Why SchoolSims for Teacher Professional Development

August 10, 2020
Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling. Many factors contribute to a student's academic performance, but research suggests that, among school-related factors, teachers matter most.

Teacher professional development has traditionally been focused on instruction, performance measurement, student engagement, and other classroom-related challenges. However, the challenges of being an effective teacher extend outside of the classroom to include the relationships they have with their peers, staff, school administrators, and parents. In fact, without the establishment of a positive school climate and favorable peer/administrator relationships, the job of teaching and engaging students can become more difficult and less rewarding.

Our approach to teacher professional development is therefore focused on providing teachers an opportunity to experience the challenges of being part of a school community from every stakeholder’s perspective – from the superintendent, principal, and teacher to the parent, student, and other roles in between. Experiencing the interactions of the various stakeholders and making judgments along the way allows teachers to understand the nuances of each situation. Feeling the competing priorities as a course of action must be chosen provides valuable insight into the complexities of running a school. Teachers who experience those complexities through a simulated experience develop empathy for their school leaders and are more likely to maintain a spirited attitude and accept change. Effective systems-thinking becomes part of all decision making as the importance of stakeholder management is genuinely understood. The establishment of a positive school climate where compound relationships are appreciated and acknowledged can be achieved through shared, simulated experiences.

Incorporating SchoolSims simulations into your teacher professional development plan provides teachers an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a principal – to manage the effects of a difficult teacher, to be told to cut thousands of dollars from the school’s budget, to deal with angry parents – as well as with many other relatable and authentic challenges. Expanding a teacher’s experience portfolio to include these situations and giving them an opportunity to discuss the available choices within the simulation will deepen their appreciation for their school and fortify their commitment to their students’ success.