Benjamin Dotger, associate professor of teaching and leadership in the Syracuse University School of Education, has been awarded a grant for $199,650 from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to establish a simulated interaction model (SIM) for pre-service secondary teachers. In collaboration with SUNY Upstate Medical University, Dotger will design clinical simulations to better prepare future high school teachers for the everyday challenges and situations they will face when they begin their professional careers as educators.
Since 1963, medical schools have prepared future physicians by having them practice their professional skills with standardized patients. Dotger’s program will retrain standardized patients from SUNY Upstate’s Clinical Skills Center to serve as standardized individuals who will interact with pre-service high school teachers in monitored simulations. Standardized students and parents will present specific questions, comments and challenges that teachers must address using their own professional skills and knowledge. Each simulation will be video recorded and reviewed to help the future teachers analyze their strengths, weaknesses and strategies in different situations.
“Clinical simulations provide opportunities for our novice teachers to practice working with students and parents on problems of practice in their subject areas,” says Dotger. “For example, future English teachers can practice supporting students and collaborating with parents to foster literacy opportunities at home. Future mathematics teachers can practice addressing students’ questions about factoring, word problems and graph interpretation. Future music teachers can practice coaching and guiding students toward improved musical performance.”
Dotger plans to create a set of 21 simulations for secondary education programs over the next three years. Once fully established, approximately 165 School of Education students will graduate each year having participated in the simulations. Dotger will collaborate with a variety of institutions to expand this program across New York, and ultimately, nationally through a train-the-trainer process. Dotger designs SIMs to address the often-reported gap between novice teachers’ teaching preparation coursework and the daily challenges they encounter as full-time teachers. Engaging in live, one-to-one simulated interactions will help student teachers develop and practice their professional skills further, while receiving support and guidance from faculty.
“Clinical simulations provide teachers multiple chances to enact what they’ve learned here in the School of Education—and receive video-informed feedback from faculty—before they are confronted with the very busy realities of everyday classroom practice,” says Dotger.