Classroom simulations train K–12 teachers
To help prepare tomorrow’s educators for what they’ll face in the trenches, some University of Phoenix College of Education students get to practice their teaching and management skills in mock K–12 classrooms. The classrooms are up and running at the University’s Indianapolis and Salt Lake City campuses, and another is in development.
“With the mock K–12 classroom, we’re showing teachers what they need to do to be effective instead of just telling them,” explains Steven Balke, director of academic affairs in Indianapolis. He adds that the simulation on his campus is the “primary place” for education students to hone their skills before working as student teachers in local public schools.
Key teaching tools in the classroom, he says, include interactive visual aids, such as “word walls” that display specific words depending on what instructors are teaching and how they want to incorporate them into lessons.
For example, the words can promote vocabulary growth for kindergartners or encourage elementary school students to use new words in their speech and play, notes Marg Mast, Indianapolis campus college chair for education programs.
“We wanted to demonstrate this type of learning in a real [classroom] space, like what it means to have a word wall and how to use that [teaching method] with students,” she says.
Visual teaching aids for secondary grades, Balke notes, can include interactive history maps that illustrate the progression of wars, or step-by-step guides on how to keep up with class assignments.
The room also features modular learning stations that are adaptable to what’s being taught. For instance, the stations can be configured into large group tables for kindergarten-level craft projects, or set up as a traditional lecture hall for high school students.
“We have the flexibility to customize the classroom as we need to,” Balke explains, noting that all students in the on-campus education degree programs get to use it at least once.
The mock classroom at the Salt Lake City Campus contains many of the same components, as well as a sophisticated multimedia center.
“When you walk in, it feels like a real classroom,” says John Shoell, campus education program manager. The room features a digital projector, computers and video recording equipment so students can film themselves for later critiques of their teaching methods, he notes.
This mock classroom will soon incorporate e-readers, interactive whiteboards and related teaching tools, according to Melanie Behunin, director of academic affairs. She notes that the high-tech tools mirror those used in most of the local school districts, where many of the University’s education graduates get hired.
“Our mock classroom takes students through the training requested by the schools in our area,” Behunin explains, and that includes heavy use of classroom technology. “When you finish training in our mock classroom," she notes, “you’ll be ready for teaching in the real world."