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Simulated Practice: Using Socially-Responsive Avatars to Prepare STEM Graduate Teaching Assistants for Student-Centered Instruction: 1725554

Principal Investigator: Jacquelyn Chini
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): Erin Saitta, Charles Hughes
Organization: The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees

“TeachLive” is a mixed-reality classroom simulator through which teacher trainees practice interacting with small groups of virtual students who take on different, realistic roles as learners. The teacher trainees in this project are Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), who increasingly provide the instruction for introductory undergraduate courses in large enrollment institutions. The extent of current GTA training varies by institution and most typically entails learning about generalized pedagogical best practices with little or no actual practice with feedback from a master teacher. GTAs are often hired to teach students while they themselves are still learning to teach. Most STEM GTAs and their undergraduate students would benefit from more intentional instruction on how to engage students using high-impact practices and pedagogical content knowledge within their disciplines. The TeachLive simulator provides a promising technology-based solution to the problem of providing GTAs with high quality training. TeachLive training provides a real-time response mechanism to practice teaching and has the promise of being more effective than other TA training strategies (workshops, short-courses, etc.), which do not provide enough feedback (real-time or otherwise) to be effective. The curricular materials for which GTAs will safely practice evidence-based teaching will utilize concept inventories that have been developed in four different STEM fields, Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Computer Science.

In the past the TeachLive platform has been developed and used successfully to train K-12 teachers to describe and explain problems more effectively and to better recognize students’ misconceptions. This project is motivated by two deficiencies in current practice. First, most GTAs get basic training in pedagogy, but not specific training in their discipline. Second, GTAs’ fidelity of utilization of pedagogical training is highly variable, and many of them don’t succeed in providing strong engaged student learning experiences. The TeachLive Simulator has the promise of tailoring practice to each specific GTA depending on their needs.

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