Fostering Cross-cultural Communication and Understanding in the English Language Writing

Project Number
OER 19/14 TK

Project Duration
November 2014 - May 2017

Status
In-Progress

Abstract
This study's goal is to explore how secondary school English teachers in Singapore develop 21st century competencies in their lessons. Specifically, the research project has two key objectives: 1) to explore how secondary English language teachers in Singapore facilitate their learners' acquisition of cross-cultural skills in the teaching of writing and representing; 2) to create data-driven principles and strategies for the successful development of cross-cultural skills in the teaching of writing and representing. This research is significant given the introduction of the Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes by the Ministry of Education Singapore (MOE, 2010a, 2010b) which highlights the need to develop skills necessary for living in today's globalized world and in Singapore's multicultural context. Cross-cultural skills are part of the framework's core competencies, along with civic literacy and global awareness, and aim to enable learners to develop a ''broader worldview, and the ability to work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds'' (MOE, 2010a). Interestingly, despite the existence of extensive literature on 21st century skills and intercultural education, empirical research which investigates how teachers work in everyday settings with these concepts is painfully scarce (see e.g. Halualini, 2011). Most published work present conceptual guidelines on how to develop cross-cultural competencies and global awareness. Research that investigates classrooms is therefore lacking and it is this gap that the present research project aims to address. In addition, the results of the project will provide practical, classroom-based guidelines for English language teachers on how to implement the Framework for 21st century Competencies and Student Outcomes and facilitate cross-cultural learning in their lessons. A multi-case study approach is chosen as the methodological framework to gain in-depth understanding of how teachers incorporate (or not) cross-cultural skills in their writing instruction. The case study approach is selected as ''case studies are the preferred method when [...] 'how or why' questions are being posed'' (Yin, 2009, p.2) and they do not require any control, or manipulation, of events and variables within the research context. We define the 'case' as the process of developing cross cultural skills in a unit of work that primarily aims to teach English writing skills in Singapore Secondary 1 and 2 classrooms. The key figure in the research is the classroom teacher as they are the ones who make decisions that facilitate the process that we explore in our project. Therefore, when selecting cases, we focus on the teacher. Six teachers from three secondary schools will be selected as the participants of the research, based on their teaching experience (minimum three years) and their willingness to participate. The research questions investigate the interplay of three key facets of classroom practice: a) teachers' choice and exploitation of teaching materials to develop cross-cultural skills; b) what teachers actually do in the classroom in terms of strategies and techniques used; and c) teacher cognition, i.e. teachers' thinking and beliefs about developing cross-cultural skills. Data will come from three major sources: 1) teaching materials, including the unit and lesson plans any accompanying materials; 2) lesson observation (video recording and field notes); 3) interviews and focus group discussions with teachers. The key deliverable of the project will be the document 'Principles and strategies for the development of cross-cultural skills in the writing classroom'. This will be disseminated to educators through local workshops and conference presentations. Furthermore, project will lead to a follow-up intervention research project which will see the implementation of the principles and strategies outlined in the document.

Funding Source
NIE

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