Understanding the Integrated Program Student Identity: A Transitions Perspective

Project Number
OER 38/09 PT

Project Duration
May 2010 - August 2011


This project builds on the professional collaboration created by the Study of the Raffles Programmes at Raffles Girls' School (RGS) project, which was funded under the MOE/OER research scheme (OER 9/08 PT) in February 2009. That momentum has led to parallel research activity in 2 other schools in the Raffles family�RI and RIJC�independently funded ($60k) by those schools. Thus, this project is based on exceptional collaboration, involving stakeholder investment of professional support and $s. Collectively these schools offer an Integrated Program (IP) which is intended to provide a seamless and enriched secondary and Junior College education without requiring students to sit the GCE O-Level Examination. The time 'saved' by not having to prepare for 'O' levels is intended to be used to develop students' intellectual curiosity, encouraging them to undertake research work and providing a broad-based education that is more in tune with desired real-world competencies.. Interviews with RGS graduates who experienced the RP in 2004 and 2005 indicated that they experienced what appear to be unanticipated challenges when they transitioned from RGS to RIJC. They indicated that the RP at RGS developed them as thinkers, offering a learner-centred curriculum invited that to explore and develop their interests and talents. Their experience of the RP at RIJC necessarily refocused their attention on the prescribed curriculum, and preparation for their 'A' level examinations. Put bluntly, they experienced the RP as a 4+2 model, with the '+' sign indicating a significant interruption rather than an 'integration'. Discussions of 'sustainable pedagogical innovation' tend to overlook the impact of innovation on students, in part because of an implicit acceptance the school's 'learning community' involves adults/teachers, but not children/students, and that pedagogy is something that teachers 'do'. The latter ignores the importance of a school's culture, expressed through its programmatic and behavioural regularities, on the identities of both teachers and students (Sarason 1982). The thesis of this proposal is that the programmatic and behavioural regularities of sustained pedagogy embody an underlying culture�in this instance, the RP at RGS, at RI and at RIJC. The corollary is that pedagogical innovation necessarily involves changes in those regularities, and therefore culture and the identities of teachers and students. The irony posed by the observations that have stimulated this proposal is that students admitted to IP programmes have been exceptionally successful in the primary education, yet that success is based on examination taking and the related attributes of an examination identity�memorisation, dependence on teacher, perseverance�are not a sufficient basis for academic success in an IP setting, where the focus shifts to exploration and self-regulated learning. This results in experiences of contrasts and surprises, with all the attendant anxiety and emotional dissonance of this transition. Thus, and as represented in the following figure, this proposal assumes, on the basis of this literature, that students have to re-develop their academic identity, and that this requirement is repeated as they transition from secondary to junior college. This research project will respond to the unexpected finding, identifying challenges and opportunities for students as they transition into RI and RGS from a variety primary schools, from RI and RGS into RIJC, and developing interventions to address these challenges. These foci were identified in collaboration with the senior leadership of Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls' School. The project focuses on the concept of transition as involving the redevelopment of students' academic identity in ways that can optimise their academic success in each context.

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