Connecting Teachers’ Knowledge to Students’ Learning

Introduction to our research

The research that we engage in aims to increase our knowledge base of science teaching and learning from K-12. Arguably, this knowledge base of teaching and learning is complex and encompasses many different aspects such as teachers’ ideas about science, science learning environments, teachers’ practices, assessment of students’ learning and students’ ideas about science and science learning. Primarily, we are interested in understanding teachers’ knowledge and practices about science teaching and learning and connecting this to students’ learning in school. As such, the key research areas that our research team delve into can be divided into three key inter-related aspects of (1) teachers’ (both in-service as well as pre-service) knowledge and ideas about science teaching; (2) students’ ideas about science and science learning; and (3) creating conducive and positive learning spaces and good science practices. 


Research Team

  1. altan

    A/P Tan Aik Ling
    Associate Professor
    Principal Investigator
    PhD (Nanyang Technological University)

    Having taught Biology in a secondary school for 10 years, Aik Ling’s interest in the learning of science among students in schools is heightened. She is particularly interested in the interaction between teachers and students as they go about the business of learning in the classroom. Appreciating the fact that educational interactions and transactions are complex, she insists that research into students’ learning should be taken holistically in the ‘natural’ setting of school or the classroom so that the interacting factors of social expectations, power, policies, etc. can be considered. The three areas of research highlighted above are an attempt by the research group to examine educational interaction in a more comprehensive manner.
  2. jqzhaiDr Zhai Junqing
    Research Fellow
    PhD (King’s College London)
    As an early career scholar, Junqing has a broad interest in science education research, including: teaching and learning science in informal contexts; professional outdoor educators' pedagogical practices and identities; inquiry-based learning in science classrooms; learning discourse in science classrooms. Junqing leads and spearheads the aspect of students’ ideas about science and science learning in this project.
  3. ftalaueMr Frederick Talaue
    Research Associate and Doctoral Candidate
    Master of Science (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
    Frederick’s current research interest is in language use in science teaching and learning, discourse analysis and identity studies.
  4. jjoczMs Jennifer Jocz
    Research Associate
    Master of Science (Harvard University)
    Master of Education (Harvard University)
    Jennifer is a Research Associate with the group. She has a background in the biological sciences and has training in both formal and informal education. She is interested in how people perceive science with the goal of helping students, educators, and the general public better understand the nature of science. She is also interested in ways to promote life-long learning of and interest in science.
  5. jongMs Joanna Ong
    Research Assistant
    Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) (NUS)
    Post-graduate Diploma in Education (NIE/NTU)
    Joanna’s research interests are how school teachers can teach science more effectively through sustainable efforts and how teachers can bridge the gap between the intended outcomes and what is perceived or received by the students. She is also curious about how these gaps emerge and what can be done to reduce them. Her research interests also cover how students understand science in their daily lives through cognitive, affective and social aspects and innovations in science education. Her current research efforts focus on exploring primary science teachers’ practice-linked identities which is headed by Frederick. 

Activities of Research Team

Manuscript accepted for publication

A manuscript written by Junqing (TJ), Jennifer and Aik Ling on elementary science students’ ideas of doing science in school was accepted for publication in the International Journal of Science Education. Congratulations! J

Zhai, J., Jocz, J., & Tan, A.-L.* (2013). "Am I like a scientist?": Primary children's images of doing science in school. International Journal of Science Education, in press(DOI:10.1080/09500693.2013.791958), in press.

Presentation at NARST 2013

Jennifer presented our work focusing on factors that are crucial to sustaining and promoting students’ interest in science learning at the elementary science classroom at Puerto Rico in April.

Jocz, J., Zhai, J., & Tan, A. L. (2013, April). Beyond hands-on: The importance of relevance and discussion in promoting students' interest in school science. Paper presented at National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Puerto Rico, United States.

Redesigning Pedagogies 2013

Our research team presented FOUR papers at the recent Redesigning Pedagogies International Conference 2013 held at the National Institute of Education, Singapore from 3 to 5 June 2013.

The four papers presented were:

Zhai, J., Jocz, J., & Tan, A.-L. (2013, June). Tensions in elementary science classrooms: Investigating the roles of teachers and students. Paper presented at Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference 2013, Singapore.

Jocz, J., Zhai, J., & Tan, A.-L. (2013, June). Motivating students in school science: Understanding staudents views of scientists and school science. Paper presented at Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference 2013, Singapore.

Talaue, F., Tan, A.-L., & Ong, O.J.J (2013, June). Locating the teacher-self in the discourse of primary school science. Paper presented at Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference 2013, Singapore.

Tan, A.-L., & Tan, P. H. (2013, June). Formative assessment in elementary science classrooms: Issues and dilemma. Paper presented at Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference 2013, Singapore.

Jennifer presenting factors affecting interest 
in school science

Aik Ling preparing to problematize the notion of 
formative assessment

Fred trying to locate the teacher-self 
through discourse

Team discussion after presentation 
(Fred, TJ, Jen, Aik Ling, Jo)

The sessions were well attended and there were questions and discussions from like-minded researchers and practitioners after the presentations.

AECT – International Conference on the Frontier in eLearning Research 2013

In June, Aik Ling presented a theoretical piece exploring the possibility of pursuing science as inquiry using knowledge building perspectives. The key argument made was the need for students to be enculturated through their involvement within a community of learners.

Tan, A.-L., & Tan, S.-C. (2013). 6E inquiry science: Marriage of cognitive science and learning sciences. In Childress et al. (Ed.) Proceedings of the AECT International Conference on the Frontier in eLearning Research 2013 (pp. 1-8). Taichung, Taiwan: National Central University & AECT.

Singapore International Science Challenge 2013

Jennifer shared our analysis about the factors that shaped students’ perceptions of scientists at the Singapore International Science Challenge 2013 on 4 July 2013. The presentation was well received and it is part of our efforts to make our research findings available to a wider community of science educators and practitioners.

Jocz, J. (2013, July). Spiderman and science: How students’ perceptions of scientists are shaped by various representations they encounter.  Singapore.

Jen presenting students' perception of scientists >>

Australasian Science Education Research Association 2013

Fred presented at the Australasian Science Education Research Association 2013 (ASERA) meeting in July 2013 in Wellington, New Zealand. In this presentation, he examines how teachers position themselves in the classroom as they teach science through inquiry.  

Talaue, F., & Tan, A.-L. (2013, July). Positioning to teach science through inquiry. Paper presented at Australasian Science Education Research Association Conference 2013, Wellington, New Zealand.

New Arrival

Congratulations to Joanna on the arrival of baby Zechary. It is indeed a wonderful treat for all of us from the research team to welcome the youngest and newest member.

The research team with family

Graduate Students - Master in Education

Congratulations to Ms May Phua and Ms Jasmine Tan for completing their Masters in Education. Well done, ladies!

May’s thesis is entitled “Promoting productive argumentation through rebuttals, counterarguments and students’ questions”. Her research is situated in the secondary school biology classroom.

Jasmine’s thesis is entitled “Integrating written feedback as formative assessment in the learning of primary science”. Her research is situated in the elementary science classroom.

Their theses can be found in the National Institute of Education library.

Staff Movement

With effect 1 July 2013, Jen joined another research team in the Learning Sciences and Technologies Group. Her expertise in statistical analysis was sought after. However, Jen remains as a valued and active adjunct member in this research group and we continue to work with her in data analysis and publications. 

In the coming months….
  • Fred, TJ and Poh Hiang will be presenting papers and posters at the 10th European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) in September. They will be spending a week in Nicosia, Cyprus interacting with members of the international science education community.
  • Fred and Aik Ling will be presenting a poster of our research findings at OER celebrates! on October 8, 2013. This is to commemorate 10 years of the birth of the Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice.

Look out for the next update in October 2013!

Graduate Students

PhD students

Ms Tan Poh Hiang
Poh Hiang is a teaching fellow at the National Institute of Education. She is attached to the Natural Sciences and Science Education academic group. She has vast experiences with assessment issues in Singapore after having served as an assessment officer with the Singapore Examination and Assessment Board. Her current research is focused on formative assessment in elementary science classrooms. She is working on her thesis entitled “Primary science teachers’ beliefs and enactment of formative assessment during science inquiry”.

Mr Tan Hong Kim
Hong Kim is a teaching fellow at the National Institute of Education. He is attached to the Natural Sciences and Science Education academic group. He served as a curriculum specialist at the Ministry of Education for many years and hence is experienced with curriculum issues in Singapore. His current research focus is on understanding the learning environment which is conducive for productive biology laboratory learning. His thesis title is “Students’ learning outcomes in biology: Effects of the laboratory learning environment”.

Mr Frederick Talaue
Frederick is a research associate with the research group. He was a biology teacher at a STEM high school in the Philippines for many years and hence has rich knowledge of teachers and classrooms. His research interest lies in teachers’ ideas, beliefs, identity and practices. His thesis is entitled “Primary teachers’ discursive identities in the enactment of an inquiry-based science curriculum”. 

Research Collaborations

Our research group is currently working on establishing research collaborations with other research groups that are interested in establishing the knowledge base of how teachers’ ideas and beliefs are connected to their professional decision making and their eventual practices in science classrooms and laboratories.

In June 2012, our consultants, Prof Ken Tobin and Prof Barbara Crawford visited us and we had some discussions about future direction for our research. (Right: Visit by Prof Crawford)

Research Grants

For the last three years, our research has been supported by grants from (1) Office of Education Research (OER) at the National Institute of Education and (2) the Singapore Millennium Foundation (SMF). The specific area of research supported by the OER grant focuses on teachers’ ideas and beliefs in science teaching and learning while the SMF grant supports research in creating conducive science learning spaces and appropriate assessment modes to support students’ learning. Both grants have a component that focuses on students’ ideas about their science learning experiences.

Research Publications

Below is a selection of the publications from the research group. We hope that you will find them useful.

Publications relating to teachers’ beliefs
  1. Kim, M., Tan, A.-L*., & Talaue, F. (2013). New vision and challenges in inquiry-based curriculum change in Singapore. International Journal of Science Education, 35(2), 289-311. DOI:10.1080/09500693.2011.636844
  2. Poon, C. L., Lee, Y. J., Tan, A. L., & Lim, S. S. L. (2012). Knowing inquiry as practice and theory: Developing a pedagogical framework with elementary school teachers. Research in Science Education, 42(2), 303-327.
  3. Tan, A.-L., & Wong, H.-M. (2012). "Didn't get expected answer, rectify it.": Teaching science content in an elementary science classroom using hands-on activities". International Journal of Science Education, 34(2), 197-222. 
  4. Kim, M., & Tan, A.-L. (2011). Rethinking difficulties of teaching inquiry-based practical work: stories from elementary pre-service teachers. International Journal of Science Education, 33(4), 465-486.
  5. Tan, A.-L., Tan, S.-C., & Wettasinghe, M. (2011). Learning to be a science teacher: Reflections and lessons from video-based instruction. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(3), 446-462.
  6. Towndrow, P. A., Tan, A. L.*, Yung, B. H. W., & Cohen, L. (2010). Science teachers' professional development and changes in science practical assessment practices: What are the issues? Research in Science Education, 40(2), 117-132.
  7. Tan, A. L., & Tan, S. C. (2008). Authority and transmission versus knowledge building: Dilemma in learning science. In Lee, Y. J., & Tan, A. L. (Eds.), Science education at the nexus of theory and practice (pp. 239-251). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. 
  8. Tan, A. L., & Towndrow, P. A. (2008). A mainstream science teacher's perspective on teaching a student with a physical disability. In Wright, S., Cohen, L., & Poon, K. (Eds.), Special education: Perspectives and practice (pp. 198-208). Singapore: Prentice Hall. 
Publications relating to science learning spaces and assessment
  1. Tan, A.-L., Kim, M., & Talaue, F. (2012). Grappling with issues of learning science from everyday experiences: An illustrative case. The Journal of Mathematics and Science: Collaborative Exploration, in press, in press. 

  2. Poon, C. L., Toh, F. M., & Tan, A.-L.* (2010). Bees in the news: Connecting classroom science to real-life issues. Science Scope, 33(9), 64-67.

  3. Poon, C.-L., Tan, D., & Tan, A.-L.* (2009). Classroom management and inquiry-based learning: Finding the balance. Science Scope, 32(9), 18-21.

  4. Tan, A.-L., & Towndrow, P. (2009). Catalyzing student-teacher interactions and teaching learning in science practical formative assessment using digital video technology. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 61-67.

  5. Tan, A. L. (2008). Tension in the biology laboratory: What are they?. International Journal of Science Education, 30(12), 1661-1676.

  6. Towndrow, P. A., Tan, A. L., & Venthan, A. M. (2008). Promoting inquiry through science reflective journal writing. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 4(3), 279-283.

  7. Tan, A. L., & Wong, S. (2007). Did the beanstalk really reach the sky? Using fairy tales to teach science. Science Scope, 31(1), 72-74.

  8. Osborne, M., Tan, A. L., & Kwek, B. K. (2006). The mechanics of teaching: Weaving in primary one. In W. Bokhorst-Heng, M. Osborne, & K. Lee (Eds.), Redesigning Pedagogies: Reflections on theory and praxis (pp. 159-174). Rotterdam: Sense Publisher.

Publications relating to students ideas
  1. Tan, P. H., & Tan, A. L. (2011). Assessing students' learning of primary science in the multicultural context of Singapore: Considerations influencing task selection for formative assessment. In International Association for Educational Assessment (Ed.) Proceedings of 37th international conference of International Association of Educational Assessment (pp. 1-10). Manila, Philippines: IAEA.
  2. Ismail, M., & Tan, A. L. (2006). Snapshots from the normal technical world: An ethnographic study of low-track students in Singapore. In W. Bokhorst-Heng, M. Osborne, & K. Lee (Eds.), Redesigning Pedagogies: Reflections on theory and praxis (pp. 73-88). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.  
  3. Tan, A. L., & Soong, L. (2006). The language of science: Alternative lenses to examining the learning of science. In W. Bokhorst-Heng, M. Osborne, & K. Lee (Eds.), Redesigning Pedagogies: Reflections on theory and praxis. (pp. 261-270). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Resources for teachers

One of the primary objectives of our research is to work with teachers in partnership to improve science teaching and learning in schools. We believe that a positive experience with science in school will motivate the students to remain enthusiastic about all aspects of science in their everyday lives. This is to ensure a population that can engage in critical scientific debates in their decision making as  global citizens. As such, we work together with teachers to share best practices and resources so that more can benefit from the findings of our research. We welcome teachers who are interested in our research to be attached to our research group.

Contact us

Should you have any queries, please contact us at Thank you.