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Virtual reality classroom simulations: how school leaders improve instructional leadership capacity

Matthew Militello (Educational Leadership, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA)
Lynda Tredway (Institute for Educational Leadership, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Lawrence Hodgkins (Educational Leadership, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA)
Ken Simon (Institute for Educational Leadership, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 22 March 2021

Issue publication date: 2 June 2021

597

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to explore the utility of a virtual reality (VR) classroom experience for improving the capacity of instructional leaders. Specifically, school leaders used VR to build their classroom observation and analysis skills to prepare to have more effective post-observation conversations with teachers. The authors provide insights from multiple data points that highlight the affordances of the virtual setting for improving classroom observation skills.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on the application of simulations to practice classroom observations, the authors developed a VR experience in which participants tag observable elements of academic discourse using codes from two observation protocols. The protocols identify elements of equitable student access: how teachers call on students and how they design questions. Seventy-five school leaders used the VR platform to observe a classroom scenario and code evidence of equitable classroom access. The authors analyzed data from tagging in the virtual reality scenario and triangulated these data with survey data focused on observation practices from participants' schools. A reflection component is included on the platform to collect these qualitative data.

Findings

The study results indicate that the virtual reality platform provides an innovative process for leadership professional development focused on building school leaders' capacity to identify elements of academic discourse during classroom observations. Participants reported that the opportunity to practice classroom observations in a risk-free environment was useful. However, for school leaders to fully transfer the data to using in conversations with teachers, they benefit from leadership coaching.

Originality/value

This study ascertains the potential effectiveness of an advanced technology for enhancing instructional leadership by using evidence-based classrooms observations to drive improvements in teaching practice. Beyond the utility of the virtual reality tool, this study provides a proof of concept for the next generation of instructional leadership through teacher observations with augmented reality.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a US Department of Education Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant (Award No. U423A180096).

Citation

Militello, M., Tredway, L., Hodgkins, L. and Simon, K. (2021), "Virtual reality classroom simulations: how school leaders improve instructional leadership capacity", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 59 No. 3, pp. 286-301. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-10-2020-0219

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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