practices in isolation can feel inauthentic. Thus, we examine the degree to which Teacher
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Moments is perceived as authentic as one indicator that a digital simulation can be an
effective approximation of practice.
Clinical versus digital simulations in teacher education
Digital simulations are well established as tools for facilitating teaching, learning, and
assessment in fields ranging from medicine, to aviation, the military, and teacher education
(Barrows, 1993; Cook et al., 2011; Fletcher, 2009; Kaufman & Ireland, 2016; Page, 2000).
Effective simulations actively engage learners in a controlled, safe environment (Egbert,
Thomas, & Fischler, 2000; Gibson, 2013), allow for repetitive practice, and provide an arti-
fact that enables reflection and feedback (Dieker, Hughes, Hynes & Straub, 2017;
Gegenfurtner, Quesada-Pallar
es, & Knogler, 2014; Issenberg, McGaghie, Petrusa, Lee
Gordon, & Scalese, 2005; Issenberg et al., 2005). Medical schools have a long history of
using clinical simulations to help their students prepare for interacting with patients
and their families (Barrows, 1993; Cook et al., 2011; Issenberg et al., 2005). In recent
years, teacher educators have started exploring simulations as a means of facilitating
practice-based pedagogy, augmenting field placements, and enhancing aspects of teacher
education (Dotger et al., 2010; Dottin, 2009; Kaufman & Ireland, 2016; Lehman &
Richardson, 2017; Mursion, 2017).
Benjamin Dotger has conducted extensive work developing and researching simulations
in teacher preparation (Dotger, 2013; Dotger, Masingila, Bearkland, & Dotger, 2015). In
these clinical simulations, a live actor plays the role of a standardizedindividual (e.g., a
parent or student) using a script with specific verbal triggersthat guide the conversation
and postsimulation debriefs, ensuring that all students have a similar experience (Dotger,
2013,2015). These verbal triggers are sensitive words or phrases designed to evoke cognitive
dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when an individual encounters attitudes, beliefs, or
behaviors that conflict with their own. The resulting discomfort leads to an alteration in
one or more of the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore bal-
ance (McLeod, 2008). Teachers are more susceptible to experiencing cognitive dissonance in
the early stages of their career (Cook, 2009), thus incorporating interactive simulations in
teacher education preparation programs enables novice teachers to practice strategies for
responding to these situations (Dotger, 2013, pp. 1011).
Clinical simulations help stimulate preservice teachersself-assessment of their instruc-
tional approach, and enable preservice teachers to examine responses to uncomfortable
interactions with students, parents or colleagues (Dotger, 2011, 2012; Dotger et al., 2015;
Self, 2016). The standardized nature of these simulations helps teacher educators facilitate
discussion among the students around the problem of practice (Dotger, 2013) and enables
them to gain valuable data about the content knowledge, instructional abilities, and practi-
ces of their preservice teachers. Dotger (2013) has identified parentteacher communication
as a particularly productive area for exploring the affordances of clinical simulations.
Preservice teachers often have limited opportunities for practicing for parent conversations
(Epstein & Sanders, 2006), and parentteacher communications can be extremely fraught
for novice teachers (Lawrence-Lightfoot, 2004). This study explored whether preservice
teachers who participate in digital simulation had learning experiences analogous to those
of participants in a live, role-played, clinical simulations using trained actors.
Complex simulations in teacher education. Technology-based simulations such as
SimSchool, Quest2Teach, and TeachLivE introduce preservice and in-service teachers to
the complexity of the classroom by engaging with students, parents, and colleagues within a
virtual environment. SimSchool is a learning environment in which teachers assemble
classes of students, practice teaching, and collect and analyze data on teaching activities
and student response based on performance statistics (Christensen, Knezek, Tyler-Wood, &
M. Thompson et al.
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Gibson, 2011; Deale & Pastore, 2014). Preservice teachers who engaged in SimSchool
improved their performance in one on one interactions with students as measured by the
simulation, but did not improve in more complex group and full-class interactions (Badiee
& Kaufman, 2015). In the game-based Quest2Teach simulation, preservice teachers create
avatars and play focused games to develop specific skills or games with a broader focus to
gain experience integrating skills within classrooms. Playing the game allowed preservice
teachers to make and see the outcomes of their decisions and gain an improved understand-
ing of the competencies needed in teaching (Arici, Barab, & Borden, 2016). In TeachLivE
simulations, teacher candidates interact in real time with on-screen avatars controlled by a
remote inter-actor,and they work through specific situational challenges much like in a
clinical simulation (Hayes, Straub, Dieker, Hughes, & Hynes, 2013; Straub, Dieker, Hynes,
& Hughes, 2014). Participating in TeachLivE simulations increased preservice teachersuse
of high-leverage teaching practices and higher order questioning strategies in their class-
rooms (Dieker et al., 2017). Single-user simulations provide pre-programmed responses to
complex threads of interactions between the pre-service teacher and the simulated student
(Bradley & Kendall, 2014, p. 7). Examples such as SimSchool (Gibson, Christensen, Tyler-
Wood, & Knezek, 2011) and Classroom SIM: Discipline Strategies (Aha! Process Inc.,
2012) are similarly complex; novice teachers make classroom decisions, modify rules, and
interact with parents and colleagues. This study attempts to address some of the factors
that impede the dissemination of clinical simulations and complex simulations as peda-
gogical tools for teacher education: the required time commitment, associated costs, and
educatorsreluctance to changing their teaching approach (Grossman et al., 2009;
Kaufman & Ireland, 2016).
Testing a digital simulation as a targeted approximation of practice. Digital simulations
for teacher education have often tried to simultaneously replicate many dimensions of the
full complexity of teaching. In this study, we hypothesize that simulations that attempt to
replicate the complex assemblage of teaching can be productively complemented by simula-
tions that target more discrete skills.
Drawing from the extensive work in developing scenarios for in-person clinical simula-
tions, we created digital simulations of two parentteacher scenarios. The scenarios are
developed to uncover situations that may be unsettling to new teachers and to highlight
attitudes toward education that parents may hold that can be in conflict with a teachers
beliefs. As we developed these scenarios, we attempted to keep hardware, software, and
logistical demands to a minimum by both limiting the complexity of the scenario and
replacing trained actors with standardized text and video.
Research questions
Our research explores the effectiveness of a digital simulation in helping education students
approximate the activity of a parentteacher conference. To be successful as an authentic
simulation, students have to believe the scenario and respond to the interaction as if it were
an actual conversation between a teacher and a parent. Thus, we explored whether these
digital simulations were perceived as authentic in that they could evoke cognitive disson-
ance. We also explored whether the digital simulation allowed students to practice the two
learning goals of these scenarios: maintaining calmness in frustrating circumstances, and
articulating teaching policies and philosophies. We address the following two questions:
1. To what extent is the digital simulation of a parent teacher conversation perceived as
authentic by the user, as evidenced by its ability to create cognitive dissonance?
2. How does a digital simulation help novice teachers meet the learning goals of main-
taining composure and articulating their teaching, assessment, and classroom
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management philosophies when confronted with a challenging parentteacher
conversation?
We integrated these digital simulations into an Introduction to Education course for
undergraduates at an R1 technical institute. In the next section, we describe our implemen-
tation, data collection, and analysis procedures.
Methods
Context and participants
Undergraduate education students enrolled in an Introduction to Education course engaged
with simulations in Teacher Moments three times over the course of the semester. All of
the education students completed Teacher Moments simulations as homework assignments.
Students were asked for their consent to participate at the beginning of the semester, and
had the option to exclude their responses from the analysis for the study.
All 24 undergraduate students who were registered in the course in the spring of 2017
were invited to participate in the study; 22 students (17 female, 5 male) gave consent for
their information to be included in the study. The class was racially diverse, including
African American, Asian, White, and Hispanic students. The cell sizes were small when dis-
aggregated by race/ethnicity; thus, we do not report those data here. The education students
had already started their classroom observations before doing the simulations; however,
none of the students had taken part in parentteacher meetings.
Integration of digital simulations into an education course
Teacher Moments simulations were integrated into week 2, week 8, and week 11 of a 14-
week course. The first occasion was an introduction to the simulation process and expecta-
tions for the assignment; therefore, this study examines the data and outcomes results of
the second and third class occasions. The second occasion was part of a series of classes on
Universal Design for Learning (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014) and Understanding By
Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). The third occasion was part of a series of classes on
innovative pedagogy and student assessment, such as inquiry-based and project-based
learning and portfolio-based assessment (Krajcik & Blumenfeld, 2005; Pedaste et al., 2015).
We gathered both qualitative and quantitative data during these cycles of creating, testing,
and revising simulations, making the study a mixed-methods study (Creswell & Creswell,
2017) with a design-based research approach (Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, 2004).
Scenario integration
We created digital simulations from two scenarios, which we refer to as the
DansonAutism scenario and the TurnerRigor scenario. In the DansonAutism scenario,
Lori Danson requests a meeting to discuss concerns for her son Brian, who is autistic. Ms.
Danson asks the teacher about the teachers knowledge of autism, and asks about specific
accommodations for Brian. This simulation examines how novice teachers respond when
asked about a disability by a knowledgeable parent, and is an entrypoint for a broader dis-
cussion about students with disabilities, learning about student services, and addressing
behavior issues for all students.
In the TurnerRigor scenario, Jennifer Turner is a disgruntled parent who calls a meet-
ing with the teacher to discuss her daughter Ambers low grades in the teachers class. She
is concerned that the amount of school work Amber is asked to do has affected her daugh-
ters budding modeling career. Mrs. Turner questions the teachers high expectations and
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constructivist-based teaching. She suggests that Amber is doing well in all of her other
classes, and asks the teacher to give Amber a passing grade. Mrs. Turner is condescending
to the teacher throughout the conversation, and concludes the discussion by announcing
that she plans to meet with the school principal.
Survey development
We gathered data through presimulation, postsimulation, and postclass discussion surveys.
The pre- and postsimulation questions were programmed into the simulation website, and
the postclass discussion survey was distributed through Google Forms. The presimulation
survey asked respondents to forecast how the conversation might unfold based on the lim-
ited information provided in a scenario summary. The postsimulation survey asked students
to evaluate their own responses to the scenarios immediately after the simulation. We pilot
tested the digital simulation and each of these questionnaires with students and educators
three times before we began this study.
Simulation process and protocol
The education students in this study used Teacher Moments to respond to a text-based or
video-based simulation experience, rather than interacting with a live actor. The group dis-
cussion questions, presimulation questions, postsimulation questions, and other written
materials used in the study were derived from the simulations described in Dotger (2013).
The flow and details of our protocol are illustrated in Figure 1.
Read background context (1): The education students begin by reading a five-paragraph
background context about the simulation.
Presimulation teacher reflection questions (2): The education students spend a few
minutes noting their expectations and concerns for the parent conference.
Teacher Moments simulation (3): The education students begin the simulations. The
DansonAutism simulation consists of a welcome page and six text-based interchanges with
Ms. Danson (the standardized parent), each requiring an audio response from the teacher.
Figure 1. Teacher Moments process and data collection protocol.
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Students read the text interchange and audio record their responses by clicking on a button
labeled respondwhen they are prepared to respond (Figures 2a and 2b). After completing
six responses, participants view a summary page with all of the text scenarios and their
responses. In the TurnerRigor simulation, we tested two additional featuresvideo instead
of text and the use of an audio recorder that begins recording upon the conclusion of the
video. These two features were added in order to increase the authenticity of the scenarios
and enhance the experience of cognitive dissonance. In this scenario, there are six recorded
video comments from Mrs. Turner (Figures 3a and 3b). Following each recorded comment,
the video player displays a still image of the parent. The audio recorder immediately begins
recording the participants response and ends when the participant clicks the button
labeled done.
In both text- and video-based scenarios, the education students save their audio
responses so they can review them afterward and share them with the class.
Postsimulation reflection questions (4): After the simulation concludes, the education stu-
dents return to another form to complete six reflection questions about their perceived
strengths and weaknesses in responding to the simulation. They also download and save
the recordings of their own responses to share them during the class discussion.
Postsurvey about simulation (5): The education students complete a short survey about
Teacher Moments to provide their feedback on the presimulation tasks and the simula-
tion experience (see Appendix A). The open-ended items query whether the education
students felt the presimulation materials were adequate preparation, whether they per-
ceived the scenario as a plausible interaction between a parent and teacher, and how
Figure 2. (a) Text-based scenario with respondprompt button. (b) Donebutton appears while recording audio response.
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difficult it was to provide responses during the simulation. These survey questions were
researcher developed.
Group discussion (6): Students engage in a facilitated discussion of each of the Teacher
Moments experiences on the due date of the assignment. Both classes begin with framing
questions, then a small-group discussion, and conclude with a full-group discussion of stu-
dentsreactions to the scenario. On both occasions, the instructor viewed studentspostsi-
mulation reflection responses before the class debriefing session.
Complete postdiscussion survey (7): The education students completed a short survey after
the class discussion. These open-ended survey items probe whether the students gained any
new insight from the debrief, and gather any suggestions they have about the discussion
format and process. The simulation can be viewed at the following website: (https://tsl.mit.
edu/project/teacher-moments/).
Fidelity of implementation
We followed the protocols described in the preceding, but had relatively lower fidelity of
implementation in the administration of the DansonAutism scenario compared to the
TurnerRigor scenario. The DansonAutism scenario was assigned early in the semester,
and 14 students had not yet configured their e-mail from the class platform (Google
Classroom) to link to their university e-mail account. The Web links were sent to students
Google Classroom accounts; as a result, students who did not check that account did not
Figure 3. (a) Video scenario. (b) Still image displayed while recording audio response.
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receive the invitation or simulation website. After addressing that problem, 19 students
completed all exercises for the TurnerRigor simulation.
Analysis
We analyzed studentsresponses to the presimulation and postsimulation reflection ques-
tions, the notes from the class discussion, and the postdiscussion survey. We reviewed their
audio responses to the simulations to ensure they responded within their role as a teacher
in conversation with a parent. Our analysis was deductive, using the theoretical framework
of approximation of practice (Grossman et al., 2009). We applied current work on charac-
teristics of effective digital simulations (Dieker et al., 2017; Bradley & Kendall, 2014) and
clinical simulations (Dotger, 2013) as a lens to analyze studentsresponses to the simula-
tions. All open-ended survey responses were reviewed independently by two raters. The
raters employed a thematic approach to establish a coding system for the first scenario
(Braun & Clarke, 2006). After establishing the specific themes, we coded the presence or
absence of those themes in the data with the third rater. The interrater reliability for the
first two raters was initially moderate (Kappa ¼0.68 (p<.0.001), 95% confidence interval
[CI] (0.65, 0.74)). After the codebook was revised and clarified, the first and third raters
coded another subset of the data with a resulting Kappa ¼0.79 (p<.0.001), 95% CI (0.76,
0.83), which is classified as strong (Landis & Koch, 1977; McHugh, 2012).
We looked for clues for authenticity in the postsimulation raw reflectionquestions
(Dotger, 2013,p.59),whicharedesignedtocapturetheimmediate, visceral reactions the
teacher exhibits in response to the problem-of-practice s/he just experienced in the simulation
(p. 59). The simulation also allows for reflection through the recorded responses. Students
saved and reviewed their audio responses to enable data-based reflections(Dotger, 2013,p.
60). Students used these data-based reflections to recall and reflect on their reactions to the
simulation during the class discussion. We analyzed notes from the class discussion and the
postdiscussion surveys to understand how students used the data-based reflections, and how
they experienced feedback from the instructor and peers.
Results
Authenticity of the digital simulation
Students were asked whether they perceived the scenario as a good approximation of a
situation I may experience in a parentteacher conference.Most students perceived the
digital simulation as authentic: Five of the six students in the DansonAutism and 18 of
the 19 students in the TurnerRigor simulation either agreed or strongly agreed that the
simulations were authentic approximations of parentteacher conversations. We also
reviewed their audio responses to the simulation and observed that the education students
were responding to the simulation as if it was a true conversation. Although the students
had not directly participated in any parentteacher conversations, their self-reported and
recorded responses suggest that they perceived these scenarios as believable situations.
When the students were asked to write down three to five words that described their
experience from the simulations during class, the education students wrote words such as
anxiety,”“pressured,”“conflicted,”“
stressful,”“realistic,and shocking,and explained
that the simulation felt natural.In the initial DansonAutism scenario, Lori Dansons
comments were rendered in text. Several of the education students suggested that multi-
media would be more realistic. One student wrote,
While having the mother's words in text was helpful for me to review what she said
and address every point, it eliminated the challenge of carefully listening to and
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remembering someone else's words, something that can trip up a lot of people with
poor memories Having the mother's statements presented in audio form would
allow us to practice this challenging aspect. (Emphasis added)
A different student suggested that the interactions would also be more challenging and
realistic if the audio response began recording immediately following the conclusion of the
parents recorded statement.
I think that if it is possible for Lori's piece to be an audio recording and have the
student-teacher's audio recording begin immediately after Lori's recording finishes then
you will get a more natural response. This format allowed for time for thought before
responding, when in reality, a student-teacher would only have a moment to
synthesize and respond. (Emphasis added)
Following the framework of design-based research, we implemented these suggestions in
the TurnerRigor scenario. Eighteen of the 19 students who completed the postreflection
survey agreed or strongly agreed that the interaction of listening and responding to the
simulation felt realistic. In the survey responses, students described being uncomfortable
during the simulation, which affected their ability to respond. As one student commented,
I kind of expected her to come almost ready for a fight. I think that it was clear
from the get-go that Amber's mom was involved and had high expectations, just not
in academics. It was a little intimidating and hard to handle, but felt pretty real.
Another student mentioned the simulations sparked imaginative thinking about the
future of these fictional interactions:
I liked the story. I could imagine how I might act going forward, even though that
wasn't part of the simulation. I like that it prompted further thoughts about how I
might follow up with Amber or with Jennifer at some later date.
In the open-ended follow-up question, eight students specifically mentioned that the
video format in the TurnerRigor simulation was more realistic than the text format in the
Lori Danson scenario. These students described how the video allowed them to see Mrs.
Turner, monitor her body language, and respond in a more realistic fashion.
Impact of digital scenarios on cognitive dissonance
This study explored whether these digital simulations evoked a response similar to the clin-
ical simulations with live actors. The evidence from the study suggests that the education
students encountered a mismatch between their expectations and the characters in the simu-
lation. The scenarios included verbal triggersdesigned to evoke a response from partici-
pants. The education students referenced similar phrases or the exact phrase in their
postsimulation survey responses. In Table 1, we show several examples of specific references
to the verbal triggers.
During the in class discussion, the education students discussed how they had limited
knowledge about autism and the resources available for students with additional needs.
They shared their own responses to the simulation with their peers, and discussed different
approaches to the conversation. The education students described their mentor teachers
approaches to inclusive classrooms, expressed to Lori that they were interested in learning
more from her, and reassured Lori that Brian would be supported. The education students
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also expressed a desire to learn more about how to manage classes with disabled students,
communicate effectively with parents of children with disabilities, and maintain a realistic
balance of attending to individuals and the entire class. In the postdiscussion survey about
the DansonAutism scenario, five students reflected on the importance of finding a balance
between reassurance and overpromising to a concerned parent. Students stated that there
are ways to not overcommit to the parent but not let the parent down,and that
sometimes overcommitting is worse than doing nothing.
When discussing the TurnerRigor simulation, the education students reported that they
were surprised to encounter a former teacherwith low academic expectations and a will-
ingness to go to the principal. In the individual survey responses and the class discussion,
the education students shared their frustrations in dealing with someone who was stubborn,
unreasonable, and did not value education. They recognized the importance of keeping the
principal informed of their pedagogical approaches in addition to articulating their ration-
ale to students and parents. As with the DansonAutism simulation, the education students
explored different approaches to the scenario. The education students suggested referencing
written work by Amber and including Amber in the conversation. Some of the education
students expressed concern when Jennifer mentioned meeting with the principal, and
others embraced the meeting as a chance to put additional thought into their own expect-
ations for students. Studentsresponses to the postdiscussion survey about the
TurnerRigor simulation focused on managing their emotional response to an angry par-
ent. The education students reflected on tactics for managing conversations, such as
Table 1. Evidence of Cognitive Dissonance in StudentsResponses to Verbal Triggers in the DansonAutism and
TurnerRigor Scenarios (Emphasis Added)
Verbal trigger Education studentsresponses on survey (emphasis added)
What do you know about
autism?(Lori Danson)
The hardest question was when she asked what you know about
autism, since it's a spectrum disorder it affects people differently.
I could assume something about her child.
I struggled to explain my familiarity with autism, probably because
I am not quite so familiar with it at all. I definitely need to learn
more in the special education/learning disability department.
Im sure you think Im a pain
in the neck parent,
but Im just trying to protect
my son(Lori Danson)
“… at the end when she became really nice and reasonable, I felt
like I struggled with that more versus when it was an
unreasonable request. I felt like I overcommitted more when she
was nice and reasonable.
Im no dummy. Are you sure this is how youre
going to communicate with me when you also serve
so many other kids and families?(Lori Danson)
“…in the middle what I struggled with was that she wasn't super
nice to me. The whole I'm not a dummy thing. It was hard to
keep a positive spin on it. I didn't want it to go so negative.
I was a teacher once(Jennifer Turner) I was caught a bit off guard when Mrs. Turner said that she was
herself a teacher, and my response had a "well this is well-known
and researched pedagogy" tone which would probably be
off-putting. I would have expected a bit more sympathy from her
after explaining my position and pedagogy.
I think it'd be interesting to discuss her I've been a teacher before
card. A lot of people use the fact that they've been a teacher to
justify their policies or thoughts on education, but there are so
many teachers out there and a lot of them aren't good.What
does goodmean?
I will be talking with the principal
about your unreasonable
expectationsof your students
(Jennifer Turner)
Yes, it [the simulation] reminded me that I tend to have trouble
thinking when frustrated with someone. In the last response after
Mrs. Turner threatened to go to the principal, I hesitated a while
before I came up with a response, which was still not the
greatest.
Yes. I paused, uncertain of how to respond, when Mrs. Turner said
that I was new so I didn't know how things worked, and when
she said that she would bring in the principal. I'm not sure how
to respond when people tell me I'm unqualified.
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acknowledging a parents frustrationeven when logical things you're saying might not
be heard,and not overlaying toomuchoftheirownthoughtsandfeelingson the par-
ent. One student noted that many people were more okay with letting Mrs Turner go to
the principal than I was,while another student reflected on the importance of developing
relationships with colleagues.
I think some people brought up great points about how relationships with your
principal and fellow faculty members could really influence how the rest of this
scenario plays out. I did not take that into account as I did this exercise and hearing
this made me think.
In their postdiscussion feedback, students described how hearing how their peers responded
to the same simulation gave them ideas to consider in future conversations. One student noted
that the in-class discussion gave me a range of different approaches I could take and synthe-
size into what I think an appropriate response would be,another mentioned that the discus-
sion gave personal insight into peoples teaching philosophies,and a third wrote that the
discussion made me think about how I might respond differently in the future.These results
suggest that both simulations allowed the education students to experience and reflect on
moments of cognitive dissonance that could occur in a difficult parentteacher conference.
Learning objectives: Approximation of practice
Calmness in frustrating circumstances. One of the main learning objectives of the
TurnerRigor simulation is to serve as an opportunity for teachers to practice remaining
professional, calm, and reasoned when interacting with a generally disrespectful parent/
guardian(Dotger, 2013, p. 85). Twelve of the 19 education students who completed the
scenario wrote that they were able to maintain composure, describing their responses as
diplomatic,”“maintaining my composure,and collected.Participants reported that
they practiced remaining calm,being calm and thoughtfuland reasonable.
The education students were able to maintain composure even when the parents
responses were surprising. In the DansonAutism scenario, one student explained,
If I was thrown off by a question, I tended to stutter or awkwardly pause instead of
responding calmly and confidently. I did, however, gain confidence and clarity as I
spoke in each response.
Students also reflected about their responses in the TurnerRigor scenario, as a different
student mentioned,
I think I could be better at responding when caught off guard. After Mrs. Turner
mentioned me being a new teacher in a condescending manner I was pretty caught
off guard and my response to her was not as well thought out due to my surprise.
These two examples mirrored other studentsreactions to the DansonAutism and
TurnerRigor simulations. The scenario topics created the rawresponse of surprise, and
the simulation prompted an immediate response, giving preservice teachers experience stay-
ing calm during surprising situations.
Articulating teaching, assessment, and classroom management philosophies. The primary
goal for the DansonAutism scenario is to synthesize their classroom philosophies for stu-
dents with disabilities with their instructional and management strategies(Dotger, 2013,p.
108). The education studentsresponses to the postsimulation survey indicated that the
simulation prompted them to consider classroom management, and practice listening to a
concerned parent. In reflecting on a strength of their response, one student explained,
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My strengths were always looking for ways for Brian to grow in every situation
presented. For example, in the "unwanted hug" situation, I made sure to talk to both
students involved separately to understand the whole situation to appropriately
direct Brian afterward.
The education students also described the importance of effective communication, such
as addressing everything Mrs. Danson had mentionedand avoid giving vague or
unhelpful answers,and being open to learning from the parents, explaining that Loris
advice and insight could be a great help for me in the future in teaching students
with autism.
The TurnerRigor simulation focused on academic issues, prompting education students
to describe their expectations for students with a parent who did not have similar views. The
education students had to articulate their teaching philosophy while under pressure, and
explain how they would evaluate students as individuals. One education student explained,
I think I remained calm throughout the simulation and gave a slow, well-thought-out
response. I also think I did a good job justifying my philosophy arguing that all
students should be challenged and that the activities I promoted would help in the
long run.
Another education student described how assessing individual growth was more import-
ant to them than comparing across students.
I think I did a good job of explaining that Amber was capable of more. Multiple
times, Jennifer brought up that I was expecting too much, and I think a good
response to that is to say that her daughter is capable of meeting them. I also
pointed out that I don't expect the same quality of work from all students: it's not an
AP class, so if some can't work to AP standards, that's ok, as long as I see effort
and improvement. I thought Jennifer would agree that Amber is capable of that.
In their written reflections, the education students demonstrated an ability to reflect on
areas of success and areas of improvement that surfaced during the conversation.
Furthermore, reviewing their audio responses to the simulation before class prompted stu-
dents to unpack their ideas about assessment and communicate and share these ideas with
their peers and the instructor during the discussion.
Limitations
The study sample consisted of a small set of students at a competitive technical university
who are taking education courses, which may not be reflective of a larger sample of educa-
tion students. Students are also asked to evaluate the authenticity of the simulation of the
parentteacher interaction without having experienced this type of interaction firsthand.
Nonetheless, this early-stage pilot study provides a first look into how a simulation like
Teacher Moments can be used in an education course.
Discussion
Grossman and colleagues (2009) define approximations of practiceas opportunities for
novices to engage in practices that are more or less proximal to the practices of a profes-
sion. Teacher Moments simulations enabled the instructor to provide support and feedback
that can help the students navigate the rapids of real practice(p. 2077). By compare their
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responses for the same simulation with their peers, students could view the same situation
from different perspectives. During class, the education students discussed how to view a
concerned parent as a resource rather than an adversary or a meeting with the principal as
an opportunity for further discussion rather than a threat. In the final design of the simula-
tion, the education students had to respond to the conversation immediately without stops
and starts,thus improving the authenticity of the approximation (Grossman et al., 2009,
p. 2079). These examples of early stage evidence of Teacher Moments suggest the digital
simulation afforded users a level of authenticity that closely approximates an actual paren-
tteacher conversation.
Digital simulations like Teacher Moments offer teacher educators a tool that has low cost
and has a relatively low time commitment, where education students can engage in repeated
practice of situations that evoke cognitive dissonance in a low-stakes environment. Survey
data suggest that this experience effectively gave students a safe scenario to try piloting the
waters(Grossman et al., 2009, p. 2076) of challenging conversations with parents, and to
practice remaining calm (Badiee & Kaufman, 2015) while clearly articulating their peda-
gogical and classroom management approaches (Dotger, 2013). The digital format of the
simulation allowed the novice teachers to review their recorded results and reflect on their
own performance (Gibson, 2013). The context of a common experience facilitated class dis-
cussion, allowed the students to compare and learn from each others reactions (Dotger,
2013; Hayes et al., 2013), and prompted the students to consider the skills needed to be effect-
ive teachers (Arici, Barab, & Borden, 2016; Bradley & Kendall, 2014).
Using approximations of practice facilitates the early years of teaching by improving
beginner teachersconfidence and effectiveness during their time as preservice teachers
(Nelson, 2011). Based on the level of student engagement in the simulation, participants
thoughtful reflection on their performance, and responses to feedback from the instructor
and peers, this early-stage study suggests that these focused digital simulations could serve
as an effective approximation of the practice of communicating with parents.
Future iterations of the Teacher Moments digital simulations will include new features that
aim to improve how instructors can use the simulations for reflection and debriefing. We are
developing transcription capabilities that will enable participants to review their responses and
share with others to increase opportunities for peer feedback, self-assessment, and assessment of
student learning (Gibson, 2013). We are developing authoring tools to allow any teacher educator
to create their own scenarios to share information about these tools with a wider audience. We
are gathering feedback from teacher educators to study how these multimedia simulations are
received in different populations, and to collaborate and co-create new approximations of practice
(Grossman & McDonald, 2008;Nelson,2011). Developing these types of tools for teacher educa-
tors will address some of the barriers to including practice-based teaching in teacher education
classes (Grossman et al., 2009; Kaufman & Ireland, 2016), with the ultimate goal to better equip
novice teachers with the skills to effectively manage challenging moments in teaching.
Received: 18 October 2018
Accepted 23 February 2019
Acknowledgments. Authors would like to Acknowledge Rupal Jain for playing the role
of Jennifer Turner in the Turner-Rigor simulation, the students in the 11.125 course for
trying the simulations, Ben Dotger for advice and feedback during the design and develop-
ment of Teacher Moments, and the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning
for funding the project.
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Author Notes
Meredith Thompson is a research scientist at the Teaching Systems Lab (TSL) and a lec-
turer in the Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP). Her research focuses on the
influence of collaboration and creativity in STEAM learning environments and practice-
based teacher education. She uses practice spaces as part of her course, and participated in
the research planning and implementation of Teacher Moments. She is also the project
manager for the Innovating New Spaces for Research and Practice and Research in
Education (INSPIRE). Please address correspondence regarding this article to Meredith
M. Thompson, Comparative Media Studies and Writing, MIT, 77 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. E-mail: meredith@mit.edu
Kesiena Owho-Ovuakporie is currently a software engineer at Amazon Web Services. He
has a bachelors degree in electrical and electronic engineering from the University of
Manchester and a dual masters degree in technology and policy program and electrical
engineering and computer science from the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. Kesiena helped develop and test Teacher Moments as part of his
masters thesis work.
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Appendix A: Teacher MomentsDansonAutism survey and
discussion questions
Presimulation survey
1. Given that you have little data on which to build expectations, what are your goals for
this parent-initiated conference with Lori Danson? (text box)
2. Do you have any specific observations, notes, concerns or statements you wish to docu-
ment before this simulation begins?
Postsimulation survey
1. Reflecting back on your conversation with Lori Danson, list 35 words/phrases to
describe your initial thoughts or feelings. (text box)
2. Recognizing that you had little data prior to the conference, were you able to accom-
plish your goals? If not, what prevented you from doing so? (text box)
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3. What were your strengths in this simulation? Briefly describe the portion of the simu-
lation where you exhibited this professional strength. (text box)
4. Did this simulation highlight any professional skills, knowledge base(s), or dispositions
on which you need to improve? If so, briefly describe the specific portion of the simu-
lation where you struggled or were unsure of how to proceed. (text box)
5. Reflecting on your meeting with Mrs. Danson, do you have any new or different per-
spectives on your professional responsibilities, policies, or expectations?
6. Are there specific questions, statements, dilemmas, or situations that arose in your
simulation that you want to raise for discussion during the larger group debriefing in
class? List below.
7. Please save one of your audio responses on your computer for the class group discus-
sion. This could be a clip related to any of your responses above or any part where
you struggled. You can download and save any of your responses on by right clicking
on the play button (in the Summary page) and selecting "Save Audio As "
8. Please use the following scale to respond to the next five items: strongly disagree, dis-
agree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, strongly agree.
9. The background context provided before the simulation contained sufficient informa-
tion for me to imagine myself in that situation as a new teacher.
10. I think text is an effective way to present the context and background information
about the scenarios.
11. The presimulation reflection helped me prepare for the simulation.
12. The scenarios give a good approximation of situations I may experience in a paren-
tteacher conference.
13. I think audio response is an effective way to practice my response to scenarios I may
experience in a conference.
14. The user interface of Teacher Moments was easy to use.
15. Any specific things you liked about Teacher Moments?
16. Any specific things you did not like about Teacher Moments?
17. Any other thoughts or feedback about Teacher Moments or the overall experience?
In-class discussion questions/postdiscussion surveyLori Danson
The class was asked to get into groups. The instructor created groups so that at least one
person who did the simulation was in each group.
In your small groups, spend 5 minutes sharing the 35 words you used to describe
the experience.
Lets share those ideas with the entire class.
What were some surprising moments during the scenario? Discuss in your small groups,
and decide who will share a thirty-second summary of the conversation.
Next well focus on a few of those moments. Each group will get one of these questions
and discuss their responses within the group for five minutes, then each group will share
them with the entire class for another five minutes.
How did you react/respond when Lori asked what you know about autism?
How did you react/respond when Lori asked you to be her eyes and ears?
How did you react/respond when Lori mentioned she was just looking out for her son?
Postclass survey (administered online)
1. Prior to this simulation, have you had a similar conversation with a parent/caregiver
about your assessment style or your student's academic performance?
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2. Did you learn anything new or gain any new insight from the postsimulation debrief
in class?
3. Do you have any suggestion on how we can improve the postsimulation debrief
in class?
4. Any other general thoughts or feedback?
Appendix B: Teacher MomentsTurnerRigor survey and discussion questions
Presimulation survey
1. Given that you have little data on which to build expectations, what are your goals for
this parent-initiated conference with Jennifer Turner? (text box)
2. Do you have any specific observations, notes, concerns, or statements you wish to
document before this simulation begins?
Postsimulation survey
1. Reflecting back on your conversation with Jennifer Turner, what are your initial
thoughts and feelings? (text box)
2. Did the conference with Mrs. Turner occur as you had anticipated? (text box)
3. What were your strengths in this simulation? Briefly describe the portion of the simu-
lation where you exhibited this professional strength. (text box)
4. Did this simulation highlight any professional skills, knowledge base(s), or dispo-
sitions on which you need to improve? If so, briefly describe the specific portion
of the simulation where you struggled or were unsure of how to proceed.
(text box)
5. Reflecting on your meeting with Mrs. Turner, do you have any new or different
perspectives on your professional responsibilities, policies, or expectations?
(text box)
6. Are there specific questions, statements, dilemmas, or situations that arose in your
simulation that you want to raise for discussion during the larger group debriefing in
class? List below: (text box)
7. Please save a copy of the responses you've entered on this page and bring it
to class.
8. The five-paragraph background information you read before the simulation contained
sufficient information for you to imagine yourself in that situation as a new teacher.
(scalestrongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree)
9. Any other thoughts or feedback about the context. (text box)
10. Before you started the video and recorded responses, you answered two questions:
"Based on the context in the previous page, what do you anticipate during this confer-
ence with Amber's mother ." How well did these questions prepare you for the
simulation? (text box)
11. Any other thoughts or feedback about the presimulation teacher reflection (text box)
12. Use the following scale to answer the next questions: strongly disagree, disagree, nei-
ther agree nor disagree, agree, strongly agree.
13. I found it difficult to provide good responses to Mrs. Turner during the simulation.
14. The interaction with Mrs. Turner (i.e., audio responses to the video prompts)
felt realistic.
15. The user interface of Teacher Moments was easy to use.
16. Are there any specific things you liked about Teacher Moments?
17. Are there any specific things you did not like about Teacher Moments?
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18. Do you have any other thoughts or feedback about Teacher Moments or the over-
all experience?
In-class discussion questionsJennifer Turner
The class was asked to get into groups.
In your small groups, lets spend 5 minutes sharing the 35 words you used to describe
the experience.
Lets share those ideas with the entire class.
What were some surprising moments during the scenario? Discuss in your small groups.
Lets share those ideas with the entire class.
Next well focus on a few of those moments. Each group will get one of these questions
and discuss their responses within the group for five minutes, then each group will share
them with the entire class for another five minutes.
How did you react/respond when Jennifer explained that you should have lower expect-
ations (not everyone is going to college)?
How did you react/respond when Jennifer told you she was a teacher once?
How did you react/respond when Jennifer mentioned going to the principal?
Postclass survey (administered online)
1. Prior to this simulation, have you had a similar conversation with a parent/caregiver
about your assessment style or your student's academic performance?
2. Did you learn anything new or gain any new insight from the postsimulation debrief
in class?
3. Do you have any suggestion on how we can improve the postsimulation debrief
in class?
4. Any other general thoughts or feedback?
Appendix C: CodebookLori Danson
Given that you have little data on which to build
expectations, what are your goals for this
parent-initiated conference with Lori Danson?
Address concerns/reassure Mentions reassuring the parent
Learn about parent/child Mentions listening/gathering information about the child
Do you have any specific observations, notes, concerns or
statements you wish to document before this
simulation begins?
What were your strengths in this simulation? Briefly
describe the portion of the simulation where you
exhibited this professional strength.
Communicate effectively Mentions communication with parent as a strength.
Remain calm Mentions remaining calm, composed.
Did this simulation highlight any professional skills,
knowledge base(s), or dispositions on which you need
to improve? If so, briefly describe the specific portion
of the simulation where you struggled or were unsure
of how to proceed.
Knowledge of autism Mentions increasing their understanding of autism
Establishing clear boundaries Mentions finding a balance between needs of some/needs of
many, time allocation
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Appendix D: CodebookJennifer Turner
Based on the context in the previous page, what do you
anticipate during this conference with Amber's
mother, Jennifer?
Support Mother will support her daughter
Difficult This will be a difficult conversation
Either way Uncertain how the conversation could go
Question teaching Mother will question teaching
Do you have any specific observations, notes, statements,
or concerns you wish to document before this clinical
simulation begins?
Reflecting back on your conversation with Jennifer
Turner, what are your initial thoughts and feelings?
Did the conference with Mrs. Turner occur as you had
anticipated?
Expected Conversation went as expected
Did not expect Conversation did not go as expected
Cognitive dissonance Mentioned struggle, frustrated, different views
Challenging Mentioned challenge, difficult
What were your strengths in this simulation? Briefly
describe the portion of the simulation where you
exhibited this
professional strength.
Staying calm Mentioned staying calm
Explain rationale for grading/ assessment Mentioned their rationale for grading
Diplomatic Mentioned being diplomatic
Being honest Mentioned being honest with Jennifer
Explain my side Described their own approaches to teaching
Did this simulation highlight any professional skills,
knowledge base(s), or dispositions on which you need
to improve? If so, briefly describe the specific portion
of the simulation where you struggled or were unsure
of how to proceed.
Former teacher Specific portionformer teacher would respond like this
Go to principal Specific portionwould go to principal
Speak with confidence Mentioned needing to practice speaking with confidence
Restraint/frustration Mentioned the need to practice restraint when frustrated
Practice own beliefs Mentioned the need to practice explaining their own beliefs
Reflecting on your meeting with Mrs. Turner, do you have
any new or different perspectives on your professional
responsibilities, policies, or expectations?
Improve communication with parents Mentioned improving communication with parents
Improve communication with students Mentioned improving communication with students
Communicate with administrators Mentioned improving communication with administrators
Are there specific questions, statements, dilemmas, or
situations that arose in your simulation that you want
to raise for discussion during the larger group
debriefing in class? List below:
Not coded
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... When coaches draw frequent examples from their rich years of classroom experiences, they build self-confidence and win the mentee's trust. As coaches gain coaching experience from consultation, coaches refine ways to share the most effective, authentic cases that mirror the mentee's challenges and facilitate the mentees' intentionally and strategically embedding effective instruction in daily routines, care, and play (Thompson et al., 2019). When mentored by coaches who possess rich teaching experiences, mentees typically increase their use of instructional strategies (Philip et al., 2017). ...
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The print version is available through Amazon, etc. but a richer multimedia version (and one that is more accessible) is available freely at: http://udltheorypractice.cast.org/login
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