The Singapore experience: Synergy of national policy, classroom practice and design research

Chee Kit Looi, Hyo Jeong So, Yancy Toh, Wenli Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


In recent years there has been a proliferation of research findings on CSCL at the micro and macro levels, but few compelling examples of how CSCL research has impacted actual classroom practices at the meso-level have emerged. This paper critically examines the impact of adopting a systemic approach to innovative education reforms at the macro, meso, and micro levels in Singapore. It presents the case for adopting design research as a methodology for CSCL integration that meets the needs of schools, and discusses a specific CSCL innovation that holds the potential for sustaining transformation in classroom practices. Our driving question is: In what ways can the routine use of CSCL practices in the classroom be supported by exploring systemic factors in the school setting through design research? We will explore the synergistic conditions that led to meaningful impact (at the micro level), mediated by systemic approaches to working with teachers in the schools (at the meso level), guided by Singapore's strategic planning for scalability (at the macro level).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-37
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
With the realization of the immense challenges of putting real transformations of educational paradigms into practice, this quote made almost a decade ago still seems pertinent. Research supported by individual grants to researchers has produced interesting ideas, and small-scale proofs of concept. However, when one thinks about transforming school systems, one sees that the practical tools are fragmentary and scattered. Putting together a coherent classroom program requires work that has not yet been done. This work includes: surveying what is available and adapting it to local conditions; setting up infrastructure, carrying out the missing research, adopting long-term approaches to training and supporting teachers; and effecting a cultural change of public expectations, understandings and attitudes. These require massive funding for resources such as coordinated research, infrastructure, administrative support, training, teacher time for mentoring, and textbook materials (G. Stahl, personal communication 2009). The growing concern about the disconnect between education research—in particular educational technology research and classroom practice (Lagemann 2000; National Research Council 2002)—is still a looming challenge.


  • CSCL impact
  • CSCL practices
  • Design-based research
  • School-based CSCL
  • Sustainability and scaling


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