Virtual Reality in Initial Teacher Education (VRITE): a reverse mentoring model of professional learning for learning leaders

Rachel Farrell, Pamela Cowan, Martin F. Brown, Stephen Roulston, Sammy Taggart, Enda Donlan, Mark Baldwin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This small-scale design-based study (Brown, 1992) describes a cyclical model of professional learning between three stakeholders in initial teacher education (ITE) namely: university-based educators (UEs), student teachers (STs) and co-operating teachers (CTs). This model promotes the development of digital learning leaders through an innovative mentoring process. This process started with university-based educators (UEs) mentoring their student teachers (STs) in the pedagogical use of Virtual Reality (VR) and the creation of reusable learning objects (RLOs). STs were supported and encouraged to cascade this learning to their placement schools as digital learning leaders connecting the innovative practice from the university directly to their classroom practice. Through bi-directional reverse-mentoring inspired by the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model (Collins et al., 1989) the STs and CTs supported each other technically (with the VR) and pedagogical (through the links to the curriculum) to create additional subject-specific RLOs which the STs were able to demonstrate to the UEs on their return to university. Thus, providing the final link in the cycle of learning leaders across the triad of partners in ITE.

While research generally highlights the lack of ITE tutors being adept in innovative technology-enhanced learning, the data emerging from this study suggests a growing number of UEs are capable of acting as role models (Ananiadou & Rizza, 2010) in the use of VR. In addition, STs’ propensity to transfer VR skills acquired in the university setting to the school setting was more prevalent in digitally well-equipped schools. Schools with less reliable networks and limited hardware presented challenges for the STs acting as reverse mentors as it restricted their pedagogical innovations in the classroom.

The findings also suggest that to implement a professional learning initiative in an innovative digital application such as VR, there needs to be a bank of subject-based exemplars to illustrate the affordances of learning by pupils and to convince subject teachers to invest the time and energy in adopting novel digital learning models into their existing use of technology-enhanced pedagogy. Consequently, this SCoTENS funded initiative resulted in a portfolio of artefacts of learning or reusable learning objects that are mapped to the local subject specifications and are freely available to the wider education community at and a professional learning MOOC available at
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI): ESAI Conference 2022
Subtitle of host publicationReconstructing Education: what matters?
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 7 Apr 2022
EventEducational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) (Virtual) Conference 2022: Reconstructing Education: what matters? - Marino Institute of Education, Dublin (Virtual), Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 7 Apr 20209 Apr 2022


ConferenceEducational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) (Virtual) Conference 2022
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Virtual Reality in Initial Teacher Education (VRITE): a reverse mentoring model of professional learning for learning leaders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this