Research Publications

  • Understanding Adult Learners’ Sense-making to Inform Pedagogical Innovations in Blended Learning (BL)

    Bi Xiaofang, Helen Bound, Fadhil Mohamed, Vanessa Cai, Chuen Kah Hui

    Sense-making, understood as meaning making or giving meaning to experience, is an integral part of everyday life and work, and is a process critical in enabling people to recognise how and when to respond to situations appropriately so that they can resolve problems effectively (Weick, Sutcliffe & Obstfeld, 2005). Blended learning (BL) in vocational training mainly aims to enable adult learners to apply theory to practices to solve authentic problems in workplaces. High quality of sense-making is crucial to help learners achieve the aim. This timely research is to offer a comparative look at how dynamics of BL interplay together to mediate the quality of sense-making. The dynamics include industry and training connections, policy and institutional contexts, the inhabited pedagogical practices and curriculum design. This research adopted semi-ethnographic approach to capture the rich data in case studies to understand learners’ sense-making quality in BL. The findings from different BL courses surface that the degree to which learners’ sense-making is fragmented (low quality) or seamless (high quality) is mediated by the interplay of different contextual factors in BL in multiple ways, such as, the connections (or not) with industry, the use (or not) of authentic problems and tasks.

    Full Report
  • COVID-19 Educator Survey

    Dr Chen Zan

    COVID-19 is leaving an indelible mark on the way we work and learn, creating an urgent need to understand its impact on higher education and adult learning. To capture educators’ perspectives on moving all learning, teaching, assessment and training-related work online in higher education and adult learning, IAL and the University of Bristol (UoB) jointly conducted the COVID-19 Educator Online Survey in Singapore during May and June 2020. A total of 1553 adult educators from institutes of higher education including autonomous universities, polytechnics, Institute of Technical Education, as well as private educational institutions, adult training and lifelong learning training organisations and enterprise in-house training units participated in this survey. The following reports present key findings from the survey.

    Research Note Research Extract Infographic
  • The Determinants of Adult Education: Evidence from an International Study

    Tan Bao Zhen and Aggie Choo

    Using data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), this paper compares Singapore’s training participation rate among PIAAC participating countries. A logistic regression model is also employed to examine the determinants affecting training participation in the different countries. A special interest in the PIAAC data is the availability of the respondents’ skills proficiency scores, which allows an alternative measure of human capital besides the highest qualification attained. For comparison, we have included other Asian countries (South Korea, Japan), Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway Sweden), other European countries (United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands) and the United States.

    This paper is submitted to the Adult Education in Global Times 2020.



    Conference Proceedings
  • Six Principles of Learning Design

    Dr Helen Bound and Dr Arthur Chia

    Learning can no longer be thought of as just preparing students/learners for ‘now’, for solving predictable, standard problems and for their ability to recount or reproduce content. Rather as educators, facilitators, trainers, curriculum designers, we need to develop our learners’ capacity to thrive in dynamically changing contexts. This requires a shift from front-end loading of content and focus on summative assessment of learning, to creating dynamic learning environments built on authentic experiences. There is considerable research that highlights that learning is powerful when learners are actively engaged, and their learning experience is embodied and holistic. This necessarily involves learners in giving and receiving feedback and making judgements (Bound, Chia & Karmel, 2016; Boud, 2010). Deep understanding and learning to learn are critical for positioning our learners to thrive in constantly changing contexts, be they in work settings, navigating changing labour markets and demands or family and community. The 6 Principles of Learning Design offer a framework for designing such learning. This booklet unpacks each of the principles, indicating what it means for learning and assessment. The contents of this booklet are based on ethnographic case studies conducted by the authors.

    Practitioner Note
  • Dialogical Inquiry

    Dr Helen Bound (IAL) and Associate Professor Tan Seng Chee (NTU)

    Traditional teaching approaches such as long lectures and limited learner engagement do not meet the learning needs of the future, or even of current dynamically changing contexts. As educators we need to use different approaches. Dialogical inquiry puts a focus clearly on learners and their learning, uses learners’ authentic problems or issues enabling learners to build and co-construct knowledge and deep understanding. In these ways it provides learners with much greater control over the learning process, drawing on their rich experiences as resources for learning. Along the way, learners develop their learning to learn capabilities – important in being able to thrive in changing work and labour market contexts – and also deepen their sense of identity of what it means to be a particular profession or vocation e.g. a nurse, an accountant, an engineer, a cleaner and so on.

    This booklet explains how dialogical inquiry approaches different from more traditional approaches, what the essence of the approach involves and suggests some tools that readers may wish to use in trying out this approach. The contents of this booklet are based on an in-depth qualitative research project conducted by the authors.

    Practitioner Note