Taming “Issue Investigation”: Singapore Secondary Social Studies Teachers’ Accounts of Challenges Encountered and Strategies for Coping, pp. 8 of 10

In specific, a few research participants shared that they had their students write an SRQ answer based on their II project findings. Illustrating this strategy, Laura said in the interview: “we […] actually extend the II to become an SRQ question later on, so that the teachers and students see a link to what they studied.” In fact, at Laura’s school, the II process ends off with doing an SRQ. She was aware that this “doesn’t stick very clearly to CPDD’s recommended model”, but she remarked that “this method has been a bit more successful for us”.

Meanwhile, a few other teachers in the study (including James, Kali, and Keith) identified some parallels between II and the “sources” used in the SBCS, which essentially consist of findings or information about a particular societal issue. Accordingly, students in Keith’s school were tasked to construct “sources” based on their II project in a way similar to the sources used for SBCS in the exam papers. In James’s school, the standardized II template given to students essentially guided them to think of the project as an SBCS “source”. This strategy essentially allowed students to practice exam skills for SBCS as they pursue an II project, because, as James put it, “we are making them the examiner, we are making them create a paper”.

In short, through teachers’ such intentional efforts, students were able to “piggyback” on Issue Investigation to also develop skills that are useful for exam performance. Doing so provided some reassurance to both the students and the teachers that doing II was “not a waste of time” (Daliah). It should be noted that not all participants in the study adopted this strategy; however, those who did seemed to report more positive experiences in relation to II.

Lastly, another II taming strategy that followed this “piggybacking” logic involved scoping the II project in conjunction with Values in Action (VIA) or Character and Citizenship Education (CCE)—both being compulsory, though non-examinable, components of Singapore school curriculum. This may also be dubbed a “kill two birds with one stone” move that essentially allowed II and VIA/CCE to be integrated or to overlap in practice, such that the resources and commitments required are reduced substantially. According to Kali, whose school used this strategy, it worked by having II designed from the start in such a way that the deliverables fit also the criteria of VIA and/or CCE learning objectives and outcomes. As a concrete example of this, in one school, the students’ II project investigated elderly citizens’ vulnerability to scams, and the project culminated in a visit to a nursing home, during which students played board games with senior citizens to raise their awareness. This latter visit also served to fulfil the students’ VIA requirements.

It is worth noting that the majority of schools in the study did not explicitly use this second “piggybacking” strategy, but most research participants seemed aware of it. This was apparently due to certain peer professional learning and exchange that had taken place previously between different schools.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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