Developed teaching efficiency through virtual practice

Teaching through virtual practice
Teacher student practices virtually PETER HOLGERSSON

Far too many newly graduated teachers start working with a sense of insufficient subject knowledge and inadequate ability to manage their teaching. They do not trust their teaching ability and they perceive shortages concerning academic teachership as well as leadership. Academic teachership may, in short, be defined as having subject knowledge and being able to teach this subject. Leadership can be described thus: the teacher must be aware of the interaction in the classroom and also be able to manage this interaction.

At present, teacher students are trained in both during academic education as well as teaching practice in schools. However, this training seems not to result in the students developing sufficient teaching competence in their own eyes. Confidence in their teaching efficiency should be possible to obtain through positive teaching experiences, for example, achieving good order in the classroom, or producing assessments that are well received by the pupils. Such experiences are bound to boost the teacher students’ conceptions of their competence. The teacher students’ confidence can be enhanced further by studying and observing fellow students’ teaching performance, accompanied by comments and feedback from experienced teachers and researchers. Not being able to carry through a teaching assignment will inevitably lead to negative feelings which, in turn, may lead to poor self-confidence, anxiety and decreased trust in the teacher students’ own efficiency as a teacher.

How virtual practice works

Today’s school-based teaching practice needs to be accompanied by well prepared, in-depth exercises in simulation through, what we call, virtual teaching practice, in order to give teacher students opportunities to develop a better trust in their teaching efficiency. In the present project, simulated teaching situations will make it possible for the teacher students to develop their skills and abilities, their teaching efficiency, while they practise their academic teachership as well as their leadership. In such situations the teacher students will be assigned to teach five semi-virtual pupils, avatars, who demonstrate common pupil behaviour, based on earlier research. In this way, we will predict problem situations and common teacher shortcomings, which the teacher students need to pay attention to and also manage in a rational and effective way. In addition, the teacher student will have opportunities to observe a fellow student, who is carrying out a similar teaching session with virtual pupils, and also be present at a seminar, when the researchers are discussing academic teachership and leadership with the student who performed the lesson.

The effect of virtual practice

As a way to get answers to the questions whether and when virtual teaching practice is useful, a group of teacher students will get this kind of virtual practice before starting a period of school-based teaching practice, whereas another group will get it after their school-based practice. Both groups will, thus, get a more specified and individualised training, albeit at different points in time. Their experiences will be compared to those of a control group who has carried through school-based teaching-practice only. We will also observe potential short- and long-term effects of school-based and virtual teaching practice on the teacher students’ experiences concerning their teaching efficiency. By means of recurring measurements, we will get information concerning what experiences the teacher students themselves consider to be most important for their sense of trust in their own efficiency as teachers – i.e., the observed experiences, the assessed experiences (which they get feedback on), or the emotional experiences.

As we go along, it will be possible for us to contribute to making teacher education more efficient and, in the long run, offer pupils in our schools teaching that is rendered by teachers with a firm trust in the efficiency of their own teaching.

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