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Controversial Science Argumentation Skills for Teachers in the Digital Clinical Simulation Discussion Leader

Teaching controversial issues is a critical skill for a continuing democracy and to ensure that the next generation of researchers and designers are well versed in critical analysis skills. Despite this, teachers report that they have received little instruction on how to facilitate a controversial discussion with students and are concerned about possible challenges inside and outside the classroom. To address this need, I have designed a digital clinical simulation of a high school science teacher leading a discussion on the ethics of gene therapy with their class of twenty students using a branching structure on the platform Teacher Moments. In a study with 42 participants, I show that this simulation could be useful in raising teachers’ comfort with leading controversial discussions, and that the teacher dialogue choices that experienced teachers make differ from those with less teaching experience. This research shows the usefulness of simulations in preparing teachers to lead controversial discussions with students across a number of discussion skills such as asking open-ended questions and deciding where a teacher’s opinion belongs in a discussion. Furthermore, I suggest future design work that could be implemented using machine learning methods to improve the generation of student dialogue and authenticity of simulations about discussions.

G. R. Marvez
Written by
G. R. Marvez

G. R. Marvez is an education technology researcher and designer interested in classroom conversations. As a researcher, their work focuses on helping teachers prepare to facilitate difficult classroom discussions through digital conversation simulators with the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT. Marvez aims to prime all teachers for leading engaging discussions with their students.

During their undergrad, Marvez taught in Russia with Global Teaching Labs and in Cambridge public and charter schools as a part of MIT’s teacher education program. As a student teacher, they have worked in 12th grade English and 8th grade science classes. Marvez has earned a Bachelor of Science in Brain and Cognitive Sciences with a Concentration in Education from MIT.

Outside of academia and the classroom, Marvez enjoys interactive fiction, creating puzzles, and designing haunted houses.

G. R. Marvez Written by G. R. Marvez