Arts Research on Teachers and Students (ARTS3): Cultures and Leverages in Nurturing Adaptive Capacities

Project Number
OER 44/12 TLS

Project Duration
December 2012 - September 2016


Creating learning environments to nurture flexible, adaptive and innovative learners is a key concern in today's educational setting (Garmston & Wellman, 1999; Hung, Lim, chen, & Koh, 2008; Sarros, Cooper, & Santora, 2008). Although flexibility, reflexivity and innovativeness are essential dispositions to manoeuvring in today's complex environment, there is limited understanding about school processes that lead to the nurturance of adaptive individuals. Several initiatives have been introduced in Singapore schools that are aimed at changing teachers' practices. While national frameworks like Thinking School Learning Nation (Goh, 1997) were introduced to provide a broad framework for schools, other initiatives like the NIE-led Lesson Study movement (Fang & Lee, 2010), MOE's initiative to build communities of practice in schools (Ng, 2010, September), and the setting up of the Academy of Singapore Teachers, strive to build teacher capacity within schools. Despite these well-intentioned movements, Hogan and Gopinathan (2008) observe that ''teacher dominated instructional practices prevail within (Singaporean) classrooms. There is little instruction but considerable evidence of a very tight coupling between the high stakes examination system and classroom instruction'' (p. 370). Recently, Silver et al. highlighted that ''existing structures (e.g., high-stakes examinations) sometimes countered newer initiatives (e.g., for student engagement through more group work or greater use of learning centres)'' (2011, p. 2), which ultimately confound teacher's adaptive expertise (Hatano & Inagaki, 1984). Documenting the features and processes of institutional and cultural affordances in curriculum development and teacher learning through this proposed study in a specialized school allows us to understand how to build teacher capacity for ''? a deep understanding of content and pedagogy which enables them (teachers) to transform (organise, adapt, present) content in ways which are powerfully responsive to the particular characteristics of learners, curricula and teaching environments'' (ACDE, 1998, p. 12). This study examines the dynamic interaction of historical, cultural, and institutional contexts in three schools amidst a system that is accustomed to academic excellence. It also investigates the negotiated space provided by the school to enhance adaptivity in teaching and learning; and the sociocultural positioning that result from this nurturance of creative capacity. It is crucial to capture the key teaching and learning leverages created through curriculum innovation. Leaders and policy makers can then utilise the identified strategic sociocultural leverages to build adaptive capacity in schools.

Funding Source

Related Links
NIE Research Briefs No. 16-018: Cultures and Leverages for Nurturing Adaptive Capacities through Curriculum Innovation

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