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Office of Education Research, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Looi, C.-K., Wu, L., & Ye, X. (2020). Infusion, dissemination and evolution: Seeding an innovation from one school to a few schools (Report No. OER 26/12 LCK). National Institute of Education (Singapore), Office of Education Research.
The challenge of how to diffuse and scale-up effective educational innovations has received increasing attention in recent years. Researchers spent efforts developing educational innovation and proving its efficacy and effectiveness in pilot studies in small scale, but when the innovation is put into practice and especially when the context of use is broadened, the designed principles of the innovation need to be refined iteratively to work well through a process of design-based implementation research. Scaling up successful educational innovation not only draws interests from the researchers, but also education policy makers and practitioners, as they all aim to create deep and sustainable changes in the processes of teaching and learning. One of the most cited literature on scaling is that of Coburn (Coburn, 2003) who defined scale as encompassing four interrelated dimensions: depth, sustainability, spread and shift in reform ownership, and Clarke and Dede (Clarke & Dede, 2009) added in a fifth dimension of evolution of an innovation in this framework to understand and analyse the process of scaling-up.

The innovation that we are trying to scale up is Inquiry-Based Seamless Learning (IBSL), and has been developed by working with a class of primary school students over a period of two school years (a P3 class in 2009 and P4 in 2010) in school N. Because the research findings demonstrated increased student achievement, the school N has decided to scale-up the roll-out of the innovation to all P3 and P4 classes in 2013. Furthermore, the school (in its role as a Centre of Excellence for IT in Education in the North Zone cluster of schools) has intended to collaborate with other five schools in the cluster to scale up its successful innovation, and in particular, the enactment of mobile curriculum from the context of one school to a cluster of schools. In this regards, we see the innovation has achieved some successes in dimensions of scale by Coburn (2003) and Clarke and Dede (2009):

 Depth: The intervention has created positive learning gains for the students of the two classes (Looi et al., 2011) and positive changes in attitudes and knowledge of teachers (Looi et al., 2011) as well as one teacher’s transformation in pedagogical orientation from a teacher-cantered, traditional-transmission view to a more constructivist model that focused on learning processes rather than stressing the results (Looi, Sun, Seow, & Chia, 2014).

 Sustainability: The innovation was sustainably used and refined in the school for five years, and clearly changes have occurred in the school with evidences from research analysis (Looi et al., 2010; Zhang et al., 2010).

 Spread: The innovation has been and is experiencing the following levels of spreading: pilot class in P3 level in one school (2009) — two classes in P4 level in the school (2010)—whole P3 classes in the school (2012)—whole P3 and P4 classes in the school and one pilot class in P3 in five other schools in the same cluster (2013 and 2014). The innovation has scaled up in the grade level, school level and now in cluster level.

 Shift in ownership: The school has taken over ownership by driving the spread of the IBSL innovation within school and across schools.

 Evolution: The innovation developer is learning conditions of implementing the innovation in diverse school contexts and refining the design principles to be more feasible for practitioners.
Project number: 
OER 26/12 LCK
Grant ID: 
Education Research Funding Programme (ERFP)
Funding Agency: 
Ministry of Education, Singapore
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