Early Intervention of Preschool Teachers in Promoting Children's Mathematics Learning

Research Team

Period

Funding Source

Chief Investigators:
A/P Pam Sharpe
Prof Susan Wright
Asst/Prof Sirene Lim

Oct 2008 to Jul 2010

Office of Educational Research

Ministry of Education
Singapore

Abstract

This study focused on improving Singapore kindergarten teachers' ability to nurture early numeracy development and learning of Kindergarten 2 (K2) children. The aim of the study was to support a sample of K2 Singapore trained teachers in their understanding of how:

  • Children think and learn as they become numerate,
  • To observe children's progress and select appropriate strategies, activities and materials to challenge children's numeracy and scaffold their learning,
  • To involve parents in practices of supporting their children's numeracy learning,
  • To mentor the teachers in pedagogy and practice in K2 children's numeracy development, and document classroom contexts, teachers' and children's learning artefacts and parent's participation in their children's learning,
  • To provide support for the children in their early mathematical learning to maximise their readiness for optimal performance when they enter the lower primary school year's mathematics programme.

The research questions were:

  • How successful is the intervention in helping teachers and parents to understand key features of children's early mathematical learning?
  • Were teachers able to apply their previous and newly developed knowledge in relation to their pedagogical practices to support children's learning?
  • Were there observable gains in children's numeracy learning progress?

Methodology

Through stratified sampling, five neighbourhood schools were selected, representing a range of socio-economic contexts. Participants were the thirteen P1 teachers and the principals, parents and children from the classrooms of these teachers. Using a multi-method approach, the research focused on case studies of the P1 teachers, triangulated with the following data collection and analysis:

Questionnaire of 90 teacher participants attending the in-service training (quantitative analysis of frequencies of before-and-after responses) Field observations and video documentation with stimulated recall of the 13 P1 teachers' classroom practices (quantitative analysis of transcript themes) Focus group interviews with teachers, parents and children from the 13 P1 classes (qualitative analysis of transcript themes) Wechsler Objective Reading and Language Dimensions applied to P1 children (quantitative analysis based on norms).

Outcomes

The teacher's response to the in-service training was positive and they reportedly felt capable of implementing new knowledge, yet in practice, they appeared to struggle with two issues: providing for differentiated instruction and alternative forms of assessment. Their ability to effectively apply the SEED approach was contingent on three factors: the type of support provided by the principals, the amount of time offered for teachers to share ideas and collaboratively plan, and whether flexible timetabling and dedicated classroom space were provided to facilitate a more integrated approach to learning. These three factors were key to preventing teachers from succumbing to a dominating school culture which traditionally had centered on examinations, the syllabus, homework and grades. Parents and children indicated that they appreciated the less-pressured, child-centred, socially-oriented SEED approach. Compared to their older siblings, the children seemed to enjoy and cope with school better, and their academic achievements in their first year of school were comparable to children who had not participated in the SEED project.

Publications/ Presentations

Dixon, M., Stinson, M., Silver, R., Green, N., Nie, Y., Wright, S., Pak, S., Anand, M. (2008). A Study on the Implementation of ‘Strategies for Effective and Engaged Development’ (SEED) Initiative. Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice: Final Research Report, 205 pp.

Wright, S. (2007, December). Primary one teachers’ mind shift towards constructivism. In A. H. Haidar (Ed.) School Reform (19 pp.). University College of Education, Dubai.

Wright, S. (2006, August). Shifting the Balance of Power in Lower Primary Classrooms in Singapore. Paper presented at the European Early Childhood Education Research Association 15th Annual Conference, Dublin.

Wright, S. (2006, 30 August-2nd September). Shifting the Balance of Power in Lower Primary Classrooms in Singapore, European Early Child Education Research Association Conference (EECERA), Reykjavik, Iceland.

Wright, S., & Gan, L. (2007, February). “Strategies for Effective Engagement and Development”.Paper presented at the International Symposium on Class Size: Research, Policy and Practice. Institute of Education, Hong Kong.

Wright, S., & Gan, L. (2006). Nurturing Innovation in Primary One Classrooms through Early Childhood Practices. Final Research Report. Singapore Ministry of Education, EdRF, 171 pp.