1. Rhonda Christensen
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rhonda-christensen-2b114b34/?msgControlName=reply_to_sender&msgConversationId=2-ZjE0Zjc0MzgtMzllZS00OTU1LWJiYTgtNjAzNWIzZTM0YzIzXzAxMA%3D%3D&msgOverlay=true
  3. Research Professor
  4. Improving Student Learning While Decreasing Bias in Teaching ThroughSimulation
  5. https://iittl.unt.edu/content/simequity
  6. University of North Texas
  1. Frederick Hobbs
  2. https://iittl.unt.edu/content/staff
  3. Program/Project Coordinator
  4. Improving Student Learning While Decreasing Bias in Teaching ThroughSimulation
  5. https://iittl.unt.edu/content/simequity
  6. University of North Texas
  1. Jenna Kelley
  2. https://iittl.unt.edu/content/staff
  3. Program/Project Coordinator
  4. Improving Student Learning While Decreasing Bias in Teaching ThroughSimulation
  5. https://iittl.unt.edu/content/simequity
  6. University of North Texas
  1. Gerald Knezek
  2. https://iittl.unt.edu/content/directors-iittl
  3. Regents Professor
  4. Improving Student Learning While Decreasing Bias in Teaching ThroughSimulation
  5. https://iittl.unt.edu/content/simequity
  6. University of North Texas
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 9, 2022 | 10:57 p.m.

    Thank you for visiting our video about our project, Improving teaching practices by reducing bias. We are in the first year of our project and would welcome your ideas on using simulated teaching environments to improve teaching and specifically reducing possible biases. We are currently using self-report as well as data based on actual decisions made in simSchool, which uses artificially created simStudents with complex personalities and learning needs, all based on sound theories. Our project is part of the Research on Emerging Technologies for Teaching and Learning (RETTL) program. Perhaps you have ideas on other groups who could benefit as well, such as preservice teachers. We welcome your comments.

     
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    Kristin Flaming
  • Icon for: Stephen Alkins Ph.D.

    Stephen Alkins Ph.D.

    Facilitator
    Diversity, Equity, Access, Inclusion, and Belonging Officer
    May 10, 2022 | 12:21 a.m.

    Intriguing tool for identifying and mitigating bias.  Thank you for the presentation! I'm curious about a few things:

    • How does the tool, itself, generate profiles for students (i.e. are the different categories and physical descriptions randomized?) and what might be assumptions embedded within the algorithms of those profiles?
    • What other aspects or background are you providing within the tool; for example, what is the diversity of backstories you provide for student profiles and varying contexts?  For example, student success and progress, especially in supporting students' mental health and wellbeing, has critical contextual and cultural factors.
    • What suggestions does the tool make for how to address bias and approach situations in a culturally responsive and empathetic way? Are tools grounded in decolonized literature, or other critical frameworks (Race Theory, Queer Theory, Disability Theory, etc.)?
    • It is positive that you report a change in teacher perception, have you considered this as a tool for student voice to evaluate their teachers' overall responsiveness and commitment to equity; also, could this tool be modified for students to examine what executive functioning strategies to employ in various educational scenarios? 
     
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    Paulina Romero
  • Icon for: Gerald Knezek

    Gerald Knezek

    Co-Presenter
    Regents Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 11:43 a.m.

    Hi Stephen,

    Gerald Knezek (C0-PI here), Thanks for the thoughtful questions. I am not sure we have good answers to all of these (at least not yet, being in year 1) but let me reply with thoughts:

    RE: >How does the tool, itself, generate profiles for students (i.e. are the different categories and physical descriptions randomized?) and what might be assumptions embedded within the algorithms of those profiles?

    Student builds are normally randomized within given parameters, which are sliders on big 5 personality traits, VAK sensory conduits and others; can be fixed for multiple trials/teaching practices.

    Regarding assumptions, of course there are many as in any math model-based simulation of human behavior, but really few (we hope) are in the basic system regarded Coded Bias type of AI, if that is what you mean. We might say for this project and research purposes, we select activities that we would expect to bring out implicit biases (for student Gender, Ethnicity, etc.) and we want to call these to the attention of the teachers who are our target audience and our users. It is a work in progress. Thoughts/suggestions are welcome.

    I will reply to the other questions separately, to see if this system works!

    Glad to hear from you, G. Knezek

     

     
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    Stephen Alkins Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Gerald Knezek

    Gerald Knezek

    Co-Presenter
    Regents Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 12:33 p.m.

    Gerald Knezek here. Regarding

    • What other aspects or background are you providing within the tool; for example, what is the diversity of backstories you provide for student profiles and varying contexts?  For example, student success and progress, especially in supporting students' mental health and wellbeing, has critical contextual and cultural factors.

    I thought I answered this after login but I see it does not show up (yet). Sorry if this is a repeat. Brief summary:  Agree on the critical contextual and cultural factors. We generally select established (content) modules and modify the simstudents based on the simulator's random selections within established parameters in our design. You may find trying out the simschool Version 1 sampler at http://lite.simschool.org. would show you how the system flows. Version 2 (current) is much more sophisticated but has the same basis inference engine.

     
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    Stephen Alkins Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Gerald Knezek

    Gerald Knezek

    Co-Presenter
    Regents Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 12:49 p.m.

    Hi Again Stephen,

    RE: 

    • What suggestions does the tool make for how to address bias and approach situations in a culturally responsive and empathetic way? Are tools grounded in decolonized literature, or other critical frameworks (Race Theory, Queer Theory, Disability Theory, etc.)?

    Certainly the simSchool system and simEquity as a project are grounded in literature, but not uniquely in critical frameworks (Race Theory, Queer Theory, Disability Theory, etc.) Our project operates primarily at a stage before what you suggest (in my opinion) becomes very important. We hope to be able to point out biases to existing teachers and encourage them to reflect and adjust. We have not tasked the simulator with teaching theories. Perhaps you would be well equipped to create Modules for simSchool that are specifically designed to teach these theories. I can see how that would be very valuable for preservice teachers and/or existing teacher professional development modules.

    PS. We welcome thoughts from other participants to broaden participation in the dialog started by Stephen.  Jump in, everyone ... I think this can be more than a Q & A, really a forum for dialog. GK

     
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    Stephen Alkins Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 11, 2022 | 07:21 a.m.

    Those are great questions and comments, Stephen. In year three, we are planning to develop a module on culturally relevant teaching and it will be based on related literature and frameworks for culturally responsive teaching. We would welcome your input.

     
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    Stephen Alkins Ph.D.
  • Icon for: Gerald Knezek

    Gerald Knezek

    Co-Presenter
    Regents Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 01:04 p.m.

    RE question #4 from Stephen:

    >It is positive that you report a change in teacher perception, have you considered this as a tool for student voice to evaluate their teachers' overall responsiveness and commitment to equity; also, could this tool be modified for students to examine what executive functioning strategies to employ in various educational scenarios?

    Reply: The target audience of our project is teachers, and how they operate (primarily) with simulated students. There will be impact measurement of from the (real) students of the real teachers during the project as well. If by "students" you mean preservice teachers, then then per the previous reply the answer is probably yes. We would have to give great thought to using this tool for K-12 learners. I have working with it for more than a decade through several evolutions and don't immediately see an easy path there... however I will forward this question to the simSchool design group.

    Again, I would encourage participants (especially others who have used simSchool) to join in the dialog with Stephen and we on the simEquity team.

    Thanks for the starter questions@

    G. Knezek

  • May 10, 2022 | 09:27 p.m.

    Hi this looks like an interesting study. I tried the lite simulation but did not get very far ... I will keep playing with it to learn more about it. 

  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 12, 2022 | 09:47 a.m.

    Hello Eva, While the lite gives you an overall idea, it is not really related directly to our project and looks nothing like the current simSchool. If you are interested in an overview of the version we use, I can put you in contact with Stacy Kruse at simSchool. She is very amenable to helping people try the system.

  • Icon for: Jenna Kelley

    Jenna Kelley

    Co-Presenter
    Program/Project Coordinator
    May 10, 2022 | 09:34 p.m.

    Hi Eva, thanks for checking it out. Let us know if you have any questions. 

  • Icon for: Kenne Dibner

    Kenne Dibner

    Facilitator
    Senior Program Officer
    May 11, 2022 | 10:55 p.m.

    Fascinating video and project. I wonder if you've encountered any resistance from folks related to using AI for these purposes? I can imagine that given that use of AI in education settings is relatively new (and has been received - especially by racial equity scholars - with some hesitation) you might hear some reticence. What has that looked like and how have you addressed it?

  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 12, 2022 | 09:50 a.m.

    Hello Kenne, Thank you for the comments. We have not encountered any resistance but the "under the engine" is very solid and consistent for each user. However, we want to be very careful that we don't introduce our own biases into the system so we are treading slowing into that area of decision making based on research.

  • Icon for: Gregory Goins

    Gregory Goins

    Facilitator
    Professor and Chair
    May 12, 2022 | 09:32 a.m.

    Great video! It was fascinating to see your introduction regarding bias because it made me reflect on myself and my own teaching style along with how I view my students. Your solution to your problem presented was explained very well, and hearing from other teachers did a great deal of showing the positive benefits from this.

     
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    Rhonda Christensen
  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 12, 2022 | 09:52 a.m.

    Thank you for your comment, Gregory. We believe that the first steps for addressing possible biases are recognition and reflection. This project has also made me reflect with my university students more as well.

  • Icon for: Francheska Figueroa

    Francheska Figueroa

    Researcher
    May 12, 2022 | 11:10 a.m.

    Great video and I've visited your SimSchool site although I haven't yet accessed all of the functions, it looks awesome. I do have a couple of questions. Do you have English learners in the virtual classroom to provide teachers with opportunities to engage with multilingual learners? If so, what languages are represented and how did you choose those languages? Maybe I have more than two questions ; ) Next, I've done some research on implicit bias/unintentional bias and more often than not bias occurs unconsciously as many biases are grounded in core beliefs. How does SimSchool help teachers to get to those core beliefs in this simulated environment? 

     
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    Paulina Romero
  • Icon for: Stacy Kruse

    Stacy Kruse

    May 12, 2022 | 06:28 p.m.

    Great questions, Francheska. The simEngine does enable us to create ELL students (with dimensions including speaking, reading, writing, and listening capacity, discrete language skill, and general language skill). Currently the platform and all simulated student utterances are in English while we continue to research how to best model translingual behaviors.

    On the topic of implicit bias as a manifestation of core beliefs: we agree. Currently the system observes and reflects back to the user their patterns and tendencies in interacting with students of varied characteristics as a catalyst to self-reflection. As part of the simEquity grant we are actively exploring additional means by which to observe teacher bias.

     
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    Paulina Romero
    Rhonda Christensen
  • Icon for: Kristin Flaming

    Kristin Flaming

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 13, 2022 | 12:20 p.m.

    Does previous research show that if student's at the college level studying to be a K-12 teacher are exposed to this type of program have less biases to overcome, that is perform better in first exposures to the simulations? 

    How do you think the simulations would impact the classroom and teaching approach if students were exposed during their education compared to those that are doing the simulations that are already in the classroom?

     
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    Paulina Romero
  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 13, 2022 | 12:29 p.m.

     Hello Kristin, We are currently in our first year of our project looking at possible bias in current teachers and changes that occur using the simulation. We have the simulation data as well as pre-post survey data to compare. The teachers are just completing the post survey data so hopefully we will have some results this summer. We have used simSchool extensively in the preservice teacher program and know that it improves their teacher self-efficacy and also classroom management skills after using the simulation modules. 

    Our first goals are the recognition and reflection of possible biases that may exist. Toward the end of the project, we will have a complete module that focuses specifically on teaching without bias. For now, we are working on getting the algorithms correct as not to introduce our own biases. Thank you for watching our video and asking great questions.

     
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    Kristin Flaming
  • Icon for: Gerald Knezek

    Gerald Knezek

    Co-Presenter
    Regents Professor
    May 14, 2022 | 02:58 p.m.

    Greetings colleagues on Saturday,

    It is nice to see so many interested in the project and the simSchool system. I have been scoping out projects that seem similar to ours in intent and think there is rich opportunity for "birds of a feather" groups to be one result of this activity. We used to do this F to F with poster sessions during the annual meetings in our early days of NSF funding. Thanks to all for joining in!

    Gerald Knezek

     

  • Icon for: Paige Evans

    Paige Evans

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2022 | 11:11 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing your project.  I look forward to hearing more about your research.  I will be sure to check out the simulations. 

  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 10:57 a.m.

    Thank you for viewing our video, Paige. 

  • Icon for: Paulina Romero

    Paulina Romero

    Graduate Student
    May 16, 2022 | 04:12 p.m.

    Hi, everyone. Very interested in the prospects of this study, and the questions posted here are very thought-provoking. I think Stephen and Francheska's questions are very poignant. I understand that this you all are still in year 1 of this study, and these questions provide ample room for continued exploration in to the topic. It would be interesting to develop a few more specified simulations based on regions and needs; for example, areas with high immigration (and then even sub-groups of Spanish-speaking immigrants and Asian immigrants) to address the linguistic as well as the cultural needs of students and the biases teachers may have. It would also be interesting to generate data about the teacher ratios and backgrounds and how those play into the simulation in relation to the students who may be in the course (immigrants vs. non-immigrants, ethnicity, abilities, etc.).  

     

    Another consideration later down the line would be to address disabilities --for example, what are the biases we may have as educators towards students with visible vs. invisible disabilities? Would this simulation be able to help teachers be more aware and better prepared to work with students with learning disabilities on various spectrums? 

    Very interested to follow this study.

  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 07:56 p.m.

    Hello Paulina,

    Thank you for your interest and comments. We do have plans to have limited language speaking students and realize that can be a real bias for educators. In addition, simSchool already has physical disabilities in some of the modules. The invisible ones are often part of the student profile in which users must read to really understand and teach the students most effectively.

    Best,

    Rhonda

  • Icon for: Gerald Knezek

    Gerald Knezek

    Co-Presenter
    Regents Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 05:49 p.m.

    Greetings Paulina,

    Gerald Knezek here replying to one of the cores of your fine comments. Regarding

    "It would be interesting to develop a few more specified simulations based on regions and needs; for example, areas with high immigration (and then even sub-groups of Spanish-speaking immigrants and Asian immigrants) to address the linguistic as well as the cultural needs of students and the biases teachers may have."

    I have been especially interested in this specific area since working on my 1976 Masters Thesis entitled "Attitudinal Differences Among Ethnic Groups in Hawaii" and my tours of teaching in Micronesia in '79 - '81 and then again in 1993. This interest in diverse cultural ways of learning actually goes back even farther, to when I was a student teacher on an Indian Reservation in Montana in 1973, coming from junior year in college in New England. Someone (maybe you) could make an entire career of refining these differences within a simulator like simSchool. It is now very possible and practical.

  • May 16, 2022 | 06:54 p.m.

    If I am not mistaken, think I first met your team around 2000 during the Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology grants. My project was with Dwight Allen, here at ODU. Dwight died recently; he was 90, and I'm sure influenced a million students during his career. It's good to see you are still engaged in powerful projects to change the hearts and minds of teachers! 

  • Icon for: Rhonda Christensen

    Rhonda Christensen

    Lead Presenter
    Research Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 07:57 p.m.

    Wow, yes I remember Dwight well. Thank you for reaching out and I am sorry to hear he passed away but so happy he lived a long life. I look forward to exploring your video now!

    Rhonda

     
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    Jennifer Kidd
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