Investigating Affordances of Learning Contexts in Mediating and Enhancing Students’ Participation in School-Based Vocational Education in Singapore

Project Number
OER 05/15 WLH

Project Duration
June 2015 - November 2017


The proposed research project aims to investigate how affordances of learning contexts can mediate and enhance students' participation in vocational education in a non-mainstream specialised school in Singapore that focuses on providing hands-on and practical learning for academically less inclined students. The project is motivated by the state's increasing focus on student-centric education, commitment to equipping students with broad and deep learning for life, and the interest in generating inclusiveness among students of diverse abilities towards learning (MOE's Work Plan Seminars, 2011-13). The starting point of our investigation is vocational education as this is a site frequently construed as saturated with hands-on training, with minimal use of reading and writing. Little is known about students' uses of written text or literacies as communicative resources in accessing the curriculum. There is also scant research being undertaken in this domain to search for ways to fill the research gaps between cognition and practice, knowing and doing, and person and the context. Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of New Literacy Studies and concepts grounded in social learning, our proposed project will examine students' involvement in their competency-based training in vocational education and explain how this enables them to take hold of the range of learning opportunities at school, including how they mobilise their social uses of literacies from one context (vocational education) to another (instructional education) to serve as resources for learning within their school curriculum. It will also study how school leaders and teachers engage students with the school-based vocational educational training collaboratively. In investigating the project, the ethnographic perspective to research and a case study approach will be employed. It is hoped that the findings from the proposed study can also yield insights into how learning environments in both non-mainstream and mainstream education can be better designed to bring about students' full potential to learning. We envisage that the potential contributions from this project can also be used to inspire other students, particularly those who have been identified as underperformers in learning or officially classified as high ability or intellectually 'gifted' students in mainstream education but who have not been able to have their academic role stretched fully during their schooling. While the project is exploratory in nature, its related goal attempts to theorise the concepts associated with school literacies, school leadership and learning contexts based on the findings obtained.

Funding Source

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