Frontier Makers

Frontier Makers

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Media Type
NIE News March 2016

By Public, International and Alumni Relations

editor-sayWe asked what the Psychological Studies (PS) Academic Group had defined as an objective in collaborative research with Singapore Schools to explore new approaches in classroom learning.

At the helm of this Academic Group, Associate Professor Rebecca Ang says that being responsive is pivotal. She elaborates: “We desire to remain responsive to the contemporary needs of the Singapore education system – from the pre-service level to the professional development and graduate levels. Helping NIE students understand the importance of and to build positive and supportive teacher-student relationships will go a long way to enhance early detection of student concerns and problems.”

She added that the other aspect that is equally paramount; experience. The collaborative spirit between NIE academics and school stakeholders provide the treasure trove of a much-needed body of pedagogical insight and values instincts necessary to nurture that unique brand of 21st century teaching professionalism – something already well-recognised at NIE.

Counting Ways


psychological-studies-academic-group-and-schools_2Such was the unique implementation of a project conducted by PS Assistant Professor Gregory Arief D Liem with a teacher from Yio Chu Kang Primary School. “I knew that the idea of being open to explore how we can improve greater motivation for students to learn should be the key to my project,” he explained.

The task at hand was itself a tongue-twister puzzle: Nurture team-building values while enforcing greater confidence into Mathematics learning and problem-solving for students.

Lasting a period of two weeks, Asst Prof Liem observed students and their activities in a standard Mathematics class. It included evaluating the class’ math-problem solving skills and assessments with the supervising teacher on infusing moral values into the process of tackling questions. The academic then designed an activity to promote the implementation of theory-based practice to motivate pupils further in studying the subject and factored a team-building aspect within this as well.

A fruitful platform that strengthened not only theory-to-practice link in the area of motivation but, it armed the teacher with instructional practices that benefited the pupils in wanting to learn more. “This is not just a project; it is a true partnership to me. The ability to work closely with the students and teacher to study the class reactions were such a great first-hand exposure of how school-based collaborations directly impact all,” Asst Prof Liem fondly adds, “I miss those little bunnies! They were a fun group of young people. The interaction I shared with them is the most memorable experience I have gained.”

Planting Helps



PS Assistant Professor Nie Youyan was approached to collaborate on an impressive idea from Spectra Secondary School. An outdoor installation to promote student motivation that includes actual planting of seedlings, types of soil and even irrigation to realise the “science of actual infrastructures to inspire greater learning outcomes from students”.

For more than a year, Asst Prof Nie’s pilot study with Spectra Secondary School ensued with labouring over the design, planning and installation of a garden. Together, they decided that practice must be put into constructivist instruction for what they had planned to work. A basis, she and her school collaborators say, was crucial to demonstrate to teaching professionals how a unique environment can not only engage but facilitate learning beyond the intent of syllabus instruction. She shared: “In garden-based learning, character-building is integrated with multi-disciplinary academic learning in authentic settings.”

From the plain landscape that she and her collaborators started with, the garden has now blossomed into a budding programme incorporated into the NIE curriculum.


The idea has been shared with about 60 teachers from different schools including the recent cohort in January 2016. The IPS2010 - Assessment to Support Learning in the Classroom is a Certificate in Educational Support course offered by the Office of Graduate Studies and Professional Learning. Asst Prof Nie is now the lecturer for the course and the class size is about 30 with participants of this certificate course who are mainly teachers of normal academic / normal stream students (NA or NT).

Asst Prof Nie added: “We also discussed how the garden-based learning idea can be adapted and applied to other schools’ NT and NA classes. As part of the course activities, I brought course participants to Spectra Secondary School for about two hours to have experiential and on-site learning about how garden-based learning is carried out and how this alternative learning and assessment approach can engage NT students’ learning and promote whole child development.”

Just as we are sure that much time has been spent on the “hardware” of physical and logistical infrastructure for such PS research initiatives, we note there is a lot of “heartware” too Assoc Prof Ang confirms, “We want to provide avenues where students can learn beyond just getting the right answers but more importantly for students to enjoy learning and to discover just how fun the process can be.” We couldn’t agree more.