The Assessing Teaching Practice (@Practice) Project at the University of Michigan School of Education develops and studies teaching simulations as a way to assess and support the learning of high-leverage teaching practices and mathematical knowledge for teaching.
Teaching is a practice. It is something that teachers do, not merely something they know. Therefore, to prepare future teachers, teacher education must engage preservice teachers in doing the work of teaching.
Mathematics teacher education focused on the doing of mathematics teaching requires assessments capable of evaluating and providing feedback on enacted practice. In 2011, faced with the limitations of prevailing assessment approaches, we began designing and using simulations—such as those used to prepare professionals in medicine, pharmacy, and law—to assess practice. Simulations provide a way to assess enacted skill and knowledge, while standardizing content and contextual factors. They provide an important complement to assessments of teaching that happen in, and are influenced by, situationally varying school contexts.
Our simulations assess two of the UM Elementary Teacher Education High-Leverage Practices: eliciting student thinking and interpreting student thinking. In our simulations, a preservice teacher elicits and responds to the thinking of a person assuming the role of a “student” whose statements, actions, and responses are guided by a highly specified profile of a student’s mathematical thinking. Each simulation has three parts:
- The preservice teacher reviews a student work sample that will be the focus of the interaction.
- The preservice teacher interacts with a simulated student, posing questions to learn about the student’s thinking.
- The preservice teacher responds to a series of questions centered on interpretation of the student’s thinking.
We routinely use simulation assessments in our elementary teacher education program as a complement to field-based assessments. Results from simulation assessments given at different points in our program help us support preservice teachers’ learning and inform program development.
With support from the UM School of Education and the National Science Foundation, the @Practice Project currently conducts research on:
- the design of simulations (approaches to design, how different design features impact performance)
- the enactment of simulations (challenges of standardization in interactive contexts, training materials that would support others in using simulations)
- the connections between skill with teaching practices and knowledge of content