Experiential Learning in Authentic Learning Environments: An Impact Study of Retail Experience for Active Learning (Real)

Project Number
OER 11/09 KNK

Project Duration
October 2009 - February 2012


To equip our youth with 21st Century Skills, schools must move beyond a focus on basic competency in core subjects to promoting understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving in the 21st century skill set demands into schooling. These are global awareness, financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; and health literacy. In this particular project, we highlight financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy. In achieving these 21st Century Student Outcomes, innovation skills, information, media and technology skills, and more importantly, life and career skills are made accessible to students. The 21st Century Student Outcomes are the skills, knowledge and expertise students should master to succeed in work and life in the 21st century. To this end, a good opportunity to incubate and investigate the impact of having an intervention that hopes to move our schools towards this journey is to evaluate the intervention through a new GCE subject. The Elements of Business Skills (EBS) GCE N-Level subject was introduced to upper secondary level Normal (Technical) students to provide foundational knowledge and skills in practical frontline operations of Singapore's rapidly growing services sector. It incorporates learning opportunities for students to embark on a range of activities to reinforce the conceptual understanding of knowledge and the application of skills in marketing and customer service and is set in the context of the three service industries - retailing, travel and tourism, and hospitality. Many of these skills can perhaps best be learnt through real-life practical experience. In Singapore, internship programmes are common among tertiary students as a requirement of their studies, but there is currently no such requirement for secondary school students. We deem it very important for students to have opportunities where they can apply the knowledge they learn in classrooms integrated with the 21st Century Skills across content areas which also encourages the integration of community resources beyond school walls. That being said, this study will explore the use of short-term experiential learning through work attachments of EBS students to real retailers as part of their extension of learning activity. Thus, we are able to expose the students to these different 21st Century Skills while being able to focus on the specific skill sets and literacies needed for the subject. This will allow students to apply their classroom knowledge and skills in real-world situations in a safe, guided and carefully assessed manner. Students will undergo two Periods of learning attachments. Period 1 in May/June will be 2 weeks of job-shadowing while Period 2 in October/November will be 4 weeks of internship. Quantitative data will be collected using a learning environment questionnaire and an attitude instrument. This will be triangulated using a qualitative approach involving interviews and focus-group discussions with teachers and students, and the completion of reflection logs during the work attachment. Data from Period 1 will provide a frame of reference to further the research and project, while the two Periods of data collection will enable both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of student attainment. Outcome measures of� the students will focus on their degree of engagement in learning the EBS subject and whether these learning attachments have had any effect on enhancing learning environment, motivation, and skills. Data will be compared against a control sample of students not undergoing the learning attachments but matched for demographics and academic performance at the pre-test period on school-based assessment. In addition to the above, feedback will be obtained from school teachers and workplace supervisors.

Research Themes
Children at Risk (Academic)/Slow-progressing students

Funding Source

Related Links
NIE Research Brief Series 12-003: The REAL Experience

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