The Teacher Development Centre (TDC) in Singapore has recently started the process of developing and supporting Action Research projects with education partners. This is in response to research that suggests that professional development is most effective when there are sustained relationships between schools and professional development providers.
Action Research is a process in which teachers investigate teaching and learning to improve their own and their students' learning. It generally involves looking at specific aspects of teaching or learning in a live classroom in order to solve a problem or answer a question.
The first school to work with the TDC on an Action Research project was the Admiralty Primary School in Singapore. Three teachers from the school worked with the TDC team on a six-month project focusing on Critical Literacy(1).
The research supported the development of 21st century competencies among Primary 6 learners (12-13 years old). The team of educators wanted to understand if the use of classroom instructional frameworks specific to critical literacy would help learners in their understanding of multiple view points, socio-political issues and social justice.
On the project, Training Consultant, Martin Yakabuski, and participating teachers worked together, each taking on the role of “Teacher as Researcher”, documenting significant professional and student learning as the lessons progressed. Data was collected around the question, “How does the direct teaching of strategies to support critical literacy development impact the learner’s ability to understand and appreciate alternative points of view and diverse perspectives?”
Using the standard model of professional inquiry, the process followed seven steps: Selecting a focus; Clarifying theories, (Literature Review); Identifying research question(s); Collecting data; Analysing data; Reporting results; Taking informed action.
Text sets were created including picture books, news articles, web sites, videos, posters and photos. They were used to explore ideas of unity, diversity, difference and equality, and to anchor and frame each lesson. A series of specific learning strategies was chosen (2) and explicitly taught to help students acquire critical thinking skills and a critical literacy skill-set. Students were also taught how to write responses explaining facts as part of a persuasive argument, to support their critical thinking process.
The team was delighted with the project’s outcomes. The data showed the movement of the students as they developed personal opinions and investigated their understandings of the world. By the end of the process, students were able to apply their critical thinking skills in a clear process by:
- considering an author’s point of view;
- integrating it with their prior knowledge and other perspectives;
- analysing positions;
- evaluating information;
- taking a personal stance on issues.
The quality of both their conversations and written reflections continually improved.
The project’s members were invited to present their findings at the Redesigning Pedagogy conference organized by Singapore’s National Institute of Education in June of this year.
This opportunity has highlighted the role that the British Council can play in embedding learning and pedagogical understanding for sustained professional development and student achievement in educational systems.
(1) Critical literacy practices engage students and teachers in the process of expanding their reasoning through exposure to multiple perspectives, deepening their understanding of social issues and becoming active thinkers who comprehend text from a critical stance. Learners are encouraged to become critical consumers of text, asking questions of texts, examining viewpoints, clarifying understandings and taking a stand on socio-political issues and relationships that are important to the them and their futures.
(2) Learning strategies included the GO Chart, Think-Aloud, Problem Posing, Strategic Questioning, Role-Play, Talk Moves for Critical Discussion, Switching, Four Corners, Questioning the Author, and the Q-Chart.