Developing Preservice Teacher Conceptions of Effective Teachers Using Classroom Scenarios to Practice Difficult Conversations

December, 2021

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 46(12)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, teacher educators from three different teacher preparation programs implemented a series of classroom scenarios that required preservice teachers to have difficult conversations with students.
Difficult conversations require preservice teacher to engage with their own multiple identities and develop an awareness of oppression and the myriad ways it can play out in classrooms.
The authors intended to create a space for their preservice teachers to scrutinize their stance and assumptions about cultural diversity.
They implemented a classroom scenario in which a student approaches a teacher after class to discuss how the teachers’ actions make the student feel stereotyped, implying the teacher may be engaging in racist behavior.
The classroom scenarios in this study serve as approximations of practice.
Preservice teachers respond to accusations of racial bias and critically reflect and discuss their reactions to improve their ability to create culturally responsive classrooms.
The purpose of this study is to examine how engagement with these classroom scenarios may have worked to develop the practical knowledge needed to navigate difficult conversations with students regarding racial bias and thereby change preservice teachers (PSTs) conceptions of the qualities of effective teachers.
This study examines changes in elementary (Grades Kindergarden-6) and secondary teacher (Grades 7-12) candidates' conceptions of effective teachers' qualities after engaging with classroom scenarios designed to support preservice service teachers in holding difficult conversations with students in culturally responsive ways.
The scenarios selected presented teaching situations where PST's took on the teacher's role in overhearing students making racialized or gendered comments, a student's accusations of racial bias in classroom management strategies and encouraging students to take on more challenging work.
To this aim, the authors ask the following question: What changes occur in PST's conceptions of an effective teacher's qualities during a semester of coursework focused on culturally responsive teaching and the opportunity to practice having difficult conversations with students?

Research Methods
According to Cook and Campbell (1979), quasi-experiments are often used to evaluate the effectiveness educational interventions.
To minimize concerns related to having no control or variable group, the authors used a one-group pretest-posttest design.
This study's focus was to determine how preservice teacher engagement in classroom scenarios about culturally responsive teaching practices change their conceptions of effective teachers.
Researchers used a Wilcoxon signed ranks test to determine if statistically significant differences in rankings occurred postintervention, and a paired t-test compared changes between groups.

Participants - Thirty-seven preservice teachers participated in this study from three different teacher education programs.

Data Sources and Procedures - All 37 participants were asked to identify and describe five effective teacher qualities and then rank them from one to five, with one being the most important quality and five the least important in the first week of the course and then again at the end of the course.
Each of the course instructors was a research fellow with the Innovative New Spaces for Practice and Rehearsal in Education (INSPIRE) Program at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab.
This project aimed to support teacher educators in implementing games and simulations designed to serve as practice spaces for PSTs to develop equitable teaching practices related to assessment, eliciting learner knowledge, and classroom management.
Instructors met weekly to discuss and design learning experiences using these practice spaces, reflect on effective teaching practices, and redesign future implementations.
Although the courses' curriculum varied in terms of course readings and additional assignments, all classroom scenarios were implemented similarly across the courses to address learning outcomes related to becoming culturally responsive educators.

Results and discussion
This study's findings show a small but significant shift in preservice teacher conceptions of effective teachers after engaging in simulated in which they are accused of racial bias.
The purpose of this study was to determine if providing PSTs the opportunity to practice having difficult conversations with students regarding racial bias would change their conception of effective teachers.
The findings show that preservice teachers shifted their notions about effective teachers' characteristics.
The emphasis on personal attributes (PA) such as "caring" was top ranked in the pre-course rankings and moved to the second position in the post-course ratings.
Participants also ranked Teaching Skills sooner and more often than in the pre-course rankings.
For example, participants mostly did not list Teaching Sills until the fifth quality, if at all in the pre-course listings; however, in the post course ratings, the Teaching Skills ranking improved to an average of 4.22, meaning students started listing it sooner and more often.
While the authors don’t claim that implementations of classroom scenarios were solely responsible for these changes, it is interesting that similar changes in PST's conceptions of effective teachers occurred across all three programs.
These programs curriculums varied in terms of texts and assignments but collectively prioritized developing preservice teachers' knowledge of culturally responsive teaching.
The findings indicate that providing preservice teachers practice with practice in holding a difficult conversation with a student can increase their awareness that teaching skills and not just personal attributes like being kind and caring are needed to create culturally responsive classroom learning environments.
This study joins the growing movement for practice-based teachers that explores the affordances of classroom scenarios for teacher education (Thompson et al., 2019).

Cook, T. D. & Campbell, D. T. (1979). Quasi-experimentation. Design and analysis issues for field settings. Houghton Mifflin.
Thompson, M., Owho-Ovuakporie, K., Robinson, K., Kim, Y. J., Slama, R., & Reich, J. (2019). Teacher moments: A digital simulation for preservice teachers to approximate parent– teacher conversations. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 35(3), 144– 164 

Updated: Aug. 03, 2022