In partnership with OES, Teach for Australia was able to provide an interactive classroom environment for its beginning teachers during COVID-19, when many school practicums were unavailable or postponed. Through our leading-edge virtual reality technology, actor-driven avatars and collaborative scenario design, OES delivered over 200 simulations.
Teach for Australia is a non-profit organisation and registered charity dedicated to developing exceptional people to teach and lead in schools serving lower socioeconomic communities. Working towards its vision of equity in education, Teach for Australia supports its beginning teachers, known as Associates, to develop specialist skills to teach and lead in partner schools around Australia.
Like many education institutions in 2020, Teach for Australia had to pivot to running their programs online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Teach for Australia was faced with the challenge of both developing their content for a virtual program, but also dealing with practicums that were either delayed or cancelled. Teach for Australia wanted to give the Associates a forum to test their new teaching strategies in an authentic classroom environment, with challenging student behaviours and fast-moving scenarios.
As one of the only operators of Mursion VR simulations software in the Asia Pacific, OES was uniquely placed to deliver an authentic and customised solution through its live simulations. Specialist actors created the multiple-character classrooms, responding to the Associates’ teaching with language and behaviours developed through a scenario design process.
“The scenario design was a really collaborative process. With Teach for Australia’s curriculum leaders, we established the skills and teaching behaviours Associates needed to demonstrate, and how the actor-driven avatars would test those skills,” said David Paroissien, OES Market Lead for Education Services.
OES hosted ‘rapid retrospectives’ with Teach for Australia, enabling staff to test the live simulations and offer immediate feedback, before the scenarios were tweaked and trialled again. OES continued to respond to feedback from staff and Associates throughout the simulations delivery to ensure it met the needs of the learners.
Associates were invited to lead five virtual reality classroom sessions over a fortnight. Peer review enabled them to reflect on their experiences and try new techniques in each session.
“Teach for Australia asked us to ‘ramp up’ certain student behaviours, to challenge Associates as they became more confident in the virtual reality environment,” David explained.
Importantly though, each session was tailored to the Associate’s learning objectives. “The avatar host was named Bennett. He welcomed Associates into the session and asked them, ‘What sort of classroom would you like to walk into today?’. He also debriefed with them at the end of the session.”
OES Program Director, Rhonni Sasaki ensured the simulations were informed by best practice pedagogy, while our simulations specialists tailored the interactions and characters within the simulation technology. An OES engagement lead made sure the collaborative process ran smoothly.
“Adapting our services to the client’s parameters is part of the OES mindset. We can work within their technology ecosystem or leverage our own tools to help them,” explained David.
While OES can provide communications, booking and evaluation services to support its simulations, Teach for Australia opted to manage these functions on its own platforms.
Close to 50 Teach for Australia Associates participated in five simulations each over a two-week period.
“Giving our Associatesa risk-free yet complex learning environment to apply their new teaching knowledge and skills was fantastic. We saw them try new things, reflect on challenging situations, and go back and try again,” said Emma Waheed, Teach for Australia’s National Curriculum Manager.
When Teach for Australia surveyed participants:
- 91% agreed or strongly agreed the simulation gave them the opportunity to develop their classroom management skills
- 94% agreed or strongly agreed the simulation gave them the opportunity to develop teacher persona and presence
Associate feedback included the following comments:
“Mursion was a great way to apply the behaviour management technique we were learning and to test it out in a simulated classroom without major consequences. It was also a great tool that allowed us to look back and review our teacher persona and methods.”
“I’ve really enjoyed the experience and the responsiveness and idiosyncrasies of each of the ‘students’.”
“Mursion was incredibly enlightening and a great stress-free practice to handle highly complex classroom scenarios.”