"The Bits of the Job Beyond Teaching": Can simulation-based learning in Initial Teacher Education better prepare students for real-life as a teacher? 

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The teaching profession is widely acknowledged to be in a teacher retention crisis, with one-third of teachers in England leaving the profession within five years of qualification (DfE, 2021; Long and Danechi, 2022). This workshop addresses teacher preparedness and some perceived deficits in Initial Teacher Training courses. Challenges in ensuring and maintaining an adequate teacher-supply are not limited to the UK, but are replicated internationally, with some sources indicating attrition rates of 28% within Europe (Federičová, 2021). Efforts to ensure an adequate supply of effective teachers are particularly relevant as teaching quality is critical to pupil progress (Slater et al. 2012; EEF 2021). These factors have prompted much consideration around creative and innovative approaches to support new teachers’ professional learning and initial preparedness for the role of teacher.    

In responding to these issues, Initial Teacher Training staff from Northumbria University BA Primary Education, elicited the views of qualified teachers in the UK on their experiences of ITT. We surveyed 229 teachers with between one and ten years’ experience in the classroom (from Early Years to Secondary) who had qualified in a variety of training routes through university or school-based provision, and we asked what they felt went well in their initial training, and what, with the benefit of the classroom experiences they now have, they would have liked more input on.  

Our explorations led to the creation of simulation-based learning (SBL) scenarios and resources to help bridge the theory-practice divide that our respondents identified. We found that simulations better prepare students, close the gaps in ITT provision, give added realism and relevance to the university-based experiences and give students experience of the real-life role of the teacher beyond classroom teaching. “University didn’t prepare me for any of the bits of the job beyond teaching” said one respondent. We developed SBL scenarios directly to meet this need.

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to our response to filling some of the reported ‘gaps’ in provision.  We addressed how to teach more challenging concepts that students rarely experience on placement - that ‘difficult’ conversation with a parent, what happens when a new teacher gets their first class, what do we need to know about them? How can a SENDCo help? 

Whilst simulations are widely used in disciplines such as medicine and health, examples in teacher training are less frequent, and have ‘often been limited to research prototypes used in experimental settings’ (Kaufman and Ireland, 2019, para. 2). Research in the field is growing (Levin and Flavian, 2022) and our research contributes to this body of knowledge by providing an account of the impacts of incorporating SBL into post-graduate and undergraduate Primary ITT programmes.  

To develop simulation-based learning we created a ‘virtual’ school – Coach Lane Primary, which currently consists of a Y2 class and a Y6 class. The ‘virtual’ children all have personal profiles and backstories including assessment data, SEND and pupil premium information.   

Three classroom-based scenarios have been developed which include videos, interviews, real-time data analysis and decision making and interactive role playing (by staff).  For example, one of the children in our school is ‘Phoebe’. Phoebe is in Y2 and lives with her grandmother because of challenging family circumstances. She is a representation of many children, in classes across the country, who have emotional and social needs; in her scenario, students look at how to tackle accusations of bullying, about which her grandmother has alerted the school, and how to manage difficult and challenging conversations with parents and carers. Students are asked how they would communicate with carers and the steps they would take to resolve and manage the situation. Having a detailed, shared understanding of the same class allows staff and students to have meaningful and insightful discussions about the types of potentially difficult situations teachers face every day.    

Delegates will have a chance to experience first-hand the SBL resources we have developed and trialled, and they will explore our new ‘in-development’ scenarios which incorporate multi-agency working with social workers and health professionals. They will also be able to discuss how they might begin to incorporate this approach into their own programmes.     

This innovative approach is now embedded in the ITT curriculum at Northumbria University and has received enthusiastic support from students with whom we continue to work and to develop content.  The workshop will be of interest to anyone working in ITT and those interested in SBL, multi-agency collaboration or teacher preparedness and retention.  


Department for Education (2021) School Workforce in England: Reporting Year 2021. Available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/school-workforce-in-england (Accessed on 10 January 2023).  

Education Endowment Foundation (2021) Effective Professional Development: Guidance Report. Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/education-evidence/guidance-reports/effective-professional-development (Accessed on 24 January 2023).  

Federičová, M. (2021) ‘Teacher turnover: What can we learn from Europe?’ European Journal of Education 56(1), pp. 102-116.   

Kaufman, D., and Ireland, A. (2019) ‘Simulation as a strategy in teacher education’ Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. DOI: 10.1093/9780190264093.013.478  

Levin, O., and Flavian, H. (2022) ‘Simulation-based learning in the context of peer learning from the perspective of preservice teachers: a case study’, European Journal of Teacher Education, 45(3), pp. 373-394. DOI: 10.1080/02619768.2020.1827391 

Long and Danechi (2022) Teacher Recruitment and Retention in England. Available at: https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7222/CBP-7222.pdf (Accessed 10 January 2023)  

Slater, H., Davies, N. M. and Burgess, S. (2012) ‘Do Teachers Matter? Measuring the Variation in Teacher Effectiveness in England’, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 74(5), pp. 629–645. 
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2023

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