Social Studies

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."

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."

Provoking Inquiry: The Use of Primary Sources in the Primary Social Studies Classroom

"Primary sources of information are often used by teachers to spark curiosity about the past, develop multiple perspectives and foster critical thinking in students. This article focuses on how and why primary sources can be used to create inquiry-based, student-centered learning experiences in the primary social studies curriculum. It demonstrates how primary students can use the modified See, Think, Wonder approach to draw well-reasoned inferences about the past corroborated by evidence from primary sources of information."

Immigrant Teachers in Singapore Schools: Backgrounds, Integration, and Diversification

"Immigrant-background teachers make up a fragment of the teacher population in mainstream Singapore schools. Though modest in terms of number, the presence of these teachers in the Singapore teaching workforce is arguably significant in other ways. To date, little research attention has been paid to this unique group of teachers. Based on a Ministry of Education-National Institute of Education (MOE-NIE) funded study (OER 16/17 YPD), this article provides an overview of the characteristics and experiences of immigrant teachers in mainstream Singapore primary and secondary schools, with a focus on the practical challenges and value tensions they encounter in the professional settings. Findings show that immigrant teachers are generally well integrated into the Singapore education system notwithstanding certain challenges. Meanwhile, some teachers’ experiences of negotiating with value differences suggest that immigrant teachers may have the potential to add diversity to the education system, although this potential appears to be limited by the pragmatic imperative of professional integration."

Teaching Place, “Placing” the Learner: Understanding the Geographies of Place

"In this paper, I underscore the importance of “placing” the learner, or allowing them to engage in place-based learning activities to understand the concept of place. This is in support of arguments that hold place as open and fluid. Such a view of place is particularly relevant in this globalized age where transnationality characterizes many of our social relations. I draw on a place-based class activity that I did with my AAG10D (Singapore in Asia) students at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore in 2016 to emphasize the importance of place-based activities and their implications for understanding the geography of place. We focused on two translocal places in Singapore - Clarke Quay and Lucky Plaza - which are widely held as places for, respectively, expatriates and low-waged migrant workers. Such an activity allows students to experience the social interactions and processes that make up a place, and to recognize that place is not simply a location of things nor a container of human activities. Finally, I suggest that placing learners equips geography students with basic disciplinary knowledge that challenges them to think about being-in-the-world, which is what (human) geography is about."

Immigration, Population, and Foreign Workforce in Singapore: An Overview of Trends, Policies, and Issues

"Immigration has been a “hot button” issue in Singapore in recent years. This paper provides an overview of the key policies, trends, and issues relating to immigration, population, and foreign workforce in the city-state. The paper begins by looking at Singapore’s current immigration landscape, and then examines the city-state’s foreign manpower regime, which constitutes the institutional foundation for immigration to Singapore. The highly intertwined immigration and foreign labour policies are then explained along two fundamental underlying dimensions – economy and demography. The paper ends by looking at local grassroots society’s reactions to the influx of immigrants in recent times, and the ways in which the Singapore government has since tried to address such concerns."

Using an International Videoconference in Problem-Based Inquiry Projects: The Role of Public Voice, Audience, and Positionality

"This article discusses and reflects upon a problem-based inquiry project that culminated in an international videoconference between multiethnic and multi-faith secondary students from Macedonia and the United States. The videoconference provided an opportunity for students to share their action plans, which proposed methods of addressing local problems or issues students had identified through their inquiry. This article focuses on three ways students engaged with the project and videoconference: inquiry, audience, and public voice. These aspects of the project illustrate how the students’ positionality on their chosen problem/issue shifted as they developed skills and knowledge through their inquiry. The article concludes with a discussion of implications for future problem-based inquiry projects in secondary schools."

The Elected Presidency

"Scheduled for September, the coming presidential election is one of the most anticipated public events of 2017. While the populations of larger democratic countries have to contend with numerous regional and local elections that may cause electoral fatigue, Singaporeans get to express their democratic voice only once every two to three years. This year’s election, though, is especially anticipated by the Malay community because for the first time, the presidential election will be reserved for Malays."

Developing Conceptual Understanding in Social Studies Using Technology and Discussion

"Social studies concepts are tools for understanding our experience, the past, and the social world. They are broad, organizing ideas that can be expressed in one or two words and they are defined by key characteristics or attributes. They help us think about groups of objects, actions, people, issues, or relationships in the social world and can be applied to make sense of new situations and information that we encounter in our experience. Concepts help us learn by organizing new information and experience into mental constructs or schema. In social studies, concepts like trade-offs, identity, integration, and interdependence serve these purposes."

Diversity: Approaches to building conceptual understanding in the Social Studies classroom

"With the heightened emphasis placed on students’ understanding of core content or key concepts in the 2016 Social Studies curriculum in secondary schools, it remains of utmost interest for the social studies teacher to revisit some of the key strategies and beliefs involved in building conceptual understanding in the classroom. This pedagogy was developed to strengthen students’ understanding and appreciation of key concepts and principles while encouraging them to apply these concepts to their understanding of the world around them. This article thus seeks to explore the various pedagogical beliefs, instructional strategies and challenges that would be applicable for the classroom teacher in the conduct of the new Social Studies syllabus. For the purpose of this article, we will be touching on the concept of diversity to anchor our discussions. Having a good grasp of the key concept of diversity is an essential part of students' learning as this concept forms the building blocks for gaining a better understanding about the issue on ‘Living in a Diverse Society’."

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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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