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Influencing change in language teaching strategies through school based in-service training
Issue Date: 
Singapore Journal of Education, 7(2), 49-54
In 1980, a Singapore study showed that many Lower Primary teachers lacked skills and techniques in reading instruction which could help pupils overcome the difficulties they faced. Learning to read in Singapore, where English is the medium of instruction from P1 upwards, causes problems for those children coming from non-English speaking homes.
This study led to a traditional sixty-hour in-service course with the somewhat untraditional proviso that participants return to their schools to conduct reading workshops for their colleagues. In this way, every primary school could be reached in a relatively short time. Between February 1982 and November 1984, two primary school teachers from nearly every school attended the course and many have already conducted workshops.
Beginning with the pilot course and based on participants' responses to questionnaires, subsequent courses were altered in an attempt to improve course effectiveness. Despite these changes, a 1984 study showed that little change had taken place in teaching techniques. Due to a rigid prescribed syllabus, segmented timetables, crowded classrooms, teachers' resistance to change, and other reasons, there had been minimal transfer from the course to the classroom.
Resulting from recommendations of this study, a team of researchers, lecturers, school inspectors, and primary school teachers was formed in 1984 to develop an in-service alternative. Instead of teachers attending courses at the teacher education institute, a core of ten team members underwent training and received training packages for school based workshops. These packages included locally made slide/tape presentations, materials for demonstration and discussion, and detailed printed guidelines for the techniques/approaches to be presented. Trainers then conducted workshops for Primary 1 teachers in the schools, one trainer per three to four of the thirty randomly selected schools.
During training, emphasis was placed on two integrated language teaching approaches, the Shared Book and Language Experience Approaches. Presentation of these was divided into two phases with a number of weeks between to allow the teachers to develop skills in one area before trying the next. In the intervening weeks, trainers monitored closely the responses of the teachers and gave support and advice whenever necessary. Teachers were asked to complete questionnaires and pupils were tested and given interest inventories. Based
on feedback from trainers, teachers, pupils and test results, appropriate revisions will be made before the programme is implemented on a larger scale.
By July 1985, the team will have examined the feedback from the first six months and will have some indication of programme effectiveness. It is hoped that this school based approach to in-service training will provide more transfer from in-service workshops to classroom practice.
Appears in Collections:Journal Articles - Singapore Journal of Education

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