One of the biggest hurdles to becoming a successful educator is learning how to manage the behavior of students in the classroom. Real classroom settings are a critical training ground for future teachers, but they have their limitations. Live classroom performance review is often delayed by hours or even days.
“We all improve through practice,” says Bridget Hamre, a research associate professor at the Curry School and the director of numerous innovative projects in teacher preparation at the state and federal levels. “We would never send pilots into the skies with planes full of passengers if they hadn’t proven that they have the actual skills to fly the planes effectively. But we’re currently sending inexperienced teachers into classrooms with real students.”
At Curry, we are currently piloting a groundbreaking simulation program that provides teachers-in-training with instant feedback to help them learn how to handle this challenging task—with confidence rather than trepidation—from the moment they step into a real classroom.
The simulator gives future teachers never-before-available opportunities to develop their skills in an environment that is close to an actual classroom. The technology offers teachers-in-training the opportunity to deliver a lesson to a virtual classroom. As the teachers-in-training begin to teach, the avatars interact like real children, sometimes responding with inappropriate behavior. By applying strategies they have learned in their Curry courses, the teachers-in-training can work on redirecting distracting behavior and reengaging their students in the lesson.
Teachers-in-training receive immediate feedback from faculty advisors, repeat the simulation experience and try again to apply the evidence-based classroom management methods recommended by their advisors. Interacting with avatars also allows the opportunity to practice and hone teaching and classroom management skills without the possibility of negatively impacting real students.
Further advances in technology can completely virtualize the simulated classroom behavior, eliminating the need for a person on the other side of the program.
Over the next five years, we aspire to create the Center for Classroom Simulation Excellence at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education—a center that will serve as the preeminent model for the implementation of interactive simulation technology. We are looking to partner with leaders in the simulation industry and donors who understand the need for improving how we train teachers and other human-services professionals and who are willing to invest in this powerful technology during one, two or all three phases. This development will in turn advance the Curry School’s mission to create innovative ideas that improve the future for everyone.
With your support, the Curry School can accelerate the pace of knowledge acquisition as it relates to simulation science and technology, allowing us to have an immediate and long-term impact on education and other fields—and society as a whole.
- Phase 1: Proof of Concept
We have already taken the earliest steps toward advancing simulation technology and research. Your contribution during this initial phase will support ongoing simulation research at the Curry School and UVA, along with the hiring of a business development lead to very market conditions, identify commercial IT partners and complete market research and business analyses. This phase is already underway and estimated to take up to 2 years.
- Phase 2: Advancing Classroom Simulations
Funding will support development of a prototype simulator, which will require two full-time faculty members, four full-time doctoral students, a program manager, a software engineer with virtual reality and artificial intelligence expertise and support staff. Additional licenses will also need to be purchased.
- Phase 3: Creating a Center for Classroom Simulation Excellence
Once the prototype is operational, we will create a national research center focused on the development of leading edge simulation technologies. We expect this phase to take between 3 and 5 years after completion of Phase 2.