Research in Action: Innovating Curriculum for Integrated Programme Students at SCGS

Research in Action: Innovating Curriculum for Integrated Programme Students at SCGS

Date
Friday, 18 March 2016

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Education research is not just the exclusive domain of academics or researchers. Two teachers from Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (SCGS) took the initiative to mount their own research, based on the findings of an NIE research project they are involved in.

Titled “Curriculum Innovation and the Nurturing of 21st Century Learners”, the OER research project is headed by Dr Tan Liang See, Assistant Dean (School Partnerships) and Head of Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice (CRPP) at the Office of Education Research (OER). SCGS is one of three Integrated Programme (IP) schools involved in the project.

Currently into its fourth year, the study aims to examine the structures and curriculum processes these IP schools put in place to optimize students’ learning experiences. (Read more about the project in ReEd Vol. 12: Curriculum Innovation: The Full Story)

Liang See and her team shared their research findings with SCGS in early 2015. “That set of results was particularly useful,” noted Ms Amanda Sim, Dean of Studies (Acting).

The findings show that students generally found the learning environment conducive. Based on the findings, the school recognized a strong need to drive Higher Order Thinking in class for some subjects.

Mr Travis Tan, a Biology teacher, decided to stage his own intervention based on those findings.

“The students are actually very able learners, and a good intervention would be to stretch their higher order thinking”, explains Travis. “We need to plant it very visibly into the curriculum and instruction, and it needs to be done very deliberately.”

Together with another teacher Mrs Cha Wai Mun, Travis put in place a series of formative assessment tasks at critical checkpoints, after each Biology topic was taught. These tasks help the students translate their understanding of concepts in their own creative ways.

An example includes asking students to pretend to be a cell nucleus designing a job advertisement as a poster to recruit cell organelles (or subunits of a cell with specific functions).

After each task was completed, students were then given a written assessment. The formative assessment scores before and after the students perform the tasks showed improvement. Encouraged by his findings, Travis plans to continue working on this.

Other than designing his own classroom intervention, Travis has also written a paper on it with the help of Amanda and the Head of Science department Mr Tan Chee Wan, which he presented at the 21st World Conference organized by the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, held from 10 – 14 August 2015 in Odense, Denmark.

The paper is titled “A look into the efficacy of using formative assessment probes and Concept-based Instruction on deepening understanding and improving performance among Year 3 biology students in Singapore”.

Encouraged by what Travis has accomplished, Amanda is trying to persuade teachers from other subjects to also leverage on the findings from the NIE project for their Professional Learning Communities (PLC) activities. “We encourage them to use the results to drive the PLCs,” Amanda says.

“This research partnership with NIE is very fruitful,” says Travis. “It benefits us by providing very complete and concrete information that we can tap on that improves our teaching practices.”

Amanda agrees, “In a way, the NIE research findings have translated to teacher-initiated classroom intervention, which we hope should ultimately improve classroom teaching”.