EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH

Many new teaching approaches involving Active Learning (such as Conceiving-Designing-Implementing-Operating (CDIO), Flipped Classroom, EduTech) were incorporated into all mathematics, statistics, physics and IT modules offered by MS to enhance student learning. Action Research (AR) was identified in our school framework as a core activity since Academic Year 2008/09 Semester 1 to help staff implement and assess the new teaching approaches.

Below are some of the projects we embarked on:

Year 2018

Exploring the Item Analysis in Blackboard and the Effect on Achievement Scores

Tan Cher Yong, Lau Yan Moh, Chia Hui Teng

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2018)

This paper explores the item analysis features in Blackboard and how such information can guide to the construction of good assessment for learning test items.  Quizzes were deployed using the Test option in Bb to 540 diploma in engineering students in two academic semesters.  The data collected include the Difficulty Index, Discrimination Index, students’ scores and their Mid-Semester Test scores.  Statistical analysis was performed to uncover the association between the information from the item analysis features and students’ academic performance.  The findings are used as a basis for suggestions for good assessments item design in Blackboard. 

 

Mastering the Art of Helping At-risk Students in Engineering Mathematics

Lai Say Beng

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2018)

At Singapore Polytechnic (SP), students come to us with various mathematical background. In 1718S2 of the SP academic year, I taught a second-year Engineering Mathematics module (MS6261) to five classes of 98 students with diverse academic abilities. Despite close monitoring of students’ learning progress during the first half of the semester, an alarmingly 22 students were unable to clear their mid-semester test. In this paper, I will be sharing the various steps taken to help these at-risk students better handle the rigour and demands of the module. The measures taken cover the areas of classroom management, teaching strategies, and suggest a novel way of offering constructive feedback to students using the Sandwich Model. With these timely interventions, students’ end-of–semester results were very encouraging, with 94 out of 98 students clearing the module. This translated to a healthy pass rate of 96% for all the five classes under my charge. Although the scope of this paper is in the area of Engineering Mathematics, the sharing is nonetheless applicable to the teaching of at-risk students in general.


Year 2017

Redesigning a Module to Develop Students' Mathematical Thinking

Lee Hwee Theng, Lim Pei Chin, Yanto Jakop

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2017)

School of Mathematics and Science aims to develop students’ ability to think mathematically. Adapting ideas from Schoenfeld’s (1992) paper, the school focused on four main categories that make up mathematical thinking i.e. knowledge base, problem solving, monitoring and control and practices. Specific learning outcomes associated with each category were developed. Using the backward design approach, curricular and pedagogical elements that will help achieve each learning outcome were then identified and translated into a checklist to help future development and evaluation efforts. The checklist was used in the revamp of MS0105, a mathematics module offered to students from IT school. Notes, activities and tutorials were modified to train students according to mathematical thinking outcomes. The module was subsequently identified to adopt the Flipped Classroom model. Learning packages comprising of video lectures, lesson plans, quizzes and class activities were developed and also evaluated using the checklist. To assess the effectiveness of the mathematical thinking framework, examination scores before and after the revamp were analysed. To measure student satisfaction with revamped course materials, feedback scores pertaining to their quality were also analysed. Analysis results showed that students responded positively to the revamped materials even though assessment scores were inconclusive.


Improving Students' Learning via POE Strategy in the Programming Classroom

Patrick Phang

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2017)

This paper introduces the structured use of Predict-Observe-Explain (POE) strategy to strengthen students’ comprehension of fundamental concepts in computer programming. In recent years, POE strategy has been established to be effective in enhancing students’ understanding of Physics concepts. This paper attempts to extend the application of this pedagogy into the realms of computer programming and explore whether similar success can be replicated in programming lessons. During the implementation, the element of conducting Science experiments in the original POE strategy will be modified and replaced by running C++ programs and observing the output.  In this study, a series of POE tasks (based on basic programming topics) were administered to students as a means for them to expose their misconceptions and reflect on their learning. A pilotrun was carried out in AY1617S2 with two classes of first-year MAE students in SP for the Computer Programming (MS6508) module. The findings of the research, solicited from a student survey and lecturer’s observations were generally positive. Students were able to understand the fundamental concepts in programming better. 


Lecturer Views on PBL Assignments

Babulakshmanan Ramachandran, Lee Hwee Theng

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2017)

This paper undertakes a study to understand the different aspects of the Problem-Based Learning assignment component in mathematics and science modules at Singapore Polytechnic from purely a lecturer’s point of view. We interviewed lecturers to understand the process, the advantages of the assignments and the prevailing difficulties. The lecturers find the assignments undoubtedly benefit students though some feel that it may not be necessary to adopt this in every module. Also, lecturers find it challenging to equitably assess individual contribution of students in group work and to encourage participation by all, given the take-home nature of the assignments. Students also face some difficulties in tackling the assignments. We discuss the possibility of a greater classroom component in assignments in the light of the advent of Flipped Classroom in modules.

Year 2016

Does More Advantaged Students Benefit More from Flipped Classroom?

Jenny Tran

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2016)

In recent year, flipped classroom has been gaining popularity around the world. Passive learning is pushed outside classroom hours while precious class time is allocated for active learning activities. At Singapore Polytechnic, flipped classroom has been implemented across many school levels and subjects, especially at school of Mathematics and Science. This study aimed to investigate how flipped classroom model affected students with different backgrounds in terms of academic achievement and improvement. The findings of this study revealed that most students are benefited from flipped classroom and also suggested that more advantaged students (‘O’ level students) may achieve better achievement and improvement.


Towards Statistically Literate SP Graduates

Lor Choon Yee, Chia Hui Teng

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2016)

The Statistical Literacy Project (SLP) was conceived by the School of Mathematics and Science (MS) to support Singapore Polytechnic (SP) institution-wide goal of producing life-, work- and world-ready diploma graduates. SLP is aimed at training SP graduates to have the know-hows in using data effectively to make informed decisions in their lives, thrive in data-rich workplaces and engage with data to meet the demands of global challenges. This paper discusses the findings from one of the pilot runs on a SLP Problem-Based Learning (PBL) assessment of students’ statistical problem solving process. In the conclusion section, this paper reflects on the importance of statistical literacy for all SP graduates.

Year 2015

A Study on Learning Mathematics with a Buddy and a Qualitative Meta-synthesis on the Effectiveness of Peer Instruction in Past Studies (2008/09 - 2012/13)

Linda Tan, Yaw-Chee Ping Yeun

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2015)

This paper discusses the effectiveness of peer involvement in the learning process. There are two parts to this paper. The first part presents an action research project on collaborative learning using buddy method. The second part of this paper consolidates, compares and contrasts seven collaborative learning projects (the first part inclusive) done by colleagues in the School of Mathematics and Science in five years (2008/09 – 2012/13). The findings from these projects that involved over a thousand students from four different schools in Singapore Polytechnic (SP) were synthesized. The paper concludes with a set of recommendations to guide instructors who are keen in adopting teaching strategies that involve peer instruction.


Flipping an Engineering Mathematics Classroom

Lee Hwee Theng, Sharon Quek, Alvin Ng

(The 9th International Symposium on Advances in Technology Education)

As technology becomes ubiquitous in our lives and information becomes readily available via internet other than the classrooms, the practice of face-to-face lectures becomes less valid in educational settings. Educators are more aware of the deficiencies of such lectures, whose main aim is to transmit information, and are trying to shift towards instructional strategies that will encourage student engagement and active learning. One of these strategies is the Flipped Classroom pedagogy. The essence of this pedagogy is to move direct instruction online and out of classroom, creating space to promote discourse and problem-solving in the classroom. In effect, it requires a rethink of when resources to provide guidance and support to learners should be provided. Do learners need such support when they are passively listening to a lecture or when they are attempting to solve problems using the new concepts learnt? In the Flipped Classroom model, it is believed that it should be the latter.

In Singapore Polytechnic, the School of Mathematics & Science “flipped” an entire engineering mathematics module and piloted it on selected diploma courses. Lesson packages were developed and deployed via the polytechnic’s learning management system. Each of these packages consisted of short online video lectures, lesson plan, in-class activities, class quiz and tutorial problem sets. Students are tasked to view pre-assigned online video lectures on a weekly basis before attending tutorial sessions. In the classroom, they checked their understanding through quizzes, discussed and collaborated on activities with their peers, and problem-solved the tutorial set. For evaluation, data was collected in the forms of student surveys, student interviews, lecturer perceptions and assessment score analysis. The summative assessment scores did not consistently show significant differences between the “flipped” and the traditional groups, however there was a significant increase in mean scores of student perceptions of mathematics lessons that serve to measure student engagement and self-directed learning attitudes before and after “flipping”. Both student interviews and lecturer perceptions revealed that the new pedagogy is a welcomed change to how mathematics lessons are conducted. With the largely positive findings, the school intends to scale up to extend the pedagogy to more mathematics modules. Future directions of the project can include exploration of ways to evaluate the pedagogy from the perspective of lecturers and not just learners. The school can also consider sharing its experience and expertise to help other schools and institutions adopt this pedagogical model, whenever and wherever appropriate.


Impact of Regular Formative Assessment on Students' Intrinsic Motivation

Tang U-Liang

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2015)

We investigate the impact of attaching a grade to regular assessment on student motivation in learning mathematics. In our study, a series of Socrative[1] quizzes were administered to students as a means for them to conduct self-assessment on their own learning. These results of this test did not contribute to their final grade and consisted of questions of varying levels of difficulty. Conventional wisdom has it that because these tests were ungraded, students would not treat these work seriously as they would graded work. However, the findings of this study disputes this belief. We found that for good students, they treated this test seriously and in fact indicated that they would not enjoy the test if it contributed to their overall.

[1] Socrative is an online quizzing platform. It can be accessed at www.socrative.com. It is available as an app on mobile devices making it an ideal tool to conduct snap quizzes and surveys.


Piloting Learning Analytics in the Mathematics Classroom via LearningANTS

Edna Chan, Lai Say Beng, May Lim, Soh Ying Ying, Tan-Yeoh Ah Choo

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2015)

Students at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) have diverse mathematical aptitude. Academically-weak students need much hand-holding while those who are academically-strong may get bored if not inspired. As such, there is a limit to the extent lecturers can offer effective help to students in a class. This paper presents the School of Mathematics & Science (MS) experience on piloting learning analytics in the Mathematics classroom via an online differentiated learning system called LearningANTS. Appropriate assessments are incorporated in this system to assess how well learning has taken place. The system then deploys individualized future learning paths for each student, based on the student’s learning history to meet pre-specified learning objectives. With readily available information from the student reports generated by LearningANTS, lecturers can provide timely intervention and offer effective help to students. A pilot run was carried out in AY1415S2 with 96 first-year students in SP reading the Bridging Mathematics 1 (MS011Q) module[2]. The findings of our research, solicited from a student survey and lecturers’ observations were generally positive. By addressing the key issues identified in our research, we can improve the design of the system and refine our strategies to benefit a bigger cohort of students in the future.

[2] This is a bridging module designed to help Institute of Technical Education (ITE) upgraders better cope with the rigor and demands of their first-year Engineering Mathematics I (EM I) module at SP.

Year 2014

An Exploration of Students' Attitude and Opinion towards Calculator Use in Engineering Mathematics

Quek Wei Ching, Kok-Mak Chew Pheng

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2014)

Students enrolled into the Polytechnic came with a variety of calculator models. Having a standard model with capabilities similar to those of the CASIO fx-991ES potentially allows us to add breadth and depth to our curriculum. There is then a need to understand students’ attitude and opinion towards the integration of calculators in Engineering Mathematics. A questionnaire consisting of 10 Likert-scale items and 10 open-ended items was administered to a sample of 141 students from 2 different diplomas in Academic Year 2012/13 Semester 2. Results showed that students were generally supportive of calculator use in Mathematics, though opinions differed somewhat among students from the 2 different diplomas, possibly due to the instructor effect. Also there is evidence that better performing students prefer to have the calculator banned in certain sections of tests/examinations, possibly out of the belief that emphasis on the fundamentals should also be valued. These results were, however, likely to be of limited generalizability due to the small sample size, its un-representativeness, and some deficiencies in the survey instrument.


Learning Together or Kagan Structures? A Comparison of Both Approaches in a Polytechnic Context

Tang U-Liang

(The 8th International Symposium on Advances in Technology Education)

This paper is a report of a comparative study of two approaches or philosophies of cooperative learning in the context of mathematics education. Here we define cooperative learning as the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. While there are many approaches to cooperative learning, we will focus on two broad based ideas given the scope and limitations of this study. These two approaches which we are looking into will be termed Learning Together and Kagan structures. Learning Together is advocated by David and Roger Johnson while Kagan structures is another approach pioneered by Spencer Kagan. These two ideas have a rich history of both practise and research. Thus, it is the intention of the author to assess the suitability in implementing the ideas of these two philosophies in developing a cooperative classroom environment in the context of Singapore Polytechnic. Our method was to implement and execute activities aligned with each of these philosophies one semester at a time. Data comprising test results, student feedback and classroom observations were collected and these compared with each another. We have completed the first phase which comprised of planning and running Learning Together activities. These are classroom activities where students are assigned a group and told to work together to achieve a predetermined goal which is crucial for their learning. The second phase of the study is comprised of implementing Kagan structures in the course of normal classroom instruction. This consists of adapting and implementing one structure per lesson during the course of the semester. These structures are not developed from scratch but adapted from a list of structures available online and from books. We will assess and compare Learning Together and Kagan structures based on four criteria which are relevant to the polytechnic context. These three criteria for suitability are how it impacts 1) student performance in their written assessments, 2) feedback of students and the 3) challenges faced in implementing each framework in the classroom. Our recommendations will be based on outcomes from the two phases of implementations.


Singapore Polytechnic Engineering Students' Concept Image and Concept Definition of Mathematical Function

Tang U-Liang, Chia Hui Teng

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2014)

The concept of mathematical function is central in the field of engineering. Without good conceptual understanding of function, engineering students can neither interpret, explain nor predict real-life occurrences. Drawing on studies in how students think about mathematical function, we build our case on the importance of examining students’ concept image and concept definition in an attempt to understand students’ mental “baggage” prior enrolling in an advance mathematics module. Due to the constraint of space, selected findings from a larger study conducted on 149 students from three engineering schools in Singapore Polytechnic are discussed in this paper. We conclude this paper with a reflection as the findings from this study and the review of the literature help us as educators make sense of what we observe in class.


Sir, Can You Teach Us Again Next Semester?

Lai Say Beng

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2014)

This paper is a reflection of my experiences in teaching Engineering Mathematics to students at Singapore Polytechnic (SP). It highlights some of the interesting observations I gathered from teaching polytechnic students during my twenty years in this institution. In this paper, I will be sharing the outcomes of various classroom management skills and teaching pedagogies that I have adopted in my lessons. These approaches and strategies, though geared towards the teaching of Engineering Mathematics, are nevertheless applicable to the teaching of polytechnic students in general. I hope this sharing will benefit the reader who, like me, aspires to make our teaching more captivating and enriching for the next generation of engineers.


Synchronous Learning Using Microsoft Lync 2010

Babulakshmanan Ramachandran

(Singapore Polytechnic Journal of Teaching Practice Award 2014)

We report the implementation of synchronous learning using Microsoft Lync 2010 in physics lessons (module MS2127) during the home based learning week, which is a requirement of the Enterprise Risk Management exercise in Singapore Polytechnic. We share our experience right from the preparation stage to the execution of lessons. We find that the features provided in Microsoft Lync 2010 help to promote an active, interactive and reflective learning environment. The student survey results as well as oral student interviews indicate that features in Lync are easy to use and learning takes place effectively though students still prefer face-to-face teaching. We also discuss how Lync can be useful to supplement and complement regular class room learning, aside from ensuring teaching schedules are not disrupted in unforeseen circumstances.

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