The development and testing of an online scenario-based learning activity to prepare preservice teachers for teaching placements

August 2021

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 104

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors present two studies describing the development and administration of an online scenario-based learning (SBL) activity designed to increase preservice teachers’ readiness to embark on teaching placements during their teacher education program.
The purpose of this proof-of-concept study was to evaluate the feasibility and initial impact of an SBL intervention (including reflection and feedback components) designed to help prepare preservice teachers for the teaching placement in two different contexts.
This is one of the first studies to systematically explore the application of structured, scenario-based learning in teacher education.
In Study 1 the authors administered the SBL activity to 40 preservice teachers at the start of their program in one primary-level ITT program in England, and collected data on participants' views of the utility of the activity, and how the activity influenced their placement self-efficacy and placement readiness.
In Study 2 they administered a revised SBL activity to 151 preservice teachers in two universities in Australia prior to their second teaching placement.
They used a quasi-experimental design to investigate teaching self-efficacy and classroom readiness, and assessed participants’ placement self-efficacy and readiness using open-ended questions.

Study 1
The purpose of Study 1 was to test the feasibility of the SBL activity and to assess placement self-efficacy, placement readiness, engagement in the SBL activity, and perceptions of the utility of the activity.
The authors administered a brief (approximately 45-min) online SBL activity with six realistic classroom scenarios to preservice teachers in a UK primary ITT program in the northeast of England.
For each of the six scenarios, participants rated the appropriateness of response options, reflected on their responses, received realtime feedback generated by experienced teachers, i.e., a distance score that provided ‘corrective information’ based on their responses (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996), and responded to a series of questions about the SBL activity.


The participants in Study 1 were 40 first-year preservice teachers at the start of a 1-year postgraduate teacher education program.
Participants were candidates who had recently been accepted into the ITT program and had not yet completed a teaching placement.

Scenario-based learning activity
The SBL activity consisted of six text-based scenarios that reflected common classroom challenges, with scenario titles including:
Teaching a mixed ability class, Managing competing deadlines, Dealing with angry parents, A student that not coping with work, A difficult review meeting with mentor, and Student misbehaves in class.
After reading each scenario, participants rated the appropriateness of three response options (Rate the appropriateness of each of the options in terms of what a beginning teacher should do), and were asked to reflect on the reasons for their ratings.
SBL scores were calculated by distance from expert ratings for each response.
Corrective feedback was delivered in real-time after the completion of each scenario.

In Study 1, the authors measured placement self-efficacy, placement readiness, task engagement, and utility of the intervention using three open-ended measures, each requiring a direct response (yes/somewhat/no) and an open-ended rationale.

Results and discussion – Study 1
In Study 1 the authors saw that most new trainee teachers reported that the SBL activity played a role in increasing their placement self-efficacy, their preparedness to enter the classroom, and that they had generally favourable impressions of the usefulness of the SBL activity.
Although the intervention was brief and the outcomes were all self-reported, the results from Study 1 suggested that an SBL activity could be a valuable activity to expose new preservice teachers to challenging classroom situations and to encourage reflection about the situations and decisions that they will face when they enter the classroom on teaching placements.

Study 2
The purpose of Study 2 was to further test the feasibility of the SBL activity in a different context (Australia), to gauge participant reactions to the activity, and to explore the effects of the activity on reported self-efficacy and classroom readiness.
In Study 2 the authors administered six SBL scenarios (different from those in Study 1 and checked and adapted to Australian context by four Australian researchers familiar with the New South Wales education system) to 151 preservice teachers in two universities in New South Wales, Australia.
Most participants in Study 2 had previously completed a ‘minor’ school placement and were preparing for their ‘major’ school placement.
The following research questions were addressed:
Does the SBL activity have an effect on preservice teachers' self-efficacy, and emotional, motivational, and cognitive classroom readiness?
The authors predicted that there would be a significant intervention effect for teaching self-efficacy (Hypothesis 1), emotional classroom readiness (Hypothesis 2), motivational classroom readiness (Hypothesis 3), and cognitive classroom readiness (Hypothesis 4).
They also addressed the questions:
How do preservice teachers rate their placement self-efficacy and placement readiness after completing the SBL activity?
They hypothesized that most participants would agree that the SBL activity increased placement self-efficacy (Hypothesis 5), and placement readiness (Hypothesis 6).


Study 2 was conducted at two university-based ITT programs in Australia as part of a ‘hurdle requirement’ (i.e., compulsory but not assessed) that preservice teachers completed before starting their major teaching placement.
Participants completed the activity on their own device at home, and no compensation for participation was provided.
Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention group and a control group in which the timing of the questionnaire measures varied:
The control group completed the teachers’ self-efficacy and classroom readiness outcome measures prior to working on the SBL activity, whereas the intervention group completed the outcome measures questionnaire after the SBL activity.
This design enabled the researchers to draw conclusions on the effects of the intervention while also allowing all participants to receive the SBL activity in the same session.
Both groups completed the open-ended placement self-efficacy and placement readiness items after completing the scenarios.

151 preservice teachers gave consent to the use of their data for research purposes (over 90% of possible participants).
The resulting final sample consisted of 131 preservice teachers (68 in the control group and 63 the intervention group).

Scenario-based learning activity
The SBL activity consisted of six scenarios, with the following titles:
Teacher juggling multiple tasks, Professionalism is compromised, Student doesn't speak English, Peer asks for advice, Managing extra-curricular activities, and Dealing with unresponsive class.

The measures in Study 2 included teaching self-efficacy, classroom readiness, a set of control variables, plus open-ended measures of placement self-efficacy and placement readiness.

Results and discussion - Study 2
In Study 2 the authors administered the SBL activity in a different setting (Australia) and to preservice teachers who had already completed a minor teaching placement.
Using a quasi-experimental design, they found that although mean scores in the intervention group were slightly higher for teaching self-efficacy and the three classroom readiness domains, the differences were statistically significant only for emotional classroom readiness.
Results from the open-ended placement self-efficacy and placement readiness measures showed that most participants felt more confident and prepared to enter the classroom after completing the SBL activity, although the positive impact of the intervention was less marked than in Study 1, where participants had not completed any of their teaching placements.

General discussion
The authors found that although most participants in both studies found the SBL activities useful in boosting their confidence and in preparing them for their upcoming placements, the less experienced preservice teachers were more likely to report that the activity boosted their placement self-efficacy and readiness than those participants who had already completed a teaching placement.
For almost 90% of participants in Study 1, and 68% of participants in Study 2, the SBL activity was reported to positively influence how confident participants felt about carrying out the tasks expected in the teaching placement.
For preservice teachers who are at the beginning of their professional development and have had limited experience in a classroom setting, exposure to an SBL intervention with opportunity for reflection and for feedback may be particularly welcomed, even if the classroom scenarios are relatively brief and uncomplicated.
For more experienced preservice teachers, it may be beneficial to consider scenarios that deliver more sophisticated and complex scenarios and challenges, potentially using a ‘branching’ approach which increases complexity and authenticity of participant experience and that may also increase engagement in the activity (e.g., Reddock, Auer, & Landers, 2020).
For preservice teachers, ‘reality shock’ is an all-too-frequent consequence of a preservice teachers' first encounter (from the teacher's perspective) with classroom challenges (Dicke, Elling, Schmeck, & Leutner, 2015).
Scenario-based learning approaches have the potential to introduce preservice teachers to the culture of the workplace, achieve graduate standards, develop their professional identity, and to increase the confidence and preparedness for the teaching placement and for subsequent professional practice.
The efficiency of the delivery of online SBL activities is appealing, with authentic classroom scenarios delivered to large numbers of trainees simultaneously, and with feedback from experienced teachers available to all participants in real time.
The results from these two studies show that an SBL activity can feasibly play a role in preparing preservice teachers for their school placements.

Dicke, T., Elling, J., Schmeck, A., & Leutner, D. (2015). Reducing reality shock: The effects of classroom management skills training on beginning teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 48, 1-12.
Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 254-284.
Reddock, C. M., Auer, E. M., & Landers, R. N. (2020). A theory of branched situational judgment tests and their applicant reactions. Journal of Managerial Psychology.  

Updated: Jan. 19, 2022