Research suggests that teachers’ facilitation of student-driven discussion in mathematics provides crucial opportunities for students to develop a strong understanding of the mathematics concepts. However, teacher-led lectures are a more common approach to instruction, as facilitating these student conversations is often a challenging strategy for teachers to implement in their classrooms. Professional learning opportunities focused on helping teachers develop skills to guide group discussion, including questioning strategies, may help bridge this gap.
SIM provides an opportunity to
- experiment with cutting-edge classroom simulation technology;
- practice critical yet challenging strategies for teaching middle school mathematics; and
- learn within a personalized professional learning model.
The Simulation Instruction in Mathematics Study, or SIM Study, is a pilot study of a new professional development program being conducted by AIR, in collaboration with the University of Central Florida, and with funding from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. SIM leverages new technologies for virtual classroom simulation and tests its use in professional development to support strong instructional practice in middle school mathematics.
The SIM PD focuses on teachers’ use of specific, high-leverage instructional practices that research has shown to be associated with improved student learning in mathematics but which are, in practice, challenging to implement well:
- Posing purposeful questions
- Facilitating meaningful discourse
Cutting-Edge Technology for Classroom Simulation
The SIM Study uses the TeachLivE classroom simulator, developed by the University of Central Florida, as the cornerstone of the professional development (PD). TeachLivE is a virtual classroom that teachers can connect with via a Skype video call, allowing teachers to engage with responsive student avatars. Although not seen by the teacher, the avatars are operated by an adult TeachLivE “interactor” based in Orlando, Florida. The unique platform provides teachers the opportunity to practice their pedagogy in a no-risk yet realistic environment. See the simulator in action >>
Flexible, Personalized Professional Learning
The SIM program will deliver the PD in an individualized, adaptive model aimed to enable teachers to gain focused expertise that is relevant to their daily practice. The SIM professional development approach centers on providing teachers opportunities to build pedagogical knowledge and effectiveness through repeated cycles of practice with feedback, using collaboration and reflection with teacher colleagues to reinforce the translation from the PD to classrooms. Each cycle will include the following steps:
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
Teachers within a school join with their program coach for PLCs to introduce teachers to the task they will practice teaching, learn about the focal instructional approaches, and collaborate and reflect with each other.
A teacher and a coach will connect with the simulated classroom. The teacher will practice the targeted instructional practices in the simulator, while observed by the coach.
After the teacher finishes with the simulator, the coach will provide feedback based on a rubric developed by the study.
The teacher and coach will engage in a discussion, ending with next steps for the teacher in follow-up for further practice and application.
Designed to be implemented over 8 to 12 weeks depending on school scheduling preferences, teachers engage in a total of eight activities throughout the two modules, summarized below.
SIM Professional Development Schedule for Teachers
Module One: Posing Purposeful Question
Activity 1: PLC, 120 minutes
Activity 2: Group practice of questioning strategies using the classroom simulator, 90 minutes
Activity 3: PLC, 45 minutes
Activity 4: Individual practice of questioning strategies using the classroom simulator, with feedback and reflection, 60 minutes
Module Two: Leading Group Discussions
Activity 5: PLC, 90 minutes
Activity 6: Individual practice of discussion strategies using the classroom simulator, with feedback and reflection, 60 minutes
Activity 7: PLC, 45 minutes
Activity 8: Individual practice of discussion strategies using the classroom simulator, with feedback and reflection, 60 minutes