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Simulated Discussions in Science and Mathematics Classrooms: Learning to Facilitate Argumentation

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Tuesday, December 1, 12:00–1:00 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Dr. Heather Howell  
Dr. Jamie Mikeska  

The poster showcases work supporting pre-service teachers’ facilitation of argumentation-focused discussions. Teacher educators assigned tasks in a digitally simulated environment, providing opportunities to practice ambitious teaching, receive feedback, and reflect. Attendees will view results, see examples, and have a chance to jump in and lead a short discussion.

Audience: Coaches, Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Professional developers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Teacher education
Grade level: 3-5
Subject area: Math, Science
ISTE Standards: For Coaches:
Professional Development and Program Evaluation
  • Design, develop and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning and assessment.
  • Evaluate results of professional learning programs to determine the effectiveness on deepening teacher content knowledge, improving teacher pedagogical skills and/or increasing student learning.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Practice teaching can take many forms, ranging from lower fidelity approximations like micro-teaching or peer teaching to higher fidelity approximations like student teaching. Practice-based theories of teacher education (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009) emphasize the importance of such experiences, with scholars noting that teacher candidates are more likely to be effective when the requisite knowledge and skill “is cultivated through high-quality opportunities to practice, coupled with support and feedback” (Benedict, Holdheide, Brownell, & Marshall Foley, 2016, p. 2). A frequent challenge for the teacher educator (TE) is what to make of limited or uneven information they may have about the pre-service teachers’ (PST) practice teaching, which may occur across disparate and variable sites, and which the TE may not have observed directly.
In this presentation, we share preliminary results from an exploratory study funded by the National Science Foundation (grant number 1621344) using Mursion’s interactive, human-in-the-loop, digital simulations to engage PSTs in leading small group discussions focused on argumentation at the primary level. These interactive teaching experiences were situated in mathematics and science methods courses, occurring three times across a semester in each. At each iteration, each PST taught a 20-minute lesson, with video records and written feedback subsequently made available to both PST and TE for reflection. This created a set of conditions that could not occur in field work; a group of PSTs each facing a common teaching dilemma, and a set of artifacts that allowed the PSTs and TE to notice the similarities and differences and reflect across the common set of challenges they faced. We report preliminary results from methods courses taught at three different institutions.
PSTs and TEs alike reported on the value of the experience. Results on authenticity were mixed, with PSTs noting that the avatar students’ mathematics seemed accurate but that they were better behaved than might be expected in real classrooms, which was consistent with the design. Several noted, however, that while this led to the interaction feeling less real, it was a reduction in complexity that they appreciated and felt contributed to their opportunities to learn. They also noted as particularly useful the opportunity to practicing in a low consequence environment, and the level of detail of the feedback provided.
Early results suggest that PSTs rubric scores improved across time points in all courses, and that they were able to apply the feedback received to subsequent iterations in specific ways. Additionally, the TEs benefited from the formative assessment opportunities, reporting that they felt the use of a common teaching dilemma provided them accurate and actionable information about where their PST’s needed more support.
Objectives of the session include supporting attendees to:
• Engage with the Mursion software by trying out practice tasks.
• Consider the potential affordances of such an approach.
• Learn more about our design approach and what attendees can do if they would like to use our materials or develop similar ones.


n/a for poster session

Supporting research


Ball, D. L., & Forzani, F. M. (2009). The work of teaching and the challenge for teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(5), 497–511.

Benedict, A., Holdheide, L., Brownell, M., & Marshall Foley, A. (2016). Learning to Teach: Practice-Based Preparation in Teacher Education.

Carrington, L., Kervin, L., & Ferry, B. (2011) Enhancing the development of pre-service teacher professional identity via an online classroom simulation. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 19(3), 351-368.

Girod, M., & Girod, G. R. (2008). Simulation and the need for practice in teacher preparation. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 16(3), 307.

Grossman, P. (2010). Learning to practice: The design of clinical experience in teacher preparation. The Partnership for Teacher Quality.

Grossman, P., Compton, C., Igra, D., Ronfeldt, M., Shahan, E., & Williamson, P.W. (2009). Teaching practice: A cross-professional perspective. Teachers College Record, 111(9), 2055-2100.

Grossman, P., Hammerness, K., & McDonald, M. (2009). Redefining teaching, re‐imagining teacher education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 15(2), 273-289.

Mikeska, J.N., Howell, H., & Straub, C. (2019): Using Performance Tasks within Simulated Environments to Assess Teachers’ Ability to Engage in Coordinated, Accumulated, and Dynamic (CAD) Competencies (International Journal of Testing, Volume 19:2, 128-147)

Pankowski, J., & Walker, J. T. (2016). Using Simulation to Support Novice Teachers’ Classroom Management Skills: Comparing Traditional and Alternative Certification Groups. Journal of the National Association for Alternative Certification, 11(1), 3-20.

Required acknowledgement: This study was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Award No. 1621344). The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and not the funding agency.

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Dr. Heather Howell, Educational Testing Service
Dr. Jamie Mikeska, Educational Testing Service

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