Inside Singapore American School’s personalised curriculum program

Inside Singapore American School’s personalised curriculum program

Singapore American School is taking an innovative approach to education by offering a personalised curriculum to its students.

The Educator Asia spoke to the leadership team at Singapore American School (SAS) about the role of their teachers in crafting and implementing a personalised curriculum in their school.

Personalised learning gives students a bigger stake in their education. This does not imply that teachers play a less important role in the classroom – in fact, they may have to play a bigger role than in a traditional learning environment, according to Jennifer Sparrow, deputy superintendent at the Singapore American School. 

“It’s not about moving from teacher-directed to student-directed learning – we’re looking more at a sounding board. Depending on the student or class being taught, the sounding board will look different,” said Sparrow. 

Teachers are trained in techniques such as conferencing to be able to evaluate students in an ongoing manner and adjust their learning progressions accordingly.

At SAS, teachers also have to do a lot of note-taking on their observations of the students, said middle school principal Lauren Mehrbach.

“We do lots of pre-assessment and one-on-one conferencing with the students. We also look at ways to structure and scaffold our work so that we know whether a student has reached a level of understanding quickly or not,” she said.

To ensure that teachers stay on the right track, SAS has professional learning communities (PLCs) in place for teachers to exchange their experiences with each other.

“PLCs help teachers hold each other accountable for their work,” said Dr Chip Kimball, SAS’s superintendent. “[It also helps] to best control the quality of the learning experience in every classroom.”

Challenges of a curriculum update
Besides training teachers and investing in the right resources, SAS will also be upgrading its classroom facilities as personalised learning requires an environment with flexible spaces.
“I think the biggest challenge at SAS is our scale. We are trying to do something that other schools may have done – but they may have started it as a brand new school… or are much smaller,” Mehrbach said.
The former would mean that the school could have recruited staff who are invested and prepared to work with the curriculum. The latter, that the school would need to change the teaching practices of a smaller faculty. SAS on the other hand has over 383 faculty members teaching from kindergarten to high school.
Another challenge for the school is the lack of data.
“Currently our data is very focused on academic achievement. What we need to figure out is how to collect data around things like how students are collaborating for example, so that we can use the information to target how we teach,” Sparrow said.
Sparrow is quick to state that though technology is necessary to support personalised learning, it is not its main driver.
“It’s about asking how do we leverage technology to create efficiencies or augment the learning experience. The role of the teacher is vital to move personalised learning forward.”
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