OER Researchers Conduct Practitioner Inquiry Workshops for Schools
Monday, 01 February 2016
At the request of the S5 School Cluster, OER researchers Dr Tan Liang See and Dr Lee Shu Shing held a series of workshops of practitioner inquiry for eight teachers from three schools: St Andrew’s Junior School, St Andrew’s Secondary School, and Anglo Chinese Junior School.
The invitation to conduct the workshops arose from the OER Cluster Roadshow that was held in January 2015, where Associate Dean (Education Research) of OER Prof David Hung and OER Senior Teaching Fellow Mr Paul Chua dialogued with S5 Cluster school leaders on the research and pedagogical needs of their schools.
Over the course of 7 months, Liang See, the Assistant Dean (School Partnerships) of OER and Head of the Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice (CRPP), and Shu Shing, a CRPP Research Scientist, guided the participants in choosing and investigating a real-life problem in their classrooms, and the collecting and analyzing of data to reach conclusive findings.
One thing that Chinese Language teacher Mdm Chong Kin Yan from St. Andrews Secondary School liked about the workshops is how the instructors gave teachers the freedom to choose a research question related to a real-life problem they were encountering in the classroom.
“They don't set us boundaries and give us the freedom to explore different things: This is the one thing I like about this course. It's different from other workshops, where the presenters would tell you what you need to do,” she says.
Throughout the workshops, Liang See and Shu Shing emphasized on the practical aspects of inquiry, even though the process of doing literature review or the analyzing of data may seem daunting for some.
“They both reassured us by sharing with us that we are first and foremost teachers, and we’re doing this to find a way to sharpen our own teaching and to improve our own thinking and practice,” says Ms Tan Ming Ju from Anglo-Chinese School (Junior). “I found that quite useful, instead of thinking about yourself as a researcher. But of course it's interlinked--research skills help us in many ways, such as in our analytical thinking.”
The workshops were hosted by St. Andrew’s Junior School, and Principal Mrs Tan Bin Eng hopes that the teachers would extend their journey into practitioner inquiry by documenting their studies and sharing with their fellow teaching colleagues.
Kin Yan, who looked into composition writing of her pupils, agrees with Mrs Tan. “I will definitely share with my department what I have been doing for these few months so that they benefit from my findings,”
Mrs Wong feels heartened by those teachers who expressed that they would like to “deepen” their inquiry efforts even after the workshops have concluded, and thinks the sessions are a good platform to get teachers interested in research.
“I hope more of our teachers would become practitioners who would look into inquiry,” she says. “Many a times, we say something works, but we're not able to give evidence why it works. It’s then not as sustainable and scalable--it doesn't multiply! That's something that I'm very passionate about: It must be something which we can multiply or scale up so that we can continue to improve and deepen the practice.”
To Liang See, practitioner inquiry is the way to go if teachers wish to develop themselves. “Practitioner inquiry is a way where teachers can systematically reflect and investigate real classroom situations and problems. Giving them the autonomy to find and solve learning and teaching issues is a great way to promote professionalism.”
Shu Shing feels that she has learned much from the teachers and their efforts to enrich teaching and learning. She says: “Our teachers have shown tremendous dedication in their inquiry to address students’ needs. I hope that they continue to refine their inquiry and share their learning experiences with other colleagues in their schools.”