Research Projects


As an institute that champions excellence in Continuing Education and Training, IAL undertakes research projects that examine the various aspects of adult learning and development. The data we gather and the results we analyse enable us to further the advancement of the CET sector in Singapore, and inform policy making and decisions.

  • Training, Skills and Skills Utilisation

    Prof Francis Green, Prof Andy Green, Dr Golo Henseke, Dr Neil Kaye and Dr Hao Phan

    This is a collaborative research piece between IAL and UCL Institute of Education’s LLAKES and CGHE research centres. The first objective of this collaboration is to assess the current state of the Singaporean graduate labour market through the lens of graduate jobs and provide important intelligence on demand trends in times of continued expansion of higher education and changing demand patterns brought on by technological change and increased competition on globalised markets.

    The second objective is to draw on the OECD PISA and PIAAC data to explore the variation across countries, and in particular Singapore, in changes to levels and distributions of core skills (Literacy, Numeracy and Problem-Solving) between age 15 and early adulthood, through the stage of upper-secondary education and training.

    Final Report Non-Technical Report
  • The Adult Learners’ Perception of Online Learning Due to COVID 19

    Sheng Yee Zher, Tan Bao Zhen, Siti Nur Sabrina Binte Hardy and Dr Helen Bound

    This is a mixed methods study conducted from September 2020 to February 2021. It aims to investigate Singapore adult learners’ experiences with transitioning to full online learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Research Note
  • Covid-19 Educator Survey

    Dr Chen Zan, Tan Bao Zhen, Bryan Ang, Siti Nur Sabrina Binte Hardy, Richard Watermeyer, Mike Niederpruem

    IAL and the University of Bristol (UoB) jointly conducted the COVID-19 Educator Online Survey in Singapore during May and June 2020. The project aims to capture educators' perspectives to understand the impact of online learning on adult educators, learners and learning, current and long-term impact on education institutions/training providers, higher education/TAE sector, and potential changes to the future of education due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Research Note Research Extract Infographics Full Report
  • International Survey of Adult Skills Cycle 2

    Dr Renee Tan, Dr Sharon Quek, Regina Tan, Tan Bao Zhen, Aggie Choo

    This is an international survey designed to measure a range of skills that adults use in their work and daily lives – such as reading, finding information and using computers -  as well as their education and work experience. It is the second cycle of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), an initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The first cycle was conducted from 2011 to 2018.



  • The Future of Jobs and Skills: the Impact of Automation in Singapore

    Simon Freebody, Jazreel Tan, Sheng Yee Zher and Prof Johnny Sung

    The project provides a consensus assessment of the skills that are likely to be highly impacted by automation technologies within the next five years and the nature of that impact.


  • Business, Performance and Skills Survey, Wave 2 (BPSS W2)

    Simon Freebody, Prof Johnny Sung, Jazreel Tan, Sheng Yee Zher


    This project aims to investigate the demand side of the skills market in Singapore by surveying commercial establishments on their business strategies, skills utilisation and performance. Understanding the links between strategy, skills and performance will aid Singaporean policy makers in building an effective skills strategy for the future.  Importantly, as the second wave of the Business, Performance and Skills Survey, this study will provide a sense of the changing landscape in Singapore regarding skills utilisation and the demand for skills.



  • Developing Innovative Learning Culture in SMEs

    Dr Arthur Chia, Dr Yang Silin and Tai Jo Fang

    “Innovative learning culture in SMEs” research study aims to understand how SMEs afford learning opportunities that promote innovation, and how learning of innovative practices might best proceed in these organisations.  The research questions of this project will be addressed through intensive qualitative case studies to provide novel insights of innovative learning cultures in SMEs in Singapore.


    Research Note
  • Understanding Adult Learners’ Sense-making to Inform Pedagogical Innovations in Blended Learning

    Dr Bi Xiaofang

    The project investigates Singapore adult learners’ learning experiences in blended learning environments focusing on how they ‘experience’ and ‘made sense of’ their learning in and across blended environments and the implications of these processes for pedagogical practices and beliefs. Sense-making is the process by which people give meaning to experience. Such processes contribute to knowledge building, construction and co-construction of knowledge. Besides, the structuring or architecture of different environments can facilitate reflection, and collaboration or can shut it down. Such an understanding of the spaces of learning not only potentially enables us to understand how learners sense make and embody practices, but also their interaction with the spaces in their journey of transformation of understanding, identity and agency.

    Research Note 1 Research Note 2 Full Report
  • Dialogical Teaching: Investigating Awareness of Inquiry and Knowledge Co-Construction among Adult Learners engaged in Dialogic Inquiry

    Dr Helen Bound and Assoc Prof Tan Seng Chee

    To compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st century, organizations need to innovate and develop new capabilities to harness values of knowledge resources (Carlucci, 2014). Consequently, education of the workforce must adapt to the new business environments in the knowledge economy. In Singapore, the key goals suggested by the Committee on the Future Economy (2017) include the need for workers to develop and apply deep skills and strengthening enterprise abilities to innovate and scale up innovative practices. It is thus imperative to identify and improve adult learning approaches that can enhance the capacity of our workers to be innovative and productive knowledge workers.

    A promising approach is dialogic teaching, which refers to “a pedagogical approach that involves students in the collaborative construction of meaning and is characterized by shared control over the key aspects of classroom discourse.” (Reznitskaya & Gregory, 2013, p. 114) It gives learners agency and control over their learning processes and topics for inquiry, and more critically, engages them in collaborative meaning making and tapping into their rich experiences as resources for learning. Dialogical inquiry, knowledge building and co-construction, all aspects of this study, are important future readiness capabilities. Yet, research on a dialogic approach to adult learning is limited, internationally and locally. This qualitative project collects a rich range of data from two courses in two different Masters programs conducted at NIE, NTU to address the following research questions:

    i.    How do adult learners in formal graduate courses 1 develop awareness of their inquiry and how do they co-construct knowledge?

    ii.    How do adult learners perceive the relevance and effectiveness of dialogical approach to teaching and learning? 

    iii.    What are the implications of the dialogical approach for the practices of adult educators?

    Full Report
  • Employment Vulnerability (EV) of Tertiary Graduates in Singapore

    Dr Ruby Toh, Dr Tan Teck Kiang, Sheng Yee Zher, Prof James Sampson, Dr Philippe Blanchard

    This study seeks to provide further understanding on employment vulnerability (EV) in Singapore, by examining the extent to which individuals experience EV, the nature of EV, the role that individuals and employers play in mitigating EV, and suggest possible intervention measures that can help to mitigate EV. This study collects time-ordered sequential information over an individual’s work life span since graduation, on a multitude of variables that may affect employment or career decisions. Since data collected is sequential information, sequence analysis is the appropriate method to identify characteristics of various groups of individuals experiencing EV.  The quantitative surveys will be implemented on a sufficiently large sample, a focus on individuals with diploma and higher education and companies in industries that are ‘at risk’ of displacing workers, to provide reliable data that permit segmentation, cluster analysis, sequence analysis and other econometric analysis.


  • TAE Landscape in Singapore–Characteristics, Challenges and Policies

    Dr Chen Zan

    This multi-phase project investigates the landscape of the training and adult education (TAE) sector in Singapore. It aims to provide baseline information about the current population and state of the TAE sector, including the profiles, practices, beliefs and challenges of TAE professionals and providers, as well as the impact of government policies and initiatives on their TAE practices and development.  A set of indicators will be developed as an initial effort to evaluate the current status of TAE sector. These indicators could be refined and evolved over time for regular tracking of the changes to the TAE sector and the survey can be repeated every 2-3 years.


    Infographic Full Report
  • Skills and Learning Study (SLS)

    Prof Johnny Sung, Sheng Yee Zher, Simon Freebody, Jazreel Tan and Chia Ying

    Skills and Learning Study (SLS) is the third iteration of the Skill Utilisation series which aims to track skills utilisation in Singapore. Lifelong learning is a new area added into this iteration. This study will provide a set of continued skills utilisation measures in Singapore as well as a baseline measure of Singapore’s level of lifelong learning.

  • Building Singapore’s Talent Pipeline: Understanding the Structures of Opportunity in Corporate Talent Management

    Prof Philip Brown, Prof Hugh Lauder, Prof Johnny Sung, Dr Manuel Souto-Otero, Sahara Sadik and Eric Lee


    Observations of talent shortage at the higher end of Singapore’s labour market often lead to the assumption that there are particular skill gaps or ‘talent deficit’ in locals. This comparative research on talent management in 30 corporations in Singapore, China and India puts forth an alternative explanation. Rather than any actual ‘talent deficit’ of Singaporeans, the study found that the perceived talent shortage is linked to companies’ ‘War for Talent’ recruitment strategies that rely on elite university systems. Singapore’s fairly flat university system does not signal to companies the elite base that companies can target, leading to Singapore graduates not being favourably positioned as talent in companies.  India and China, on the other hand, have a small pool of elite universities that companies can target easily using their ‘War for Talent’ strategies, creating the pipeline of sponsored talent on a trajectory to top jobs. Moreover, local knowledge commands a significant premium in India and China, in contrast to Singapore’s plug-and-play business environment. An expedient but short-sighted response to a ‘War for Talent’ corporate talent strategy is to shift the university system in Singapore towards higher levels of elitism, as is the case with the university systems in India and China. However, this flies in the face of creating a more inclusive society and shared economic prosperity that sit at the heart of SkillsFuture. A sustainable way forward for Singapore is to give due focus to transformational strategies that shift the local corporate landscape towards more inclusive talent approaches. There is now an excellent window of opportunity to do so, as rapidly changing contexts have undermined the efficacy of ‘War for Talent’ strategies.


    Full Report Research Note 1 Research Note 2
  • Programme for the Int'l Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

    Prof Johnny Sung, Emily Low, Dr Cheng San Chye, Simon Freebody, Sheng Yee Zher, Tan Bao Zhen

    PIAAC is an initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that assists governments in assessing, monitoring and analysing the level and distribution of skills among their adult populations as well as the extent of skills use in different contexts.

    View Details 4th PIAAC International Conference
  • Business Performance & Skills Survey (BPSS)

    Jazreel Tan, Simon Freebody, Chia Ying and Prof Johnny Sung

    This study provides a new approach to study skills demand via workplace data. It identifies why and how workplaces demand high skills, paying particular attention to institutional logics (i.e. sectoral environment) that encourage certain business strategies. The analysis will provide information that are critical to the development of the sectoral intervention policy, including workplace quality, leadership quality and management quality, training intensity, skills gaps and future skills needs. Some of these variables will be analysed in conjunction with organisational performance, and will therefore provide an assessment on skills impact.


    Full Report Research Note
  • Skills Utilisation 2 (SU2)

    Prof Johnny Sung, Fiona Loke, Dr Tan Teck Kiang

    This project is an extension to a similar project in 2009. However, whilst the 2009 study acted as a pilot of the methodology and targeted workers in sectors covered by WDA, the current proposal is intended to create a national job skills database, with a representative sample from the general population. In addition, a new component - an employer-employee matched sample in the manufacturing industry – is attempted for the first time. The new component will collect both management and job information.

  • Assessment for the Changing Nature of Work

    Dr Helen Bound, Dr Arthur Chia, Prof David Boud and Assoc Prof Peter Rushbrook

    Current assessment practice in CET is still resource-intensive. Efforts at increasing the productivity of the assessment processes while maintaining rigour and authenticity have not resulted in notable advancements.  This study will seek to find out how such processes can be improved by looking into the relationship between assessment design, CET curriculum and learning facilitation and platforms used for assessment; enhancers and barriers to innovative approaches to assessment. It will also look into the experience of assessment for learners, AEs, designers, assessors, providers and employers; future assessment policy and practice in the Singapore CET sector.

    Full Reports are in the links below:



  • Reflective Curriculum Model

    Dr Helen Bound and Dr Michael Choy

    This project builds on a model of curriculum developed by Peter Rushbrook (see Bound, Rushbrook & Sivalingam, 2013) that in this report we call the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) Design Approach (IDeA) Model. The present researchers (Bound and Choy, in consultation with Rushbrook) envisage the model as a tool for designers and facilitators of learning to reflect on their assumptions about curriculum, learning and learners. However, participants also identified many other potential applications, including for structured continuing professional development and as a communication tool at all stages of curriculum development. Given the changing landscape and focus of the continuing education and training sector, these suggestions offer considerable potential to facilitate change; indeed some described the model and heuristic as potentially “transformational”.


    Full Report
  • Contingent Worker in Singapore - How Vocational Learning and Identities are Constructed Through Non-permanent Work in the Singaporean Labour Market

    Dr Helen Bound, Sahara Sadik and Annie Karmel

    This research seeks to know how workers learn as much of the formal provisions for learning and career enhancement are designed for those in stable, ongoing employment with an employer as opposed to many employers. To this end this study asks the following research questions: 1.  In what ways does the experience of precarious work contribute to or constrain the learning of these workers? 2.  How do precarious workers identify with their work and how does this influence learning opportunities? 3. How can the learning of precarious workers be supported and enhanced?

    Full Reports are in the links below:



  • A Portrait of the Adult Educator in Singapore

    Prof Andrew Brown, Rebecca Ye and Annie Karmel

    This research endeavours to develop an understanding of who WSQ Adult Educators (AEs) in Singapore are. While the professionalisation of this group is a key interest of the Workforce Development Agency (WDA), little is known about the different types of people who actually make up this group, or how they negotiate their careers as adult educators.


    View Details Full Report