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    The discourses of secondary school biology: inter-relating interactional features and teachers' theories
    Researchers such as Becher, 1989; Pantin, 1968 and McDonald, 1994 in the field of disciplinarity focus on the differences between different disciplines. These researchers describe the variation of knowledge, skills and epistemological difference across different disciplines. Pantin (1968) extended the idea of disciplinarity beyond different disciplines to look into disciplinarity within a single discipline. Science is a discipline that has variation within itself and Pantin focuses on the differences between the sciences.

    Set in Singapore, where the dominant pedagogy is teacher-centered and routinised, (Luke, Cazden, Lin & Freebody, 2005), this study tracks two teachers and two classes of students in Singapore to examine the subject of biology. Biology is a subject within the discipline of science and this study examines specifically the variations in interaction for two topics within biology, namely Reproduction in Plants and Ecology. The variation in interaction for this is further tracked in two different settings of the school: the classroom and the school science laboratory. The beliefs of teachers about the subject matter are also described and triangulated with the interactions that are observed in the two settings. The study that I reported here is qualitative in nature and uses tools of interview and analysis of classroom talk to establish the relationship between teachers’ beliefs about the subject matter and the interaction that results. This study seeks to address the following research questions:

    A. What interactional features are evident in the teaching and learning of secondary biology as reflected in transcripts of classrooms?

    B. What are the similarities and differences in the ways knowledge is realised relating to contrasts of setting and topic: in the classroom versus the laboratory and around the topics of Reproduction in Plants versus Ecology?

    C. How do teachers describe and explain the distinctive demands of teaching and learning in biology?

    Interviews and transcript analysis are used as methods of data analysis in this thesis. Transcripts are analysed by using principles of Conversation Analysis (ten Have, 1999 and Freebody, 2003) to illuminate the patterns of talk in the classroom and laboratory. The turn-taking structures, the building of exchanges and also the power relations are examined in the classroom and the laboratory for the two different topics. The beliefs of the teachers are elicited through a semi- structured interview that is analysed using paired contrasts and Membership Categorisation Principles (Freebody, 2003 and McHoul and Watson, 1984). From the interview and classroom talk, teacher knowledge in biology is also examined through the lenses of Bernstein and Lyotard. Such analysis is important in two ways. Firstly, it presents contrasting views through which interaction in the classroom and laboratory can be analyzed and understood. Secondly, it provides empirical evidence for existing theories in a local context.

    The results of this study revealed that teachers believed that the syllabus and schemes of work for the subject dictated how they conducted their lessons and that they believed that Reproduction in Plants with its specialised vocabulary was highly classified and requires direct teacher transmission of content to the students Ecology on the other hand, with its weakly classified content allows for more student participation in the selection and learning of content. Analysis of classroom interactions reveals that turn-taking was tightly controlled by the teacher, with consensus being constructed generally using IRE sequences with cooperation from the students which usually occurs at the expense of student criticism and questioning. For laboratory sessions, interactions when Reproduction in Plants was taught were found to allow more student- initiated questions but the pattern modelled by the teacher of focusing on rule and convention compliance limited the type of questions asked by the students. During the Ecology unit, interactions during the fieldtrip where teacher control was greatly reduced were found to be less regulated and more spontaneous. The conclusions of the study are that using the lenses of theories of discourse and power were useful in increasing the understanding of ‘interaction’ in classrooms and school science laboratory and how they were similar or different across the two topics.

    This study is of value as a micro-analysis of transcripts of a secondary biology laboratory and classroom and offers insights into the beliefs of teachers and how these get translated into classroom practices. This thesis also describes how the interaction in the laboratory and classroom is orchestrated in a principled manner by teachers and students for different topics in different settings. This study is new in the following respects:

    A. The analysis is of the similarities and contrasts within a single field of disciplinary knowledge.

    B. It documents the relationship between classroom practices and laboratory practices, showing how different kinds of work shape different kinds of interactional opportunities for learning.

    C. It documents how science teachers account for differences of discipline, setting and topic.

    D. It relates the accounts expressed in interviews and classroom practices.
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    Open Access
    ‘Let’s think like a scientist!’: Issues of school science
    (2006-11) ;
    Seah, Lay Hoon
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    Tan, Beng Chiak
    The nature and purposes of science education in Singapore have been, for a long time, an area of debate and concern. Ask teachers, curriculum developers, policy makers, science education researchers, scientists or students about the nature and purpose of science education, you will undoubtedly receive many different answers. The issue of interest here is the understanding of what nature and purposes of science education are among some teachers and students in Singapore. In this paper, we problematize the notion that high school students can think and should be able to think like a scientist. We hope that the discussion generated in this paper will contribute to an increased awareness among teachers and researchers about the issues relating to the nature of school science, learning science and the practices in the science classroom. This study examines two students from a class of 23 girls and their perception of what science is together with their biology teacher in a secondary school. In one of the classroom transcripts, the teacher reminded the students several times to ‘think like a scientist!”. This prompted us to question if the assumption that everyone knows how a scientist operate is valid. In this paper, we attempt to use Membership Categorisation Analysis (Freebody, 2003; McHoul and Watson, 1984) to provide insights into some ideas about science which the teacher and two students from the same school community have explicated. Their interview transcripts constitute the main data source in this paper. The results of this study revealed the complexities of issues relating to the introduction of the notion of nature of scientific enterprise in the secondary biology classrooms.
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    Open Access
    Solving ill-structured problems mediated by online- discussion forums: Mass customisation of learning
    (2019-12-02)
    Ramya Chandrasekaran
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    ; ;
    Yeong, Foong May
    To foster students’ learning of critical-thinking skills, we incorporated ill-structured problems in a Human Diseases module for third-year Life Sciences students. Using a problem-solving rubric and working in groups of three, students attempted to solve problems presented to them. We mediated their discussions by asynchronous online discussion forums (AODFs) as part of mass customisation of learning for 40 students where personalised learning was constrained by structure of the module. We examined the quality of students’ discussion, focusing on the feedback group members provided to one another, using an interpreted Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy to code students’ feedback. Our analysis indicated that the students were able to provide uni-structural and multi-structural level in relation to solving an ill-structured problem, even though they are not used to solving ill-structured problems. This indicated that in a mid-size class, while personalised-learning is not always easy, it is possible to mass customise learning for students using common ill-structured problems in a class by mediating problem-solving using student discussions as feedback. However, more can be done to scaffold peer feedback on solving ill-structured problems so that the level of collaborative-learning can be improved in a mass customised model that approaches personalised learning.
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    Enhancing inquiry-based teaching through collaboration beween pre-service and in-service teachers
    (2009-11)
    Kim, Mijung
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    Talaue, Frederick
    "The objectives of this study are: 1. To describe the perceptions and dilemmas of science inquiry held by both pre-service and in-service elementary teachers; and 2. To characterise the process of enhancing the understandings of inquiry while developing and examining scenario-based inquiry materials".--page 8.
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    Giving students a voice in science practical assessments
    (2006-05) ;
    Towndrow, Phillip A. (Phillip Alexander)
    This paper examines Science Practical Assessment (SPA) in the Singaporean classroom. In contrast to teacher-centric task setting and evaluation, this paper reports findings from a study where a class of students were involved in their own assessments mediated by digital video. Students were recorded during practical work and were then asked to review and edit the footage. Next, they evaluated their own and their classmates’ practical skills. These evaluations, scaffolded with a template and facilitated by the teacher, aimed to give the students a voice in presenting what they thought made ‘good’ science practical skills and practices in the laboratory. They also served as a platform for peer learning and provided a means for the students to be involved in discussing science and science practical skills. Results of this study reveal that students’ awareness of acceptable laboratory practices is enhanced through this innovative method of evaluating science practical work.
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  • Publication
    Open Access
    “But I have not started teaching!”: Knowledge building perils
    Scardamalia (2002) discussed the knowledge building notion as one which is built on social cognitive principles of learning. She proposed 12 principles focusing on collaborative knowing among students gearing toward building a community of learners in classrooms. However, how teachers become the key mediator for fostering knowledge building in classrooms is not fully explored. This study aims to contribute to the knowledge building research in terms of teacher professional development. Set in Singapore, where the dominant pedagogy is teacher centred and routinised (Luke, Cazden, Lin & Freebody 2005), this paper examines the journey taken by two biology teachers trying to reform their classrooms by incorporating knowledge building principles. In one of our email exchanges with a teacher, she was exasperated with her attempt to bring knowledge building into her classroom. After a few sessions, she exclaimed “But I have not started teaching!” This prompted us to seek answers to the research question “What are the factors that will impact knowledge building efforts in a Singapore science classroom?” Interviews and transcript analysis of classroom lessons are used as data and interpretive methods of data analysis are used in this paper. The beliefs of the teachers are elicited through a semi-structured interview which takes the form of a post-lesson dialogue in this paper. The results of this study revealed three key areas of concern in adopting knowledge building principles, namely, renegotiation of institutional authority, changing beliefs about teaching, and learning and building students’ capacity for epistemic agency. In order for teachers to transform their practices in the classroom, there needs to be a structured and concerted understanding of these factors.
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    Open Access
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    Open Access
    Teaching analytics: A multi-layer analysis of teacher noticing to support teaching practice
    This paper, as part of a larger ongoing study, presents the use of a multi-layer approach to analyzing teacher noticing for the improvement of teaching practices. Situated in the field of teaching analytics, the use of multimodal sensors and analytics, especially for teacher noticing research, has provided affordances to discover deep insights for improving teaching practices. We collected data from a case study of one teacher over three lessons of science teaching in a secondary school. Multimodal sensors including an eye-tracking device, a microphone, and multiple video cameras were deployed in a classroom. The various sources of data were integrated and a multi-layer analysis was performed to uncover insights into the teaching practice. The findings show that a novice teacher in our case study was able to attend to events in her classroom, with some interpretations and sense-making of the events; some necessary actions were taken based on the teacher’s analysis but in some instances, necessary action was found to be lacking. Prior knowledge and the wealth of experiences or the lack thereof, together with visual cues in the environment, can affect the decision of novice teachers in executing certain actions in a classroom.
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    An insight into philosophy of science and ethics education for girls in Singapore
    (2008-05)
    "This pilot research study aims to help science educators gain an insight into the state of science learning in a high school through the lens of the philosophy of science and the ethics of science. The following research questions guide this research: 1. What are the learning processes which take place in a class, which aim to bring across the nature of science? 2. To what extent is the philosophy of science translated to actual classroom practice in school science? 3. What are students' perceptions of science after an education in science which aims to bring out the nature of scientific knowledge? "-- [p. 1] of executive summary.
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