- 1What are simulated student interactions (SSIs)?
- 2Why use simulated student interactions?
- 3How are simulated student interactions connected to the learning cycle?
- 4With which high-leverage practices should we use simulated student interactions?
Simulated student interactions (SSIs) are simulated, one-on-one interactions between a novice teacher and a “student”–who is typically played by a teacher educator. Simulated student interactions allow novices to practice discrete instructional and relational skills and improve their content knowledge for teaching in the sheltered, scaffolded setting of the teacher education classroom. They create opportunities for novice teachers to receive focused feedback from teacher educators and peers on their developing teaching performances. Simulated student interactions can also be used as practice-based assessments, allowing teacher educators to track on (and compare) novice teachers’ developing skills around particular content knowledge for teaching or high-leverage practices.
SSIs allow novice teachers to:
- encounter and explore common dilemmas and patterns of teacher-student interaction before engaging with actual students in real classrooms
- try out and refine relational and instructional moves and explore their effects on children
- practice listening to individual students’ ideas
- practice responding to a “student” in real time in ways that convey regard and acknowledge what children know and can do
- recognize their own implicit biases that might shape their interpretations of children and their capacities, and correct them
SSIs allow teacher educators to:
- use the simulated student interactions as shared “texts” for analysis and discussion among groups of novice teachers
- provide real-time coaching to the teacher candidate
- differentiate the support they are giving to teacher candidates by designing opportunities for individual teacher candidates to practice elements of teaching practice where they need the most work
- assess novices’ enactments of different parts of teaching, compare novices’ performances, and track on novices’ growth longitudinally
Simulated student interactions typically occur during the “prepare” phase of the learning cycle (McDonald, Kazemi, and Kavanagh, 2013; Lampert et al., 2013; Teacher Education by Design). They are opportunities for novices to practice the work of teaching and receive targeted feedback on their instruction before they try it out on actual children. Through simulated student interactions, teacher educators give novice teachers opportunities to rehearse and try out aspects of teaching practice inside the teacher education classroom.
Because they are designed to help novices learn to enact teaching interactions with individual children, they are typically best used in relation to the following high-leverage practices:
- Eliciting and interpreting individual students’ thinking
- Diagnosing particular common patterns of student thinking and development in a subject-matter domain
- Building respectful relationships with students
- Providing oral and written feedback to students
- Learning about students’ cultural, religious, family, intellectual and personal experiences
In some cases, teacher educators might also engage novices in simulations that entail a teacher and a group of “children” (simulated by the teacher educator and other novice teachers). In these cases, simulated student interactions might also be appropriate for helping novices learn the practice of leading a group discussion.