Dotger and Dotger Secure NSF Funding for Research on Elementary Science Simulations
Benjamin Dotger, professor of teaching and leadership, and Sharon Dotger, associate professor of science education, both in the School of Education, have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their STEM-focused research into teacher education. The three-year grant, titled “ELEM-SIM: Elementary Science Simulations to Advance Undergraduate Elementary Teacher Preparation,” is for $299,697.
Dotger and Dotger are using Simulated Interaction Models (SIMS), a teaching method first developed in medical schools, to evaluate how future elementary science teachers put their skills into practice.
“We are looking at the degree to which a student not only remembers content, but can effectively teach it to someone else,” says Professor Ben Dotger.
SIMS have not been designed or applied in elementary science, explains Professor Sharon Dotger. “Generally speaking, future elementary teachers get few opportunities to engage in science teaching during their preparation. Additionally, we know very little about how these future teachers apply what they learned in their elementary science methods courses in their later years of novice teaching,” she says.
“Thus, elementary science simulations are a vital mechanism to provide these future teachers with a common experience to learn, while also providing us, as teacher educators, the opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of our own science teaching practice.”
In the grant’s first year, the researchers will plan and develop six simulated interactions at the elementary level using the Next Generation Science Standards, a multi-state effort to provide American students with coherent, internationally benchmarked learning opportunities in science. The simulations will assess how student teachers enact in a clinical setting what they have learned in their undergraduate science methods classes. Years 2 and 3 will be dedicated to implementing the simulations in K-6 pre-service teacher preparation and collecting data.
“We will be providing students an opportunity to teach subject matter they may not otherwise experience, and to do so in a clinical setting where mistakes are of lesser consequence and there’s video data to later review,” Ben Dotger says.
Using standardized patients in clinical simulations is a staple of medical school education. Healthy people are trained to present medical symptoms to medical students, providing the future medical professional with opportunities to practice diagnosing and prescribing a regimen of treatment. Ben Dotger adapted this pedagogy for use in teacher and school leader education beginning in 2007. With past support from the Spencer Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, he and colleagues have designed 45 simulated interactions that place future teachers and school leaders in live, one-to-one interactions with standardized parents, students, paraprofessionals and community members. In partnership with SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Clinical Skills Center, each simulation is captured on QuickTime video, allowing teachers and leaders to analyze their performance.
This new project will involve 100 Syracuse University undergraduate students in the simulations. Dotger and Dotger hope to see an increase in confidence in bringing science content into the elementary classroom, improvements in how scientific material is taught and advocacy for science teaching in the curriculum.
“The project will provide us with clear evidence of where our graduates are developing skill related to science teaching and where those skills need additional development,” says Sharon Dotger.
“The NSF review panel was enthusiastic about this study’s intellectual merit and its capacity to leverage insights from previously funded studies of clinical simulations by these investigators. Both our own students and the field at large stand to benefit, which is ideal in my view,” says Kelly Chandler-Olcott, associate dean for research at the School of Education.
This is the research team’s fifth nationally competitive grant for SIMS.