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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Professional development of four grade 10 biology teachers in Singapore : the learning study approach Tan, Yuen Sze Michelle


Despite the importance of genetics as a school curriculum topic and its increasing application in everyday life, and despite challenges teachers face teaching genetics, a repertoire of pedagogical strategies that draws upon selected theories of learning may not always be readily available for teachers. In the context of Singapore, this is exacerbated by potential unfamiliarity with the newly implemented genetics curriculum, and how there also appears to be a lack of appropriate teacher professional development programs. What is noteworthy is that these challenges are similarly shared by teachers elsewhere. A study was framed to investigate how teacher collaboration could be utilized to alleviate, if not overcome, these challenges. Through a learning study framework, four collaborating Grade 10 biology teachers employed the theory of variation to manage and overcome the challenges of teaching the new genetics curriculum in Singapore. A learning study amalgamates teacher collaboration, teacher reflection, teachers researching into their classrooms and the employment of a theoretical framework. This study seeks to answer the research question “How does Singaporean teachers’ participation in a theory of variation-framed learning study affect their learning about their own pedagogy?” The thesis reports a phenomenographic analysis of the different ways the teachers experienced learning during collaborative endeavors, revealing the complex nature of teacher learning – complex ways of curriculum interpretation, lesson planning and implementation, and evaluation of teaching practices. The impact of the learning study on teachers’ pedagogies and professional development was also elucidated. Consequently, the experience of increased clarity and coherence in terms of curriculum interpretation, demonstration of ownership and authentic lesson planning manifested during the enactment of theory-guided lessons. The experience of collaborative inquiry into teachers’ own teaching practices also led to the generation of new insights on teaching, as well as shifts in their beliefs about teaching and learning. The results support (1) the use of learning study as a professional development approach to enhance students’ learning and to encourage teachers to develop their own curriculum; (2) the use of theory of variation as a framework to organize, implement and analyze teacher learning.

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