Junior College

Commentary: Inquiry-based Learning and Teaching

"This article has simultaneously been published in NIE Perspectives. In this commentary, Singapore-based research on inquiry-based teaching and learning is shared. It provides a summary of research findings that highlight pedagogical practices in classrooms to effectively structure and support IBL, build an inquiry culture in classrooms and develop inquiry mindsets and social practices that support inquiry."

Where Literacy Meets Geography: Using Talk Moves to Engage Students in Geographical Data

"From a perspective of social constructivism, literacy is shaped by social practices (Moje, 1996) and serves the purpose of knowledge construction in a discipline (Moje, 2008). To help students become “geographically literate” (Dolan, 2019) entails equipping them with skills to make sense of and critique geographical data presented in multimodal formats (Roberts, 2014) by creating more space for geographical dialogue in the classroom. This paper first discusses the relationship between talk and students’ ability to analyse and account for geographical data. Using the evidence of a questionnaire survey, it examines the impact of Talk Moves in supporting dialogic teaching in 3 Singapore’s secondary geography classrooms. Statistics show that Talk Moves helped students improve their analytical skills for geographical data and their ability to articulate answers in a geographical manner. However, more support could be provided to enhance students’ classroom participation and their writing based on geographical data."

Backtracking towards a Transformative Rizal Curriculum

"Despite their inclusion in the Philippine social studies curriculum to inspire patriotism in the youth, the teaching of Jose Rizal’s life and works is often lifeless and barren. In contrast, my experience studying Rizal under Professor Paul A. Dumol was a potent educational experience that led to my firm conviction in my role and duties as a citizen. Merging the autobiographical/biographical and political strands of curriculum scholarship, this paper recounts my lived experience of Professor Dumol’s Rizal course to examine its capacity to produce transformation in both the individual and society. My findings reveal that the transformative power of his curriculum lay in its treatment of nationhood as an ongoing project that is continually formed by the individuals that comprise it. Applicable to social studies curricula across different contexts, this principle allows the student to comprehend his or her power as a citizen, inspiring transformation in the self, for society."

Environmental Education in Singapore: An Analysis of Environmental Knowledge in the Lower Secondary Geography Curriculum

"Geography is a discipline believed to be a potential platform for the delivery of Environmental Education (EE) in Singapore. Most local research investigating EE in schools reveals a gap between students’ ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ in relation to the environment. This naturally calls for attention towards raising environmental knowledge (EK) among students such that they can be empowered to act for the environment. However, what exactly do we mean by EK in the geography discipline? This paper examines the cognitive aspect of EE by creating a framework to analyse the form of EK present in the Singapore’s Lower Secondary Geography curriculum. The main finding shows that the curriculum reflects positive strides towards the incorporation of EK although the disproportionate emphasis of the EK dimensions might impede the effectiveness of instigating environmental actions among students. It is argued that to achieve the desired outcome of geography education - one that promotes responsible environmental stewards through EE - there needs to be serious considerations of what sorts of EK geography teaching and learning should emphasise."

Taming “Issue Investigation”: Singapore Secondary Social Studies Teachers’ Accounts of Challenges Encountered and Strategies for Coping

"The upper-secondary Social Studies (SS) syllabus (Express/Normal-Academic) released in Singapore in 2016 introduced an inquiry-based component called “Issue Investigation” (II). Given the relatively recent nature of this introduction, so far there has been little research on II. Drawing on a small qualitative study, this article reports on some of the typical challenges experienced by Singapore SS teachers in implementing and enacting II, as well as the coping strategies they developed. According to these teachers’ accounts, II was from the outset hindered by an exam-driven pragmatic attitude prevalent in Singapore schools; whereas specific enactment challenges included the II’s (perceived) overwhelming scope and depth, time constraints, and deficits of certain skills or preparedness among students and teachers. Faced with these challenges, teachers developed broadly two types of coping strategies—simplification and “piggybacking”—to tame II by making it manageable, both for the students and for themselves."

The “Black Rain” – A Re-assessment on the Dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on Japan

"In 1965, Masuji Ibuse, a native son of Hiroshima, published his Black Rain (Kuroi Ame). The novel is masterful reconstruction of death from radiation sickness based on the diary of a Hiroshima survivor plus interviews with some 50 hibakusha or victims of the atomic holocaust. Ibuse’s sensitivity to the complex web of emotions in a traditional community torn asunder by this historical event has made Black Rain one of the most acclaimed treatments of the Hiroshima story. "

What Does It Mean to Make Inferences?

"“Wie es eigentlich gewesen,” declared Leopold von Ranke. Despite many successive and successful intellectual assaults on the axioms of this methodology, it remains the guiding principle and aspiration of historians today. The main goal of the historian’s craft is still to report things as they are (Anthony, 1994). However, historians are not time travelers, and the only way to pierce the murky veil of time is through the imperfect crystal ball spun from a patchwork of sources. Consequently, the use of sources and historical evidence to dutifully reconstruct what likely happened in the past is the bread and butter of the historian’s craft. From Herodotus and Thucydides, to the historians of today, the use of a combination of primary and secondary sources to answer one’s inquiry question about the past stands to be the only constant in the methodology of a historian (Carr, 1961)."

Using Weighted Hinge Questions (WHQs) to Assess Students’ Causal Understanding

"Assessment in Singapore’s history classrooms has long reflected our teachers’ enduring focus on preparing students to meet examination requirements. The most common assessment practices revolve around assessing students’ proficiency in handling source-based case study questions and in using writing frames to answer essay questions asked in national examinations. Furthermore, many of these assessment tasks are typically assigned at the end of each topic or theme in the syllabus. There are, however, significant drawbacks to this assessment approach. First, this approach frequently offers delayed quantitative and qualitative descriptions of learner performance, thus preventing teachers from tracking their students’ learning during the instructional process and adjusting their pedagogical strategies accordingly to address students’ learning needs. "

Developing Formative Assessments on Evidence for Pre-University History

"Pre-University History teachers often use A-Level History examination questions and general formative assessment strategies (e.g. questioning and student reflection) as formative assessments. Such approaches to formative assessment provide limited information about students’ understanding of historical concepts and skills to inform teaching and learning. This article outlines the process of developing a formative assessment that assess students’ understanding of historical evidence. It uses ideas from the Stanford History Education Group’s Historical Assessments of Thinking and the affordances of the Singapore Student Learning Space to expand the range of formative assessment tools available to teachers. The use of short assessments designed to make students’ thinking visible provides teachers with valuable and timely information on students’ learning to inform their teaching for deeper historical understanding."

Assessment for Learning in History: Maximizing Error Analysis to bridge students’ learning gaps in answering Source-Based Case Study Questions

"Source-Based Case Study (SBCS) is a compulsory part of the formal history assessment in the Singapore context. It falls under Assessment Objective 3 which requires students to “interpret and evaluate source material” (MOE, 2013). Since this is an important component in the current assessment, history teachers spend a significant amount of time helping students to master the skills associated with this aspect. In addition, they would mark SBCS assignments and some would give feedback to help students know where they stand and how they can improve. Teachers would normally include comments and some of them may write a copious amount of feedback. While teachers have the good intention of writing feedback to help students improve their performance, anecdotal evidence suggest that students skim over the feedback and concentrate mainly on the marks and grades awarded. This action, on the part of the students, negates the impact of Formative Assessment (FA) “as one that is specifically meant to provide feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning” (Sadler, 1998). "

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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