Nurturing Innovation in Primary One Classrooms through Early Childhood Practices

Research Team


Funding Source

Chief Investigators:
Prof Susan Wright
Ast/P Linda Gan

Apr 2004 to Dec 2006

Education Development Research Fund

Ministry of Education


This study investigated the impact of a new Singapore MOE initiative ‘SEED’ in Primary One (P1) contexts. Specifically, it explored how selected school communities coped with the new pedagogical approach, which centred on a more flexible, integrated and holistic curriculum, effective teaching-learning interactions, developmentally appropriate instructional materials, alternative forms of assessment, supportive school network systems and meaningful home-school links. The study addressed three main objectives:

  1. To involve approximately 90 primary teachers in early childhood training and on-site observation in Kindergartens, and examine whether there are changes in their beliefs and practices after this course,
  2. To conduct case studies of 13 selectively sampled P1 teachers’ development and implementation of early learning environments and approaches within their P1 classrooms to document the schools’ network in providing and supporting the new pedagogy over a one-year period, and
  3. To explore whether there were changes in children’s learning over the period of the case studies, and what children’s parents’ and teachers’ impressions were of the P1 contexts in relation to teaching-learning and attitudes towards schools.


  • 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).


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.