UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Wong, Karen Ann Ka Lin
Institute: 
National Institute of Education
Year of completion: 
2001
Country: 
Singapore
Country of Research Data: 
Singapore
Language: 
English
Comments: 

An Academic Exercise submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for Bachelor of Arts (Hons)

Abstract: 

In recent years, the educational landscape in Singapore has shifted beyond its focus on the academic performance of its students, to focus also on their creative and critical thinking skills. The Ministry of Education (MOE) implemented this policy in 1998, announcing a 30% reduction in curriculum content, in order to create "a teaching and learning culture which nurtures innovative and creative thinking, lifelong learning and the ability to work in teams" (MOE, 1998).

At the school level, these policy initiatives have challenged school leaders and teachers to develop "Thinking Schools" and to "exercise initiative and creativity to steer their individual institutions in the most suitable ways forward along the strategic direction of an ability-driven education system" (Teo, 1998). These new desired outcomes of the school system would demand more holistic teaching approaches, different from schools of learning which reduce students to passive, uninspired recipients of predetermined knowledge.

Such "schools of learning", as Whitehead warned, are overladen with what he called "inert ideas", "ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations" (1929: 13). There is now compelling evidence in Singapore that shows the limited benefits of such approaches in the long term, one of which is the excessive focus on rote learning resulting in dangerous negligence of creative development (Straits Ties, October 4, 2000: 1,46 -Please refer to Appendix A).

Involvement in educational drama provides processes which help students to develop skills that are currently prioritized in Singapore's education system (Hunter, ed. 1999: 7). Broadly speaking, these include critical thinking skills to solve problems, divergent thinking skills and creativity to arrive at unusual, innovative and original ways of presenting ideas and feelings.

Concerning this, educational theorist Eisner is quick to remind us that: Knowing the outcome of a game tells us little how to play the game. (1985: 141) If teachers apply Eisner's apt analogy to the ability-based teaching and learning situation they find themselves in, then knowing how to play the game demands that they build up an awareness of the various strategies which are necessary for the outcomes they wish to achieve. Therefore, strategizing becomes part of a creative learning process, where different strategies are exploited in different situations, for different ends. Reiterating this view of education, Education Mister Teo Chee Hean brought to the fore his vision for teachers in "thinking schools" of the 21" century:|

We also need a new focus on creativity and innovation, to be geared to change in our schools. We cannot produce adaptable, innovative and creative students unless we have adaptable, creative and innovative teachers and schools. fleo, 1997) Indeed, Teo is referring to independent, enterprising and informed ways of thinking which cannot be taught, but only "caught" when teachers successfully build up their students' repertoire of experiences, moving meaning "beyond the merely representational to the dialectical" (Bolton 1984: 253). It is thus at this critical turning point in our educational drama practices that teachers feel a need for "critical inquiry; that in order for them to improve the quality of their work, they should subject it to intensive and focused exploration" (Stenhouse, 1975).

Inspired by Stenhouse, with his conviction that all teaching should be based on critical inquiry, participants in this investigation will be actively engaged in reflective practice, whereby they are directly in the process of improving their understanding of events, situations and problems in order to evaluate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their own teaching and learning.

With a focus on creativity in educational drama, the core of the investigation examines the ways that reflective practice assists teachers in understanding and fostering creativity in their students with the intent to empower them in terms of thinking perspectives and working strategies.

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