A Narrative Inquiry into the Lived Experiences of English Teachers in Singapore Secondary Schools

Project Number
OER 05/11 LCY

Project Duration
January 2012 - September 2016


Few published studies have investigated Singapore teachers’ personal experiences in negotiating the demands of evolving English Language and Literature curricula in the midst of educational reforms (cf. Cheah, 2002; Deng & Gopinathan, 2003; Farrell & Tan, 2007; Goh, Zhang, Ng, & Koh, 2005; Tan & Guo, 2009). Our study aims to contribute to this small body of research by asking: What can teachers’ lived experiences teach us about the ways in which teachers’ identities inform their understandings of what, how, where, and why English is taught? At the heart of our study, then, is the role that personal identity plays in the development of teachers’ expertise and professionalism. Specifically, it seeks to explore the experiential, relational, and emotional qualities of teachers’ “personal practical knowledge” (PPK) (Clandinin, 1985; Connelly & Clandinin, 1988) and its links to pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Given that much of the research on PPK has been conducted in the United States, our study aims to expand the empirical base of PPK-related scholarship, and to explore the extent to which such knowledge is differentially conceived and enacted in the Southeast Asian context of Singapore. This critical extension of the literature can situate NIE on the world map of comparative studies in teacher knowledge and education. By attending to the stories that teachers tell in their own words, our study will rely primarily on narrative inquiry methodologies, which command a strong following among educational researchers. However, teacher narratives remain an under-represented source of rich data on the challenges and vicissitudes of teachers’ work in Singapore (cf. Fang, 2011; Lee, 2008; Liew, 2010). Seeking to redress this imbalance, our project offers to show how narrative inquiry can illuminate the public and private realities of teachers’ lives, and unveil the particularities of context that influence their beliefs, motivations, attitudes, and emotions. The study of teachers’ narratives, then, is a project charged with democratic significance: it seeks to honor the voices of practitioners by listening to what their stories can tell us about the personal realities of teachers’ professional lives. Accordingly, it seeks to bridge the theoretical insights of academics with the practical insights of teachers, thereby aligning itself with NIE’s ongoing focus on the theory-practice nexus in teaching while attending to the key areas identified in OER’s 6th Request for Proposals: teacher identity, professionalism and practice.

Research Themes
Teacher Learning/PLCs/Lesson Studies

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 9 (2013):The Lived Experiences of English Teachers
NIE Research Briefs No. 16-004: What can English Teachers Tell Us about the Emotional Demands of their Work?

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