Dotger Receives NSF Award to Design and Test Clinical Simulations for Math and Science Teacher Preparation

Benjamin DotgerBenjamin H. Dotger, assistant professor in Teaching and Leadership Programs in the School of Education, has been awarded a $449,898 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his project titled “The Science and Mathematics Simulated Interaction Model (SIM).” The SIM will design and clinically test simulations to prepare pre-service and early-career mathematics and science teachers through live one-to-one interactions with standardized individuals (SI’s) who are trained to present distinct mathematics or science problems, questions, or dilemmas that teachers may encounter in the field. Dotger plans to begin work late this summer along with project team members Professor Joanna Masingila (mathematics education), and Assistant Professors Sharon Dotger and Jeffrey Rozelle (science teaching).

Dotger and his team will develop eight different simulated interactions to focus on common issues that mathematics and science teachers encounter at the secondary level (grades 9-12). Similar to medical education’s use of standardized patients, the SIM’s standardized individuals are local actors who are carefully trained and scripted. Each teacher’s simulation is immediately followed by an individual debriefing and a written improvement plan. The eight content specific simulations will be designed to identify strengths and misconceptions in teachers’ understanding of content and pedagogy, increase teachers’ instructional capacity, and advance student achievement.

“Live simulations challenge novice teachers to translate ‘what they know’ into ‘what they can do,’” Dotger says.  “My colleagues and I are excited about the possibilities of this SIM grant because it will allow us to investigate what novice math and science teachers actually say and do when teaching students.”

Initially, the SIM will be implemented within the Syracuse University School of Education. SIM products, processes, and all findings will be made available to all education researchers and teacher educators through password-protected digital access. The SIM’s problem-based methodology challenges novice teachers to enact content and pedagogy, while also helping researchers to accurately and meaningfully assess teacher strengths and misconceptions in mathematics and science.

Dotger says, “This data, gathered through a methodology that places novice teachers in immediate, demanding, authentic situations, holds the potential to yield broader understandings of how novice science and mathematics teachers are transferring the content and pedagogy learned within teacher preparation into teacher practice.”