UCF Virtually Educates with TeachLivE
This research is published in Physical Review Physics Education Research.
Just as pilots train in flight simulators, physics teachers can hone their skills in classroom simulators. Of course, explaining Newton’s laws to teenagers is a little less challenging than landing a 747. Still, a new study shows that undergraduate teaching assistants can gain valuable experience practicing their lessons in front of virtual student “avatars.”
Several studies have shown that educational professionals can improve their teaching by rehearsing in front of a classroom simulator. Assistant Professor Jacquelyn Chini, Ph.D., and her colleagues, Carrie L. Straub, and Kevin H. Thomas, wanted to assess whether the same benefits could be accrued by learning assistants (LAs), undergraduate students who provide additional instruction to fellow classmates.
In the study, Learning from avatars: Learning assistants practice physics pedagogy in a classroom simulator, Dr. Chini explored the use of a mixed-reality classroom simulator, called the TLE TeachLivE, which combines components of the real world with virtual components, to allow undergraduate LAs to practice pedagogical skills. While it started out with Education majors, during the study, they also looked at extending the use of TeachLivE to STEM majors.
Chini and her colleagues enlisted 14 LAs to give five-minute lessons in the TeachLivE simulator. The simulations occurred in regular classrooms, with a monitor showing a group of high-school-age student avatars, who could speak with and respond to the teacher.
Most of the LAs rated the experience as “realistic,” which suggested they were behaving as they would with real students. Indeed, the researchers found that the LAs posed leading questions to the avatars and even elicited group involvement, which are some of the teaching methods that the LAs are encouraged to use.
The TeachLivE simulator was developed at UCF by Professor Lisa Dieker, Ph.D., School Director Mike Hynes, Ph.D., in the College of Education and Human Performance and Pegasus Professor Charlie Hughes in CECS/IST and is used in many of our education classes and has been used with some local K-12 teachers.
The TeachLivE Lab, is currently being used at over 85 campuses in the United States and growing to include multiple school districts and international partners.
Dr. Chini and her colleagues found that “the classroom simulator created a safe, effective environment for LAs to practice a variety of skills, such as questioning styles and wait time.”
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