Virtual reality technology like the Microsoft Kinect is becoming more commonplace, and researchers and professionals are looking for new ways to use it in learning environments. This particular study focuses on graduate teaching assistants and their teacher training process. The authors argue that virtual reality settings provide a sense of presence and immersion that allows for authentic interactions.
The authors focused on 23 college TAs from education, engineering, business, arts, and science departments. The VR platform simulated a classroom setting, and each participant was asked to practice both lecturing and dealing with classroom management. The "class" was made up of both computer players and the TAs’ peers via student avatars, and the authors purposefully included difficult and disruptive behaviors to challenge the participants. The authors used a pre, during, and post intervention teaching self efficacy scale to evaluate how the TAs performed at different stages of the study.
The participants reported that they found the VR system to be helpful for training new TAs, especially because they were able to representatively gesture through their VR avatars on-screen. However, participants noted that it was difficult to get the attention of all students in the class, as they had to very purposefully point to a physical space in order to direct everyone’s attention that way. They also said they disliked the lack of embodied scripting, like writing on the chalkboard while lecturing. Participants were, however, able to interact with individual students in the simulation, and zoom in and out to orient their point of view in the virtual classroom.
The authors suggest that using VR technology for teacher training is not only low-cost and accessible, but also representative and immersive, providing participants with the unique opportunity to practice teaching and managing a class with virtual students before entering the classroom. This has significant implications for teacher education not just in higher education settings, but also at the K-12 or vocational levels. Pre-service teachers need exposure to real classroom settings, and VR technology has the potential to make that possible.Teaching training in a mixed-reality integrated learning environment