Teachers’ Conceptions and their Approaches to Teaching in Virtual Reality and Simulation-Based Learning Environments

Feb. 01, 2011

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 17, No. 1, February 2011, 131–147.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes a research which is the first phase of the design-based research (DBR) method.
The purpose of the DBR is to develop a pedagogical model for organising virtual reality (VR) and simulation-based learning.

The goal of this study is to find out what kinds of pedagogical approaches and educational tools teachers have adopted when teaching their subject matter in Virtual Centre of Wellness Campus (ENVI) was set up at Rovaniemi University in Finland.

The research question guiding this phase of the larger study is:
‘What kinds of concepts of teaching and learning, pedagogical models and methods, and educational tools are teachers using in VR and simulation-based learning environments?’

Participants and Research Methods
The participants were eight teachers and trainees who taught in ENVI.
The teachers’ field of teaching was most often nursing or emergency care.
Their work experience in the field averaged 18 years.
Their teaching experience varied from temporary posts to 16 years, but most often their teaching experience was from one to three years.

The teachers had received considerable pedagogical training; most had attended pedagogical courses, but some had taken pedagogical training (60 ECTS, European Credit Transfer System).

The data were collected in February 2008 using thematic interviews.

Discussion and Concluding Remarks

The current study attempts to make explicit the teaching practices used in VR and simulation-based environments for teachers, teacher educators, instructor trainers, designers and researchers.

Results of this study indicate that the teachers saw teaching mostly as facilitation of students’ learning (Kember & Kwan, 2000), whereas views of learning were more varied.

The teachers said that students learned partly by acquiring knowledge ) Säljö, 1979) by doing and exploring, and by constructing for themselves, the knowledge and skills needed in their future careers (Bruce & Gerber, 1995; Lonka et al. , 1996; Säljö, 1979).
The teachers also perceived learning as an individually different process.
These conceptions may have arisen because ENVI as a learning environment encourages students’ own activity and in that environment, the traditional type of teaching is almost impossible.

In addition, ENVI seems to have significantly improved the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge that has long been lacking in higher education (Laksov et al., 2008; Tynjälä, 1999).
However, teaching in ENVI also requires effort from teachers, including familiarisation with the environment, especially with the health and welfare technology, strong expertise in the subject, planning and flexibility.

This study’s results suggest that the ENVI teachers are moving towards adopting student-centred approaches to teaching.

Bruce, C., & Gerber, R. (1995). Towards university lecturers’ conceptions of student learning. Higher Education, 29, 443–458.

Kember, D., & Kwan, K. (2000). Lectures’ approaches to teaching and their relationship to conceptions of good teaching. Instructional Science, 28, 469–490.

Laksov, K.B., Lonka, K., & Josephson, A. (2008). How do medical teachers address the problem of transfer? Advances in Health Sciences Education, 13, 345–360.

Lonka, K., Joram, E., & Bryson, M. (1996). Conceptions of learning and knowledge: Does training make a difference. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21, 240–260.

Säljö, R. (1979). Learning in the learner’s perspective, I – Some commonsense conceptions (Reports from the Institute of Education, No. 77). Gothenburg: University of Gothenburg.

Tynjälä, P. (1999). Towards expert knowledge? A comparison between a constructivist and a traditional learning environment in the university. International Journal of Educational Research, 31, 357–442.

Updated: Oct. 21, 2012