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ASCD Book Prizes and Gold Medal

The mission of the Singapore ASCD, a community of educators, is to provide leadership in instruction and curriculum development for nurturing successful learners.

In line with this mission, Singapore ASCD has been sponsoring an annual book prize of S$300 to the top student of the former Further Professional Diploma in Education (FPDE) and the Diploma in Departmental Management (DDM) at the National Institute of Education since 1997. In 2007, the prize continues to be awarded to the participant who exemplifies the highest level of learning in the new Management and Leadership in Schools Programme (MLS).

A list of past winners can be found here.

In 2007, ASCD also launched a new award for the graduates of the Master of Education programme specialising in Curriculum and Teaching. The awards are made up of

(i) An ASCD Gold Medal of $500
This is given to the best graduate with outstanding performance in the programme.

(ii) A book prize of $300
This is for the best dissertation submitted for examination.

(iii) A book prize of $200
This goes to the best Critical Inquiry project submitted for examination.

The recipient for the first ASCD Gold Medal and Book Prize is Mr Jason Matthew Lai. Mr Lai is currently a Gifted Education officer at the Ministry of Education. ASCD caught up with Jason recently and asked him some questions about his award-winning project and the significance of the award.

Q: Please describe what you do now and how the course has helped you with your work. How have the prizes helped you or contributed to your professional development?

I am currently working in the Gifted Education Branch, Ministry of Education. My main roles are to oversee the mathematics curriculum as well as train teachers for their role in teaching the gifted and the high-ability learners. I also carry out research on gifted education.

The Curriculum and Teaching specialisation has given me a deeper understanding of the different aspects of schooling. In terms of content, I now have the wisdom to apply what I have learnt in the areas of curriculum development, educational change, teacher development and research in my work.

In March this year, I presented my paper on student voice at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference in a roundtable session. That was an enriching learning experience for me as I got to share my research with other curriculum workers who were also interested in the classroom climate and school culture. I realised that the situation in Singapore is more common than we think. Teachers are the main factor affecting student voices, even in other education systems.


Q: Can you briefly summarise your dissertation and your critical inquiry project which won prizes?

I chose to explore the role and position of student voice in the Singapore classroom for my critical inquiry project. In my study, I collected perspectives of students from a local secondary school to find out about their experiences in the curriculum, about the readiness of teachers in giving autonomy to students in curriculum making, and the readiness of students in accepting this autonomy.

This project was conceptualised at the time when schools were beginning to implement programmes aligned to the “Teach Less, Learn More” philosophy of engaging students and being more student-centred. However, I was curious to know how this was operationalised at the classroom level, given the exam-oriented context that Singapore teachers and students work in. Also, I believe that if students were engaged, they would be more involved in curriculum making, as in coming up with student-initiated activities. I was unconvinced that teachers were giving students the flexibility and autonomy in curriculum choices or that all students actually want such autonomy.

The results of my study show that while students in the researched school were satisfied with the curriculum and highlighted the importance of giving feedback to teachers about their lessons, they thought that not all teachers were ready for feedback. They were also not sure whether their voice would make a difference in their learning. They acknowledged that the teacher is still the main authority in the curriculum and that they would prefer to play a more consultative role rather than an active one.
There must be efforts to include students in curriculum making for their voices to be heard. Communication is crucial to building a culture of collaboration between teacher and learner.


Q: What do you think are urgent issues in the area of curriculum development in your own field of specialisation (e.g. either gifted education or Maths)?

Gifted education is an area in our education system that still generates differing opinions and views. While teachers who work with gifted children see the need and value of special provisions for them, there are others who debate issues on elitism and equity. However, at the recently held 10th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness in Singapore, the overwhelmingly positive response of local practitioners signals a growing acceptance of ability-based curriculum differentiation. I share Joyce VanTassel-Baska’s view that it is urgent for gifted children in our system to receive the education they deserve. I hope the conference has allowed educators to see how they are able to design and implement curriculum programmes to benefit all children.

There must be an open culture of critical inquiry. Researchers should be able to explore issues like power structures in the classroom, teaching for social justice, equity and democracy, and to facilitate access to these ideas.

There is also a need for educators to be able to translate research into practice. More teachers are now engaging in action research in school and are more critically conscious. However, the scope for research is still vast. The research that schools, NIE and MOE are doing could be made more accessible to teachers through publications, conferences and collaborative projects. Not only will this encourage a more reflective teaching fraternity, it would also create sustained communities of practice.




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