The Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics

School of Emerging Technologies

Developing Prospective Teachers' Questioning Skills through Interaction with a Virtual Interview Subjects

Sandy Spitzer (Math), Suranjan Chakraborty (Computer and Information Science), Yuanqiong Wang (Computer and Information Science) & Josh Dehlinger (Computer and Information Science)

This project investigates the effectiveness of a simulated field experience on prospective elementary mathematics teachers’ questioning skills. We are developing and evaluating a prototype of a “Virtual Interview Subject” (VIS) which prospective teachers can interact in a low-risk, sustained way to improve their questioning skills before working with students in a live field placement. Programmed with a knowledge base of theoretically and empirically determined student responses to interviews about geometry, the VIS uses a question-answer approach to respond in real time to prospective teachers’ questions, providing a unique setting for prospective elementary teachers to experiment with different questioning techniques as well as a context for analysis of student thinking.

Bringing together the expertise of computer and information scientists and mathematics teacher educators, this project has the potential to expand our understanding of how technology can be used in teacher education. Although conversational agents have been used in the past for teaching and research and as a way to motivate students to learn, this project proposes a unique use of this emerging technology. Most previous efforts using the conversational agents have utilized them as tutors, whereas this project tries to present a new way of using the conversational agent by programming it as virtual students to present a simulated teaching task. Currently, while technology is often used to support live or vicarious field experiences (e.g., through discussion boards or video), technology providing simulated experiences is extremely rare. This is an open area for potential research and technological design, and the experience and expertise of our team is well-suited for exploring it.

Impact on Students

This project impacts the undergraduate teacher education program at TU by developing a technological tool which would allow prospective teachers to practice and hone their questioning skills in a low-risk environment.  The results of this project include a technological tool and a curricular innovation that will be used in a variety of undergraduate courses aimed at prospective elementary and middle school teachers, including Math 255, Math 323 and Math 251.  The enrollment in these courses is high, so this project has the potential to impact a large number of TU undergraduates

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