Research in Action: Forging a Research Partnership with Bukit View Secondary School
Friday, 18 March 2016
The teachers in Bukit View Secondary School are so familiar with Dr Leong Yew Hoong from the Mathematics and Mathematical Education (MME) Academic Group in NIE that they sometimes call him Ah Leong.
It is no surprise that they feel at ease with him—along with his other MME colleagues such as Associate Professor Tay Eng Guan, Dr Yap Sook Fwe and Dr Quek Khiok Seng, Dr Leong has worked with the school for 8 years on various Math research projects.
A Research Collaboration
It all started when School Staff Developer and Head of Department (HOD) for Educational Technology Mr Alexander Chia attended Dr Leong’s presentation at an education conference in 2007. Dr Leong shared how they might teach geometric proof and invited schools to try out his approach.
Alex decided to take up the offer. “It was a new topic, pretty challenging for the teachers, so we thought some expert help would be good,” says Vice-Principal Mrs Yvonne Ong, who was then the HOD (Math). “Dr Leong proposed a kind of collaboration with us, with elements of lesson study.”
From there, an enduring research partnership was forged.
Helping Normal (Academic) Students
One such project was “Mathematical Progress and Value for Everyone”. Dr Leong and colleagues worked with teachers to help Normal (Academic) students make long-term gains in Math learning.
The team put their heads together to plan what they call “replacement units”, or lesson units for specific Math topics. What is special about these units is that they are catered for students’ cognitive and affective needs.
A teacher would then implement a unit in his or her classroom. For lesson study, other teachers would usually attend and observe the lesson. But to save them some time, the researchers video-recorded the lessons and turned them into 30-minute video summaries.
Each teacher would select a few moments in the videos that they think merit a closer look, and discuss them with the team.
Developing Teachers Professionally
From planning the replacement units to facilitating the post-unit discussions, developing the teachers professionally is constantly on the NIE researchers’ minds.
The teachers found the discussions about the video summaries especially useful as “the insights from the researchers are something we would not have noticed or realized as teachers,” says Alex.
He also notes that the teachers are now more aware of those critical aspects of their students’ learning that they should pay attention to.
“Because they were involved in that process, there was a lot of unpacking, thinking through, talking about learning outcomes with the team of NIE researchers,” says Mrs Ong. “The teachers have grown, so I think we dare say they would be pretty confident in running their own lesson study groups.”
The partnership has been such a success that a few pedagogical strategies from the NIE-school collaboration are now being used by their colleagues from other levels and even subjects, notes Mrs Irni Prasad, the HOD (Math).
To extend the learning beyond their school to others, Bukit View Secondary held a Math symposium last year and shared their strategies with more than 100 Math teachers.
Their work together also yielded the ALGECards, a set of manipulatives to help students learn algebra. These cards are now being used by NIE teacher educators in preservice modules.
Even though research and PLC can be time-consuming, the Math teachers remain positive about continuing this partnership with the NIE research team.
“It’s really worth the while, because we saw how our teachers delve deep into how they teach a topic, and how they observe their students learn,” says Mrs Ong.