S5 Cluster’s Professional Development for Teachers in Action Research
Wednesday, 07 December 2016
Following the S5 Cluster’s request for professional development and grooming teachers’ capacity for research, a team from the Office of Education Research (OER) led teachers from St Andrews Junior School (SAJS), Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) (ACS Junior) and St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) on a journey towards Action Research (AR).
The OER team comprised Research Scientist Dr Lee Shu Shing and Teaching Fellow Dr Steven Tan, both from the Centre of Research in Pedagogy and Practice at OER, NIE.
Action Research (AR) in education aims at promoting teachers' reflection and refinement on their practices, producing local/contextual knowledge, and sharing this knowledge with professional communities.
At the final workshop on 23 September 2016 held at SAJS, Vice-Principal (VP) of SJI Junior Mrs Linda Tan thanked teachers for their involvement in the AR workshops. As the overall in-charge of the workshop, she expressed her hope that they would collaborate with other teachers and continue using AR in school. “In your journey as a teacher, we hope that you can take this learning along and apply it to your work in school to impact teaching and learning,” she said.
Lower primary English teachers from ACS Junior, Mrs Lai Li Lian and Mrs Siti Mohamad shared about their research on the use of “Hot Seat” in writing. It showed that children were more active in sharing and generating ideas for composition writing which led to better classroom engagement.
“We are glad we could introduce the “Hot Seat” in school where students on the ‘hot seat’ faced the class and took the lead in whole-class composition discussions. A few classes are already trying this and students are excited about the process,” shared Li Lian.
They intend to share their research findings with their colleagues at the end of the year. Siti hopes their sharing will encourage teachers to adapt these strategies to other subjects besides English. She will also propose incorporating this strategy into their school’s Primary 1 writing package.
Chinese Language teachers from SAJS Ms Joyce Chy, Mr Mu Zhi Ming and Ms Tong Lai Yi devised a five-step plan on teaching Listening Comprehension. Their AR focus is to “Examine the Effectiveness of the Use of 五部曲 (Five Steps) in the Teaching of Listening Comprehension”.
The team felt that their students now have a better idea of how to tackle Listening Comprehension. Joyce said, “We plan to include this in next year’s lesson study by forming a team of maybe five teachers to continue with this research.”
Mr Michael Lim from SJI did an AR on teacher feedback for upper secondary classes, titled “Measuring the Significance of Task Specific Constructive Feedback in Formative Assessment”.
He said, “I used to overlook small things, including corrections. I could have reduced my workload had I paid greater attention to seemingly minute things from the start.” Michael felt that spending more time on research would give him a more balanced view on his study and added that “what I do is for the learning needs of students.”
Mr Royston Siah from ACS Junior was pleased with the “U-3C” tool that he designed for teaching Science, adding that “I have added a level of refinement to my lesson slides. With this level of application to teach them to be exam-smart, we are preparing them for life.”
Royston felt that although all teachers actively look at making lessons more engaging and improving test scores, many of them do not use AR as it is time-consuming. He added, “The use of AR is to know, by using a scientific method, the degree of improvement. This affirms that our gut feel was accurate.”
Both Shu Shing and Steven readily assisted teachers and provided them with practical AR tools for their respective studies. Royston felt that “the tools provided by facilitators helped teachers to plug data into the tools and save time.” Michael also shared that the tools helped him to convince his department that AR works.
The VP of ACS Junior Mr Morgan Zhou said, “I was encouraged to see teachers take ownership of their learning, and I appreciate the structure provided by the NIE team. This research endeavour gives them an opportunity to zero in on pet projects. When they were presenting, I could really sense their passion.”
Overall, the AR workshop provided a good research experience for these novice teacher-researchers, who have come to appreciate how action research can be used to enhance their own teacher-reflection, and refine their personal classroom practice.
“The journey of bringing teachers through the AR process has been fulfilling. I applaud the teachers’ dedication and commitment in persevering through their AR projects. I hope they will continue to use AR to inform and reflect on their practices,” said Shu Shing.
Steven added, “The biggest and most enduring change that this workshop has brought about is the teachers’ belief that research and practice go hand-in-hand.”
 The intent of “Hot Seat” is for pupils to generate new ideas and use them in their writing. These will help them to expand their sentences by including interesting details. In this way, pupils will be able to communicate their ideas and thoughts more effectively and meaningfully.