Designing Commercial Simulations for Teachers

Designing Commercial Simulations for Teachers

Damián Piccolo (, USA) and Anna Oskorus (TiER1 Performance Solutions, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-322-7.ch013
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Nearly half of all new teachers leave the field of education within the first five years (Ingersoll, 2003; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005). Many of these teachers cite difficulties in classroom management as a contributing factor in why they left (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005). To help prepare new teachers for the realities of the classroom, aha! Process, Inc. created a series of simulations, the aha! Process Classroom SIMs. These simulations provide a safe environment in which to practice Dr. Ruby K. Payne’s classroom management strategies from her book “Working With Students: Discipline Strategies for the Classroom” (2006). This chapter will discuss the design challenges the development team overcame to create these commercial simulations.
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The story is a common one. A new teacher, optimistic and ready to make a difference in the lives of children, enters a school system for the first time. With years of pedagogical classes and a variety of classroom observations, apprenticeships, and student teaching experiences to his credit, his diploma tells him he is prepared to take on his first job as a teacher. His students file in, the classroom door closes, and then reality sinks in. He has been given a classroom assignment that could make a seasoned teacher run screaming in the other direction. As the year progresses, he struggles to stay on top of the new material he’s teaching, but the discipline issues he’s experiencing with his students are a constant distraction that he isn’t managing well. Pressure to prepare students for high-stakes testing adds to the stress, and his students’ parents are giving him almost daily reminders of what he isn’t doing correctly. Most days, the new teacher leaves his job feeling frustrated and unsure of himself, wondering if he somehow missed the course in college that should have prepared him to deal with the day-to-day challenges of managing his classroom.

This scenario is played out every day in schools across the United States. And while some new teachers are resilient enough to overcome these obstacles, a good number of them throw in the towel and move on to other careers. In an effort to help prepare pre-service and new teachers for the classroom and prevent these types of classroom crises from overwhelming them, aha! Process, Inc., a company based in Highlands, Texas, developed a series of simulations called the aha! Process Classroom SIMs. These simulations present common events that a teacher might experience in a classroom and provide an opportunity for novice teachers to gain practice in classroom management. This chapter will discuss the design challenges the development team overcame to create these commercial simulations, including:

  • Accurately modeling simulation elements

  • Designing compelling yet pedagogically sound simulations

  • Creating scalable simulations that would be easy to update

  • Designing for reusability to encourage practice

  • Providing meaningful but unobtrusive feedback

Effectiveness evaluation results and future directions also are discussed.



School districts in the United States are struggling to attract and retain quality teachers. Nearly 50% of all new teachers are likely to leave the field of education within the first five years, with the most talented teachers often being the first to leave (Ingersoll, 2003; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005). This high turnover rate for teachers comes with a large bill for our nation’s school systems. According to a recent study by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, teacher turnover costs school districts in the U.S. more than $7 billion annually in recruiting, training, and other associated expenses (2007).

Typical reasons that new teachers have cited for leaving the field of education include difficult classroom and/or student assignments, a lack of support and feedback from the administration, poor working conditions, and little or no demonstration of what it takes to help their students succeed (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005). Some of these factors point to administrative issues within school districts, but inadequate teacher preparation and continuing professional development opportunities also play a role.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Rhonda Christensen, Gerald Knezek
Chapter 1
A Simulation Primer  (pages 1-24)
Katrin Becker, James R. Parker
This chapter provides an introduction to digital simulations for those interested in using or designing them for instructional purposes. There has... Sample PDF
A Simulation Primer
Chapter 2
Youngkyun Baek
This chapter expands upon the definition of a simulation with two categories: experiential and symbolic. It discusses the interactive, experiential... Sample PDF
Digital Simulation in Teaching and Learning
Chapter 3
Peter R. Albion
Interaction is fundamental to the learning process and game-like 3D online spaces present opportunities for enhancing learning through supporting a... Sample PDF
Virtual Spaces for Teaching and Learning
Chapter 4
David Williamson Shaffer
Multiculturalism is an essential tool for democratic citizenship in a world made ever more closely interconnected by information technologies. In... Sample PDF
Computers and the End of Progressive Education
Chapter 5
Celina Byers
The desired outcome of instructional game design is to combine the powerful attraction of games and the proven effectiveness of instructional system... Sample PDF
Combining Instructional Design and Game Design
Chapter 6
Helyn Gould, Michael Hughes, Paul Maharg, Emma Nicol
Game-based learning and simulation is a powerful mode of learning, used by industries as diverse as aviation and health sciences. While there are... Sample PDF
The Narrative Event Diagram: A Tool for Designing Professional Simulations
Chapter 7
David Gibson
In order for a digital simulation to provide an artificial teaching environment there needs to be a computational model of the act of teaching... Sample PDF
Modeling Classroom Behaviors in Software Agents
Chapter 8
Sara Dexter
The new technology-enhanced conception of assessment stands in contrast to the traditional view of assessments as tests of a learner’s ability to... Sample PDF
Design Principles for Interactive Learning Environments with Embedded Formative Assessments
Chapter 9
Penny deByl
Three-dimensional virtual learning environments provide students with pedagogic experiences beyond traditional two-dimensional textbook and Web page... Sample PDF
Hybrid 2D/3D Development of Interactive Simulations
Chapter 10
Len Annetta, James Minogue, Shawn Holmes, Meng-Tzu Cheng, Elizabeth Folta, Marta Klesath
This chapter will provide concrete examples of how a research group at North Carolina State University is using case studies as the... Sample PDF
Using Case Studies as the Narrative to Game Design and Development
Chapter 11
Mark Girod
Teacher education is currently facing pressures to demonstrate efficacy in preparing teachers who can affect P-12 student learning gains. Teacher... Sample PDF
Exploring Teacher Problem Solving Using Simulation
Chapter 12
Donguk Cheong, Bokyeong Kim
A computer simulation for improving teaching is expected to remove the potential negative effects on real students while creating an environment... Sample PDF
A Simulation for Improving Teachers' Motivational Skills
Chapter 13
Damián Piccolo, Anna Oskorus
Nearly half of all new teachers leave the field of education within the first five years (Ingersoll, 2003; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005).... Sample PDF
Designing Commercial Simulations for Teachers
Chapter 14
Scott J. Warren, Richard A. Stein
This chapter discusses the design and use of simulated teaching experiences contextualized through role-play in a multi-user virtual environment as... Sample PDF
Simulating Teaching Experience with Role-Play
Chapter 15
Bokyeong Kim, Donguk Cheong
This chapter presents the theory, structure, and development process used in designing a teaching simulation. simClass was designed to help teachers... Sample PDF
simClass: Simulate Your Class Before You Teach
Chapter 16
Karen Schrier, Charles K. Kinzer
Teacher education that emphasizes the understanding and assessment of ethics can support the creation of an ethically aware and critically engaged... Sample PDF
Using Digital Games to Develop Ethical Teachers
Chapter 17
Shelby P. Morge
Recently adopted 21st Century goals stress the importance of preparing students for a globally competitive society by providing them with... Sample PDF
Modeling in the Classroom Using Squeak Etoys
Chapter 18
Mary Jo Dondlinger, Scott Joseph Warren
This chapter discusses Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) as simulated experiences, and presents the conceptual framework that informed the design and... Sample PDF
Alternate Reality Games as Simulations
Chapter 19
Caitlin Kelleher
Self-directed, open-ended projects can enable students to pursue their own interests and lead to deep learning. However, it can be difficult to... Sample PDF
Supporting Open-Ended Programming Assignments
Chapter 20
Kay Kyeongju Seo, Aimee Byk, Chris Collins
How can one bring cognitive apprenticeship into the virtual world? This chapter addresses how to construct a 3D online digital environment that... Sample PDF
Cognitive Apprenticeship Inspired Simulations
Chapter 21
Jae Yeob Jung, Hyung Sung Park
The purpose of this chapter is to explore how learning, by making games, can provide opportunities for higher-order thinking such as problem... Sample PDF
Learning by Doing via Game Making
Chapter 22
Christian Sebastian Loh, Jae Hwan Byun
Game Modification, or Modding, is a unique and valuable way of learning with digital games as well as a means to earn beginners’ stripes in the game... Sample PDF
Modding Neverwinter Nights Into Serious Games
Chapter 23
Teresa Franklin, David Chelberg, Chang Liu
Virtual environments are a topic of discussion for many in the business and commerce fields. However, K-12 school systems have been slow to embrace... Sample PDF
Changing Middle School Science through STEAM
Chapter 24
David Gibson
This chapter discusses how a teaching simulation can embody core characteristics of a complex system. It employs examples of specific frameworks and... Sample PDF
Complex Systems Concepts in Simulations
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