Education Research Funding Programme – National Institute of Education (NIE)
The Office of Education Research (OER) in its third tranche of funding, seeks to encourage research in Scaling, Translation and Knowledge Management that may facilitate the synthesis of research findings from projects in different disciplines, as well as develop scalable pedagogical interventions to enable systemic improvement in the education system.
GRANT APPLICATION PROCESS
OER announces its Request for Proposal (RFP) every May and Nov of the year and the close of submission is July of the year and January of the following year respectively. All grant applications, submitted in response to a RFP, are reviewed by an OER-appointed panel of external reviewers. Grant applications of varying values are further assessed and approved by the OER Education Research Committee (ERC), NIE ERC and MOE ERC. In the further interest of academic rigour and prudence, large quantum of Tier 3 grant applications are evaluated by an International Advisory Committee, comprising eminent scholars from renowned international universities. In addition, grant applications submitted by staff involved in any part of the review process are assessed independently by the Education Research Review Advisory Panel.
19TH REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL
OER is pleased to announce the 19th Request for Proposal (RFP) with a focus on:
(I) Innovation in the Learning and Teaching of Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL); (II) System Studies in Pedagogies & Educational Outcomes – CORE Research; and (III) Programmatic Research
- The subject area focus on Innovation in the Learning and Teaching of Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL).
Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL)
Teaching and learning in schools occur through social interactions between students and their teachers and peers (Zins, Bloodworth, Weissberg, & Walberg, 2007). It has been argued that emotions can facilitate or impede children’s academic engagement, work ethic, commitment, and ultimate school success (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011). Because relationships and emotional processes affect how and what students learn, these aspects of the educational process must be effectively addressed for the benefit of all students (Elias et al., 1997).
Socio-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of learning the skills to recognize and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, appreciate the perspectives of others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle interpersonal situations constructively (Elias et al., 1997). Through SEL, students acquire skills, knowledge, and dispositions to manage themselves and relationships effectively and make responsible decisions essential for personal and social well-being. Together, these skills are expected to lead to improved adjustment and academic performance (Payton et al., 2008). According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), there are five key domains of social and emotional competencies (i.e., self-management, self-awareness, responsible decision making, relationship management, and social awareness), each of which comprise several interrelated cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies (CASEL, 2017).
Many studies have shown that effective mastery of social-emotional competencies is associated with greater well-being and better school performance whereas the failure to achieve competence in these areas can lead to a variety of personal, social, and academic difficulties (e.g., Fu, Chen, Wang, & Yang, 2016; Guerra & Bradshaw, 2008). Moreover, there is growing empirical evidence regarding the positive impact of school-based SEL programs, which have been summarized in two recent meta-analytical studies (Durlak et al., 2011; Payton et al., 2008). Results of these meta-analyses consistently showed that those participating in SEL programs demonstrated significantly enhanced social-emotional skills, attitudes, and positive social behavior, reduced conduct problems and emotional distress, and improved academic performance at post-intervention compared to students in control groups.
The preceding findings strongly suggest that school-based efforts to promote students’ SEL is a promising approach to enhance children’s success in school and life. In line with this view, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore considers SEL to be a critical part of students’ learning to prepare them to live and work as adults in the 21st century. SEL is also recognised internationally as a critical skill in the 21st century skills. Together with the core values, SEL forms an integral part of MOE’s framework for 21st century competencies and student outcomes (Ministry of Education, 2017).
Use of Technology for SEL
While existing curricular and co-curricular programmes in school have been designed to support the development of SEL in our students, there exist potential challenges in fostering SEL.
Some potential challenges in fostering SEL are:
- Lack of support for SEL outside classroom settings and in everyday situations. Students are unable to identify moments where they could apply the social and emotional skills that they have learned. Students may know what is right but do not know when and how to apply the skills correctly.
- SEL measurement is one of the main barriers to fostering SEL. Unlike cognitive skills, social and emotional skills may not be visibly observable and are only specific to certain settings. Moreover, measures of maximum performance (usually used in cognitive domain) rather than typical performance (used to measure intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies) are commonly used in SEL measurement.
More can be done in terms of harnessing technology to complement and extend SEL learning and teaching. For example, to overcome the under-utilisation of technology in SEL, there may be a need to raise the awareness among teachers about the potential benefits of using technology in SEL teaching beyond improving classroom management, to raise the importance teachers and school leaders placed on SEL as compared to foundational literacies, to internalise the definition of SEL, to develop a reliable metric to measure SEL, and to make available a myriad of SEL tools and programmes that teachers can adapt and adopt based on their student and classroom needs.
Fostering SEL through innovations such as games
Contemporary movements toward social and emotional learning (SEL) has sparked new education foci on ‘learning to be’ and ‘learning to live together’, often referred to as ‘social and emotional intelligence’ or ‘emotional literacy’. This has often been incorporated into a more general focus on student well-being, developed from increasing knowledge about the protective factors that enhance students’ resilience and good mental health (Hromek & Roffey, 2009). Situated within landscapes of shapeshifting social, economic, political, and workspace trends, it becomes imperative for learners to acquire a broad set of skills, both cognitive and interpersonal, that will enable them to thrive in a rapidly evolving, technology saturated world (Deming, 2015). Social and emotional skills such as creativity, flexibility, and adaptability to navigate complexities become increasingly important complements to foundational academic skills such as literacy and numeracy, starting at the earliest stages of development and continuing through secondary schooling (Luo, Li, & Boccardo, 2016). Specifically, SEL may focus not only on the acquisition of knowledge and skills, but also in developing and shifting identity, values, beliefs, attitudes, and epistemologies which include
• abilities to recognize and label personal feelings, strengths, and values
• knowing how to regulate and express feelings effectively and safely
• having a prosocial orientation to others, which is not bound by prejudgment
• being able to read and take account of the emotional content of situations
• being responsible to oneself and others and making ethical decisions
• being able to set goals in both the short and longer term
• problem-solving skills, especially in the domains of personal coping and interpersonal
relationships focusing on the positive
• respect for others, including valuing diversity
• treating others with care and compassion
• good communication skills
• knowing how to establish, develop, and maintain healthy relationships that promote connection between individuals and groups
• being able to negotiate fairly
• having skills to deescalate confrontation and manage conflict well
• being prepared to admit mistakes and seek help when needed and
• having personal and professional integrity demonstrated by consistently using relational values and standards to determine conduct
With the growing interest in SEL comes the need to identify programs and teaching and learning practices that effectively engage learners. Experience-based learning platforms such as games afford novel and unique opportunities for learning that are characterized by personal agency, authorship, reflexivity, and identity becoming trajectories (Jamaludin, Kim, & Hung, 2012). In providing a forum for the development of the skill-sets, attitudes, and values that build resilience and maintain well-being, games reify a highly motivating approach for skilled facilitators to create a safe, fun environment, where social connectedness and meaningful participation are likely to occur. Digital games, for example, holds enormous promise to help foster 21st-century skills, including social and emotional skills, through personalizing learning, engaging the disengaged, complementing what happens in the classroom, extending education outside the classroom and providing access to learning to students who otherwise might not have sufficient educational opportunities” (Luo, Li, & Boccardo, 2016). Non-digital games, such as board or card games, can function as psychoeducational tools used to teach skills and strategies for dealing with SEL issues such as learning anxieties, regulatory behaviours, anger management, sportsmanship etc., effectively facilitating prosocial skill development and emotional regulation (Hromek, 2007). Prior studies have shown that while there are a variety of strategies for teaching SEL, games can be especially effective because of the engaging factors, wide reach that can impact many students at once, and underlying analytics that can be designed to identify game players’ progress, strengths and weaknesses, through sustained game play (Palmer-Scott, 2015). Similar veins of neural research have also identified games as vehicles that can seed sustained changes in neural circuits that matter for complex behaviours, such as empathy, instantiated in interconnected brain networks (Davidson & Begley, 2012). While there are a multitude of possibilities within and between the fields of SEL and innovations such as games, some suggestions applicants can consider when submitting their research proposals include the following topics and themes
- Curriculum and pedagogical practices of SEL
- Innovation development for SEL e.g. Game-based Learning as vehicles for social emotional intelligence
- SEL literacies of the 21st century
- Neuroscience perspectives of SEL
- Teacher education for SEL
- Teacher professional development – SEL, Innovations for SEL
- Leadership and/or Apprenticeship for SEL
- Assessment of SEL using technologies
- SEL Interventions – Design, Development, Translation, and Impact
- Systems-oriented research on SEL
- SEL outcomes among pupils
Examples of how technologies have been leveraged for the teaching and learning of SEL are also listed in the table below. Proposals that explore the use of technology for SEL and other related areas will be useful in advancing social emotional learning and teaching in Singapore schools.
Some examples of the use of technology for SEL are:
Some learning principles are built into good digital games to develop social and emotional skills:
• “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle: learners take risks in play space where consequences are lowered
• Identity Principle: learners reflect on their real-world identities, virtual identities and projective identities.
• Self-Knowledge Principle: learners learn more about themselves by recognising strengths, needs and values in the virtual world.
• Multiple Routes Principle: learners learnt how to make responsible choices to make progress within the game.
• Affinity Group Principle: learners socialise and bond with other learners through shared goals and practices.
- Advanced analytics
Advanced analytics are used in support of the use of interactive and engaging computer game formats for stealth assessment of children’s social skills. For example, in Zoo U, the content was deliberately developed to elicit children’s behaviours and dialogue choices were recorded to assess social skill competencies.
Wearable technology helps to develop self-awareness and management in the following ways:
• Students can identify and recognize possible emotions outbursts
• Wearable technology provides prompts to help students de-escalate the situations
• Wearable technology increases students’ abilities to interact with the environment more naturally
Augmented reality has the potential to:
• engage, stimulate and motivate students to explore learning content from different perspectives
• cover content that is not feasible within traditional classroom settings
• foster collaboration among students
• create authentic learning environments
Authorable virtual peer technology supports autistic children’s reciprocal social communication with their peers. Children developed social and communication skills such as asking questions, responding and sharing information.
Please download the list of useful references here.
(II) The special focus area on System Studies In Pedagogies & Educational Outcomes – CORE Research Program focuses on understanding what goes on and what works in Singapore’s classrooms – more specifically, the instructional core (City, Elmore, Fiarman & Teitel, 2009). It is of interest to the MOE and schools to gain a better understanding of what works in the instructional core in our classrooms and schools as a critical step in the next developmental stage of our education system.
[Note: While we welcome proposals in all subject disciplines (both academic and non-academic skills) and 21CCs (see more details below), for the 19th Request for Proposals, we are specifically interested in proposals in the content areas of Mother Tongue and Science Education.]
(III) The special focus area on Programmatic Research is defined by an over-arching project research theme which focuses on a key educational issue, problem, phenomenon or outcome, along with a number of themes – specific research studies that address important aspects or components of the issue, problem, phenomenon or outcome. It therefore has a common strand or focus, supported by a common theoretical framework, and undertakes a coherent, comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to understanding and addressing the issue, problem, phenomenon or outcome. For more information about Programmatic Research, please download document here.
The 19th RFP will convene in July instead of October as we are into the 3rd tranche closure. It was previously announced that the 19th RFP will be a limited call. Arising from feedback received, 19th RFP will be a full call, opened for new applications of all Tiers (including Programmatic Proposal).
 E.g. see World Economic Forum. (2016). New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology. Retrieved April 13, 2016 from http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Vision_for_Education.pdf.
The 19th RFP is open from 10 August to 2 October with the following timelines:
19th Request for Proposal: 10 August Briefing Session for NIE Faculty: 17 August Expression of Interest: 11 September Endorsement by Reporting Officer: 2 October Submission Deadline: 9 October
USEFUL RESOURCES AND CONTACTS
For more information about the 19th RFP, please download document here.
For more information about the ER 3.0 Research and Development Framework, click here.
Useful Resources and Contacts
All application forms and guides are available in the NIE Portal (http://portal.nie.edu.sg/): Login > Services > Academic > Research > NIE Education Research Funding Programme (ERFP).
For clarification, please email OER Research Support Unit at: firstname.lastname@example.org.