skip to main content

Title: Learning to Teach: How a Simulated Learning Environment Can Connect Theory to Practice in General and Special Education Educator Preparation Programs
Abstract: Educator preparation programs have moved away from o ering interest-based courses that prepare a teacher candidate on a more surface level and have opted to integrate more authentic experiences with technology that are infused into coursework. This research study focused on redesigning key courses in both the general and special education graduate-level educator preparation programs (EPPs) to infuse learning experiences through a simulated learning environment (Mursion) to help bridge teacher candidates’ coursework and field experiences, o ering them robust experience with high leverage practices and technology that increases their own competency. Data from this study demonstrated that preservice teacher candidate work within the Mursion simulated learning environment increased use of high leverage practices related to strategic teaching, collaboration, differentiation, and providing feedback. Implications for instructional coaching, microteaching, repeated practice, and closing the research to practice gap are discussed.
; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Education sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. As K-12 engineering education becomes more ubiquitous in the U.S, increased attention has been paid to preparing the heterogeneous group of in-service teachers who have taken on the challenge of teaching engineering. Standards have emerged for professional development along with research on teacher learning in engineering that call for teachers to facilitate and support engineering learning environments. Given that many teachers may not have experienced engineering practice calls have been made to engage teaches K-12 teachers in the “doing” of engineering as part of their preparation. However, there is a need for research studying more specific nature of the “doing”more »and the instructional implications for engaging teachers in “doing” engineering. In general, to date, limited time and constrained resources necessitate that many professional development programs for K-12 teachers to engage participants in the same engineering activities they will enact with their students. While this approach supports teachers’ familiarity with curriculum and ability to anticipate students’ ideas, there is reason to believe that these experiences may not be authentic enough to support teachers in developing a rich understanding of the “doing” of engineering. K-12 teachers are often familiar with the materials and curricular solutions, given their experiences as adults, which means that engaging in the same tasks as their students may not be challenging enough to develop their understandings about engineering. This can then be consequential for their pedagogy: In our prior work, we found that teachers’ linear conceptions of the engineering design process can limit them from recognizing and supporting student engagement in productive design practices. Research on the development of engineering design practices with adults in undergraduate and professional engineering settings has shown significant differences in how adults approach and understand problems. Therefore, we conjectured that engaging teachers in more rigorous engineering challenges designed for adult engineering novices would more readily support their developing rich understandings of the ways in which professional engineers move through the design process. We term this approach meaningful engineering for teachers, and it is informed by work in science education that highlights the importance of learning environments creating a need for learners to develop and engage in disciplinary practices. We explored this approach to teachers’ professional learning experiences in doing engineering in an online graduate program for in-service teachers in engineering education at Tufts University entitled the Teacher Engineering Education Program ( In this exploratory study, we asked: 1. How did teachers respond to engaging in meaningful engineering for teachers in the TEEP program? 2. What did teachers identify as important things they learned about engineering content and pedagogy? This paper focuses on one theme that emerged from teachers’ reflections. Our analysis found that teachers reported that meaningful engineering supported their development of epistemic empathy (“the act of understanding and appreciating someone's cognitive and emotional experience within an epistemic activity”) as a result of their own affective experiences in doing engineering that required significant iteration as well as using novel robotic materials. We consider how epistemic empathy may be an important aspect of teacher learning in K-12 engineering education and the potential implications for designing engineering teacher education.« less
  2. There is a shortage of research examining Black male middle school students’ early experiences, content and career exposure, and mentoring in STEM programs at HBCUs. Using Harper’s Anti-Deficit Achievement Framework, this research examined the asset-based pedagogy used to teach middle school Black boys (n=169) using survey data from a more extensive mixed-methods study of STEM programs at HBCUs. Results show that Black boys perceived the instructors and mentors incorporated a relatively high level of engagement and pedagogical practice using transactional strategies (meaningful learning, learning community, teacher student relationship quality). The more Black boys perceived meaningful connections in their lessons, themore »higher teacher student relationship quality and learning community ratings. The use of the three transactional instructional strategies resulted in Black boys' perceived use of critical thinking in the STEM learning context. As a result of participating in the STEM programs at HBCUs, Black boys significantly increased in STEM-based academic efficacy, specifically in technology. Implications for teachers, teacher educators, and program mentors and instructors in STEM spaces for Black boys are discussed.« less
  3. This research paper describes a study of elementary teacher learning in an online graduate program in engineering education for in-service teachers. While the existing research on teachers in engineering focuses on their disciplinary understandings and beliefs (Hsu, Cardella, & Purzer, 2011; Martin, et al., 2015; Nadelson, et al., 2015; Van Haneghan, et al., 2015), there is increasing attention to teachers' pedagogy in engineering (Capobianco, Delisi, & Radloff, 2018). In our work, we study teachers' pedagogical sense-making and reflection, which, we argue, is critical for teaching engineering design. This study takes place in [blinded] program, in which teachers take four graduatemore »courses over fifteen months. The program was designed to help teachers not only learn engineering content, but also shift their thinking and practice to be more responsive to their students. Two courses focus on pedagogy, including what it means to learn engineering and instructional approaches to support this learning. These courses consist of four main elements, in which teachers: 1) Read data-rich engineering education articles to reflect on learning engineering; 2) Participate in online video clubs, looking at classroom videos of students’ engineering and commenting on what they notice; 3) Conduct interviews with learners about the mechanism of a pull-back car; and 4) Plan and teach engineering lessons, collecting and analyzing video from their classrooms. In the context of this program, we ask: what stances do teachers take toward learning and teaching engineering design? What shifts do we observe in their stances? We interviewed teachers at the start of the program and after each course. In addition to reflecting on their learning and teaching, teachers watched videos of students’ engineering and discussed what they saw as relevant for teaching engineering. We informally compared summaries from previous interviews to get a sense of changes in how participants talked about engineering, how they approached teaching engineering, and what they noticed in classroom videos. Through this process, we identified one teacher to focus on for this paper: Alma is a veteran 3rd-5th grade science teacher in a rural, racially-diverse public school in the southeastern region of the US. We then developed content logs of Alma's interviews and identified emergent themes. To refine these themes, we looked for confirming and disconfirming evidence in the interviews and in her coursework in the program. We coded each interview for these themes and developed analytic memos, highlighting where we saw variability and stability in her stances and comparing across interviews to describe shifts in Alma's reasoning. It was at this stage that we narrowed our focus to her stances toward the engineering design process (EDP). In this paper, we describe and illustrate shifts we observed in Alma's reasoning, arguing that she exhibited dramatic shifts in her stances toward teaching and learning the EDP. At the start of the program, she was stable in treating the EDP as a series of linear steps that students and engineers progress through. After engaging and reflecting on her own engineering in the first course, she started to express a more fluid stance when talking more abstractly about the EDP but continued to take it up as a linear process in her classroom teaching. By the end of the program, Alma exhibited a growing stability across contexts in her stance toward the EDP as a fluid set of overlapping practices that students and engineers could engage in.« less
  4. Research Experience for Teachers (RET) programs are National Science Foundation (NSF) funded programs designed to provide K- 12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teachers with immersive, hands-on research experiences at Universities around the country. The NSF RET in nanotechnology encourages teachers to translate cutting-edge research into culturally relevant Project-Based Learning (PjBL) and engineering curriculum. Traditionally, the evaluation of RET programs focuses on the growth and development of teacher self-efficacy, engineering content knowledge gains, or classroom implementation of developed curriculum materials. However, reported methods for evaluating the impact of RETs on their female, minority student populations' high school graduation andmore »undergraduate STEM major rates are limited. This study's objective was to compare RET high school student graduation rates and undergraduate STEM major rates across gender, race, and ethnicity to a comparison sample to determine the RET program's long-term impact on students' likelihood of pursuing STEM careers. The approach of collecting and analyzing the Texas Education Research Center Database (EdRC) data is a novel methodology for assessing RET programs' effectiveness on students. The EdRC is a repository of K-12 student data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Higher Education data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). This joint database contains demographic, course registration, graduation, standardized testing, and college major, among others, for all students that attended a K-12 public school in Texas and any college in Texas, public or private. The RET program participants at Rice University (2010 – 2018) taught numerous students, a sample size of 11,240 students. A propensity score matching generated the student comparison group within the database. Students' school campus, gender, race/ethnic status, and English proficiency status were applied to produce a graduation comparison sample size of 11,240 students of Non-RET participants. Linking the TEA database to the THECB database resulted in college STEM participants and comparison sample sizes of 4,029 students. The project team conducted a logistic regression using RET status to predict high school graduation rates as a whole and by individual variables: gender, Asian American, Black, Caucasian, and Latinx students. All models were significant at p less than 0.05, with models in favor of students RET teachers. The project team conducted a logistic regression using RET status to predict student STEM undergraduate major rates as a whole and by individual variables: Gender, Asian American, Black, Caucasian, and Latinx students. African American and Caucasian models were significant at p less than 0.05; Gender, Asian American, and Latinx models were marginally significant (0.05 less than p greater than 0.1), where RET students had higher STEM major rates than matched controls. The findings demonstrate that RET programs have a long-term positive impact on the students' high school graduation rates and undergraduate STEM major rates. As teachers who participate in the RET programs are more likely to conduct courses using PjBL strategies and incorporate real-world engineering practices, female and minority students are more likely to benefit from these practices and seek careers utilizing these skills.« less
  5. In 2018, the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education (CREATE) received funding from the National Science Foundation to administer an Energy Storage Project with the overarching goal of advancing the renewable energy sector by facilitating integration of energy storage technology into existing two-year college programs. The goals for this project included gathering expertise, conducting job task and curriculum gap analyses, producing instructional materials, implementing pilot energy storage courses, and providing professional development for college instructors. The project's initial task was to work with educators to gather knowledge and expertise around energy storage technologies and energy education. Widespread adoption ofmore »energy storage is only beginning in the U.S. and, subsequently, energy storage-related educational programs are few; conversely, energy storage education efforts have already been pioneered and established in Europe, most notably in Germany. As a result, CREATE leveraged its history of improving energy education through international cooperation and organized a study tour to Germany for nine renewable energy educators to examine innovations in renewable energy and energy storage and to research how these technologies are incorporated into German workforce preparation. In the planning and conducting international professional development opportunities for educators, two distinct challenges arise: that of ensuring academic rigor and of anchoring and capturing learning, especially given the additional cognitive load presented by being abroad. CREATE employs an evidence-based, international collaboration model - developed and improved over the course of two previous study tours - to meet these challenges. The learning plan consists of pre-travel online activities, knowledge capture and collaborative sharing during travel, and post travel reflection. These activities combine to support educators in gathering and preserving knowledge gains and to facilitate collaborative knowledge-building that leverages the expertise and skills of the participant cohort. While this paper presents the results of the CREATE professional development model, however the findings are not limited to energy storage or to the energy sector. Indeed, this analysis and the resulting set of recommended practices should be of interest to anyone interested in creating a meaningful educator professional development opportunity, especially if international travel is incorporated.« less