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A Case Study of the Impact of Visual Arts in Special Education in a Singapore Special School


Principal Investigator: Dr Esther Joosa


This autoethnographic study, combined with reflexive thematic analysis, investigates the implementation of an arts-based praxis curriculum in a special education school in Singapore. With the overall question, “How can the challenges and constraints in implementing visual arts curriculum practices be turned into opportunities to develop a praxis-based curriculum model?” the findings of the study contribute to the development of current research and arts initiatives in special education. Data were collected through schoolwide teachers’ portfolio documentation of students’ artworks, reflective practices, dialogue and selected in-situ observations. The investigation brought insights into the contextual challenges of implementing curricular praxis. The findings show that implementation is not a cloning process, as there are potentially as many different approaches to praxis as students with special needs. Challenges that appeared were individual interpretations of educators, art knowledge, and perceptions about the subject they teach. By translating the challenges into opportunities for dialogue and reflection, a structured cyclic approach appeared that could potentially guide schools, teachers, and other stakeholders in curriculum implementation. It presents a model supported by collecting evidence of visual practice, purposeful sharing of ideas through reflective practices, and dialogue about the implementation of visual arts in special education in context, time, and space.


A Study to Ascertain the Singaporean Definition of Teaching Artistry and its Function in Arts Education (2019)

Principal Investigator: Dr Kie Watkins

Co-investigators: Ms Peggy Ferroa and Ms Kamini Ramachandran

The study attempts to articulate what the practice of Teaching Artistry within the Singaporean context means, especially within the arts education sector. It also considers the capability development needs and career progression of teaching artists in Singapore.

Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through a survey administered to 17 teaching artists. Thereafter, phenomenological focus group discussions were conducted with 11 participants. Trends and keywords were then analysed towards a localised definition of the practice.

Effects of a Drumming Programme on Mental Well-Being, Motivation and School Functioning of Secondary School Students (2017)

Principal Investigator: Dr Yeo Lay See

Co-investigator: Dr Ang Seng Bin

“Drum Up for Life” is an after-school co-curricular activity designed and facilitated by OneHeartBeat Percussions to build students’ capacities, instil values and teach essential life skills, towards the desired outcomes of mental well-being, achievement-motivation and school functioning. The programme’s impact on 174 participating Secondary One students across three academic streams – Express, Normal Academic and Normal Technical – was measured using the Youth Mental Well-being Questionnaire, the Achievement-Motivation Survey, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

Results showed some effect of group drumming on improving students’ mental well-being and achievement-motivation, but not their school behaviours; improvement to achievement-motivation was maintained for two months. Additionally, the study found a strong, positive correlation between students’ mental well-being and achievement-motivation.

Dance Education in Singapore: Policy, Discourse, and Practice (2016)

Principal Investigator: Dr Joey Chua

This article provides an overview of dance education in schools in Singapore in regard to physical education, co-curricular activity, initiatives by the National Arts Council’s Education Unit, as well as pre-tertiary and tertiary dance programs. In an effort to gain a better understanding of how well the official discourse and the reality of schooling in dance interconnect, a focused review of published articles, conference papers, committee reports, and curricula was conducted. Situated within the larger sociocultural, political, and historical contexts, the merits and limitations of research, policy initiatives, and policy implementation were considered. It concludes that the development of a coherent dance education in Singapore requires attention to the meritocratic schooling in dance, research to keep pace with policy initiatives, and better definitions of “talent”.

Subjectivities of theatre artists and their work in schools (2015)

Principal Investigator: Ms Pat Toh Yiling

This study investigates the experiences of theatre practitioners who are teaching in schools and inquires into their beliefs, perceptions and practices. Through a small group of theatre artists, this study examines the roles and functions of teaching artists in Singapore schools through observations of theatre actors and their preparation for teaching work in the classroom. Artists are deemed crucial to aid the integration of arts into the general curriculum as they inject creativity, impart specialized skills and professional attitudes, skills that are crucial for a child’s development for the future. However, subjectivities towards drama education can create conflicts, tensions and challenges.

Through a performance ethnographic approach, teaching artists’ artistic selves are examined in relation to schools’ education needs, highlighting their motivations, attitudes and perceptions, allowing for more defined ways of seeing, expressing, and representing teaching artists.

Cultivating creativity: a study of UK policy and Singaporean practice in tertiary arts education, with special reference to creative skill development relevant for the Digital Industries (2015)

Principal Investigator: Dr Andrew Gower

Against the backdrop of the Singapore Media Fusion Plan (2009) published by the then-Media Development Authority as a plan for growth of the media sector, this study seeks to define creative skill development and reflect on the future skills needs of the Digital Industries. This is investigated through three case studies at Singapore Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and Nanyang Technological University. Class observations were conducted alongside interviews with students and teachers to understand the extents to which transient, enduring, and transferrable skills were developed, how ‘products’ created by students went beyond norms, and how much students’ tasks were focused on solution discovery rather than pre-defined outcomes. It considers the development of knowledge, skills and personal qualities required for employability, constructive teaching and learning approaches, and implications for professional practice.