ClassSim: An Approach to Educator Development Through a Simulation

ClassSim: An Approach to Educator Development Through a Simulation

Brian Ferry (University of Wollongong, Australia), Lisa Kervin (University of Wollongong, Australia) and Lisa Carrington (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-713-8.ch014
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Abstract

This chapter presents one approach to educator development through games and simulations. The goal of the authors’ project was to enhance pre-service teachers’ ability to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of teaching. Some criteria that the authors regarded as indicators of success were the facilitation a professional dialogue, an emerging understanding of content delivery and the articulation of workplace culture in the teaching profession. The chapter describes the theory underpinning of the design and the research approaches used. In particular, the authors explain how cognitive load theory was applied to the design of the key features of this virtual learning environment. They also summarize six years of research that has consistently found that the virtual learning environment of ClassSim provides an effective way of introducing pre-service teachers to their future work in classrooms.
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Background

Researchers report that when teachers reflect upon their role in the profession, they are not necessarily focused on what they know and what they can do (Allen, 2005; Sachs, 1999). Rather, they are more likely to question their own role within a situation. Thus, teachers appear to be more interested in understanding their immediate professional situation in connection with their previous personal and professional experiences. Instead of the question what do I know, or what can I do, for many teachers their interest is in the question who am I, what relationship do I have with the learner, what is my relationship with school administrators, and how have my personal experiences contributed to my development as a teacher. These questions demonstrate the role played by both the physical workplace and the individual’s networks in the development of a teacher’s professional identity.

Learning a profession means learning about the culture of the occupation and each profession has its own disposition and learnt behavior that is often referred to as the culture and practice of that profession. Teaching, as an example of such a profession, involves specific knowledge and skills related to pedagogical understandings, knowledge of workplace culture and awareness of their responsibilities within the profession. In exploring the culture and practice of teaching Sachs (1999) identifies the need for retrospective and prospective identities; retrospective identities use the past to explain the present within the profession, while prospective identities examine the future nature of the profession. We hypothesized that a VLE, such as ClassSim, affords opportunities for users to consider retrospective and prospective identities as a simulation allows users to observe and investigate what is happening at a moment in time, but it also allows the user to pause and reflect upon what has happened, with opportunity to change and redirect the future sense of story presented in the simulation. Allen (2005) asserts that such aspects of teacher professional growth are not taught, rather they are shaped by teachers’ past critical incidents including the workplace and an individual’s professional networks. As a result Allen’s work, we also hypothesized that a VLE has the potential for PSTs to experience a series of workplace events and critical incidents that may help to shape their developing pedagogy.

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