Continuous focus by Singapore Ministry of Education on school-based professional development through "professional learning communities" along with the syllabus emphasis on language learning and literacy has created an encouraging policy climate for schools and educational researchers to engage in sustainable school-based innovation. Ideally these innovations will adopt and adapt teaching strategies which encourage the development of intellectual quality, critical thinking and literacy skills (Ministry of Education, 2008). Even with a need for such resources and with supportive educational policies, bringing a new teaching strategy from one instructional and cultural background into another may raise concerns among teachers about the appropriateness of the innovation for the local context. This can also pose difficulties for teacher understanding of the strategy and for adoption/adaptation in the innovating teaching environment. Challenges for teachers, their concerns and struggles in trying to understand and master a new teaching strategy should be investigated with due attention.
This paper presents findings on teacher understanding and concerns around the implementation of a reading comprehension instructional strategy that is well known in the United States but virtually unknown in Singapore - Questioning the Author (QtA) (Beck et. al., 1996). The strategy makes use of open-ended questioning strategies than are atypical for reading lessons in Singapore's primary schools. QtA uses less structured discussion than these teachers are accustomed to which can create teacher anxiety about classroom control, staying on task, and student learning. To understand how the strategy can be effectively adopted and adapted to the local context, we examine the teachers developing understanding (using a framework adapted from Anderson, et al, 2006) and teacher concerns (using content analysis [Berg, 2001]) during the first year of a three-year intervention.
The analysis shows changes in teacher understanding of the 'new' strategy. Teachers became more analytical, evaluative and reflective about their own practices throughout the year. The findings also show that initially teacher concerns were for teacher authority, classroom management, lesson completion and time limitations, reflecting cultural patterns in Singapore's educational system. However, later in the study the focus of teacher concerns were more learner-centered with teachers thinking about how to help students carry out discussion and how to facilitate student understanding. In addition, teachers found ways to solve the 'problems' in their initial concerns as they developed expertise in the new strategy.
Overall findings with illustrative examples will be provided in the presentation.