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.

  • 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.

    The final report will be available online in the middle of 2019.

  • 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
  • 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.

     

  • 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
  • Business Performance & Skills Survey (BPSS)

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

    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.

     

  • 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
  • Practitioner Research for Professional Learning in CET

    Dr Helen Bound

    The purpose of this research project is to identify the range of pedagogical beliefs of Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ trainers, trainers’ enactment of those beliefs and the ways in which context mediates these beliefs. In addition, through the process of engaging practitioners (trainers) in undertaking their own research, the project aims to explore how this process enables reflective practice, and to work towards developing possible models for professional learning involving practitioner research and reflective practice.

     

    View Details Full Report
  • Skills and Productivity: Stage One

    Prof Johnny Sung, Fiona Loke, Catherine Ramos and Prof Emeritus David Ashton

    This research adopts a case study approach to examine the nature of the relationship between productivity and skills in selected sectors. The intention is to find out how the concept of productivity is understood within various industries and how they are managed.

    View Details
  • Singapore WSQ, Workplace Learning and Assessment

    Dr Helen Bound and Magdalene Lin

    This report confirms the understanding that WSQ training is predominantly classroom-based. More importantly, according to available statistics, the delivery of WSQ in 2009 was totally classroom-based. While our experience indicated that in 2010 there was workplace learning taking place, the extent of workplace learning is very limited. This is in sharp contrast to the delivery of competency-based training in a number of other countries. The preference for classroom delivery has resulted in limited examples of learning and assessment arrangements that take place in the workplace, and the use of different terminology (e.g. workplace learning and on-the-job training) to mean the same thing. The use of different terminology, while inevitable amongst lay people, can be a source of confusion and indicative of a need for a conceptual framework for those working within a particular system.

    The study was conducted in two stages, stage one examined the current delivery modes and ways in which workplace learning was valued; stage two consists of four semi-ethnographic case studies of workplace learning. 

    View Details Full Report Stage 1 Full Report Stage 2
  • Skills Utilisation in Singapore

    Prof Johnny Sung, Fiona Loke, Catherine Ramos and Michael Ng

    The skills utilisation research examines how skills (and training) are making impact at the workplace through the knowledge of what skills are used and not used, and what priority of the different types of skills are utilised from the user’s perspective.

    View Details Full Report
  • Adult Educator Typology

    Simon Freebody, Dr Helen Bound and Magdalene Lin

    Locally, the practice of adult education is growing and changing, thus leading to heightened diversity. As such, information regarding AEs in Singapore is sparse and quickly obsolete. Committed investigation is necessary to provide more useful information on AEs.The aim of this research project was to develop a typology of adult educators (AEs) and corresponding careers in Singapore.

     

    Full Report