Higher Education Research Projects

This page lists teaching and learning research projects by CDTL's academic developers, either as primary investigators of the study or as part of a collaborative team with faculty colleagues.

A - M     N - Z    


A - M

An Exploratory Study on Designing Fully Online Professional Development Experiences

Name(s) of Researchers: Charina ONG (PI)

Project Duration: 1 year


The Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL), the professional development arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS), exists to “advance cutting edge, evidence-based, impactful teaching and learning practices in ways that support the educational vision of NUS”. Consistent with CDTL's mission, this study investigates the potential of fully online professional development workshops to support engaging, meaningful professional development for academics, while accommodating their needs for convenience and flexibility – given the advances in learning technologies and platforms and latest research on effective online pedagogies.

This study will: (1) examine academics’ ratings and qualitative feedback  of the existing “Developing e-Learning Resources Using Camtasia Studio” workshop; (2) redesign the workshop to a fully online version based on academics’ feedback of the existing face-to-face session and current research on fully online professional development; (3) examine academics’ ratings and feedback of the fully online “Developing e-Learning Resources Using Camtasia Studio” workshop; and (4) discuss implications for use in future online professional development offerings.

Academics’ feedback will be collected via a pre and post-survey using the COI survey instrument and an adapted COI survey instrument respectively. Results will discuss pre and post COI survey results, academics’ suggestions to further refine the online workshop, and fully online workshop feedback results compared to previous face-to-face workshop results.

The findings of this study may encourage other academic developers to explore alternative models and formats for conducting faculty professional development workshops and courses, as well as provide an opportunity to contribute to research on emerging best practices for fully online courses.

Assessing the Impact of Grade-free Learning

Name(s) of Researchers: Chris McMORRAN (PI) and Kiruthika Ragupathi
Project Duration: 2 years


This study analyzes an alternate form of assessment, gradeless learning. This study theoretically and geographically contextualizes the recent implementation of a gradeless learning policy at NUS and is a perception study on the impact of the policy has students and teachers at NUS.

A Study of NUS Faculty Members’ Approaches to Designing a Blended Learning Module

Name(s) of Researchers: Adrian LEE (PI), Jeanette CHOY, Alan SOONG
Project Duration: 1 year


This study aims to identify and develop effective ways to implement blended learning approaches within and across NUS’s diverse teaching disciplines. This will be achieved by describing and understanding the tacit beliefs that characterize current NUS practitioners, referred to as NUS Innovators, about their thinking and approaches in the design of blended learning for their modules.

By gathering the NUS Innovator community to meet and discuss their experiences, coupled with information obtained from existing literature, we will attempt to identify and make recommendations on best practice that could be incorporated into the implementation of blended learning by the upcoming crop of NUS practitioners, referred to as Early Adopters, who are interested in this new teaching approach.

Effects of Explicit Instruction on Graduate Teaching Assistants’ Use of Collaborative Learning Scripts and Academic Mindset

Name(s) of Researchers: Mark GAN (PI), Johan GEERTSEMA, Alan SOONG, Jeanette CHOY

Funding Body (if applicable): MOE Tertiary Education Research Fund (TRF)
Project Duration: 1 year


Collaborative learning is widely recognized as an effective approach to engage students in peer-to-peer learning, but merely assigning students to groups does not mean that they will engage in meaningful discussions. Rather, successful student discourse requires the explicit use of collaborative scripts, usually in the form of question prompts with role assignments and structured activities, to scaffold group interactions that bring about deeper or more elaborative discussion. A key focus of this study is to find out whether graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) will be able to engage their students in collaborative learning during their tutorial classes after attending a two-day Teaching assistant programme (TAP). In particular, the effects of explicit instruction on GTAs’ use of collaborative learning scripts, and academic mindsets will be examined in this study. Findings from this study will help inform our understanding of how best to prepare GTAs to engage students in meaningful collaborative learning.

Investigating Instructor Intervention and Student Learning in Online Discussion Forums

Name(s) of Researchers: KAN Min-Yen (PI), Kiruthika Ragupathi, Bernard TAN
Project Duration: 2 years


MOOCs primarily depend on virtual discussion forum to foster interaction among instructors and students for learning purposes. Instructors use virtual discussion forum to communicate about course materials and encourage exchange of ideas and opinions among students. The pedagogical rationale for virtual discussion forum is social constructivism, through which students derive new knowledge by integrating their prior experience with communication involving other students. The study focuses on how the virtual discussion forum in MOOCs can be managed so that instructors can maximize the effects of their interventions in terms of helping students learn.

N - Z

Professional Learning Conversations and Dialogic Feedback: An Investigation of Coaching Early Career Academics on Carrying Out Inquiry-based Studies of Their Own Practice

Name(s) of Researchers: Mark GAN (PI), Shin Dee LIEW

Project Duration: 1 year


The aim of this report is twofold: First, we identify the characteristics of early-career academics’ professional learning conversations (PLCs) with academic developers acting as coaches during their teaching practicum. Second, we examine more closely the processes that an individual articulates during the coaching sessions to argue for the case of facilitating dialogic feedback to support cognitive engagement with the learning task. As academic developers, we are interested in the degree to which such guided conversations can support early career academics in improving their teaching practice, in particular within the context of inquiry into their own teaching and learning.

This report draws on the current research on PLCs and dialogic feedback to examine the dialogues between coaches and three early career academics (ECAs) in a research-intensive university in Asia. An analysis of audio-recorded transcripts of guided PLCs revealed that three conditions were present in most effective conversations for ECAs–a focus on tasks that have a high cognitive demand, the dialogue is structured to allow for elaborative interactions, and the presence of continued guided support. We also further identified three dialogic feedback moves that can enhance faculty members’ guided conversations–explanations and elaborations, instances of transactive reasoning, and question-asking that facilitates transactivity and self-regulation. In this report, we provide examples of these conditions and dialogic feedback moves based on PLCs with three faculty colleagues.

The findings of this report will inform academic developers’ work on incorporating learning conversations in the professional development programme to promote and enhance the learning experience of participants. Furthermore, the feedback “moves” provide insights for developing approaches that can support academic developers on the dialogic coaching of faculty members.

Scholarly Approach to Curation and Enrichment of Conference Lectures

Name(s) of Researchers: Johan GEERTSEMA (PI), Kiruthika Ragupathi
Project Duration: 2 years


This project aims to curate and enrich these videos to enhance their intelligibility and accessibility for a wider audience of faculty. This study aims to promote the scholarship of teaching and learning within and beyond NUS as we collaboratively curate and make available our underused stock of videos so they can become part of a new form of encyclopedia that celebrates the polycentricity and collaborative nature of knowledge construction.

The Effects of a Faculty Mentoring Programme Based on Community of Practice on Early Career Academics’ Teaching Practices

Name(s) of Researchers: Adrian LEE (PI), Jeanette CHOY

Project Duration: 2 years


The overall aim of the study is to examine the impact of a new Faculty Mentoring Programme (FMP) based on Community of Practice (CoP) on early career academics’ (ECA) teaching practices, with a view to examine how a community mentoring process could support the internal and ongoing transformation of professional development for beginning academics. Early career academics in the experimental condition will be required to complete a year-long faculty mentored programme consisting of the following components: (a) Teaching Practicum; (b) formative peer and expert classroom observation process; (c) course portfolio including development of a teaching philosophy statement; and (d) available to meet as a group approximately every 2 months. To study the impact of the programme, an evaluation protocol based on Hall and Hord’s levels-of-use concept is adopted to identify how much and how well the Core concepts discussed during the Core component are implemented in classroom practice. We will also collate from multiple perspectives on instances of observed teaching from academic peer observers, students, and artefacts produced to provide insights on the effectiveness of the programme.

Teaching Practices at Universitas 21 Institutions

  • Teaching Practices at Universitas 21 Institutions
  • Name(s) of Researchers: Johan GEERTSEMA (PI), Jeanette CHOY
    Project Duration: 6 months


The aim of this study is to provide summary data to both National University of Singapore (NUS) and Universitas 21 regarding the teaching staff practices, attitudes and perceptions. In addition, data will be analyzed to explore whether attitudes are aligned with teaching practices and this there is a relationship between practices and perceptions of teaching climate. This research is initiated by the University of British Columbia (UBC) to investigate teaching practices, attitudes, and perceptions of the teaching climate of instructional staff at U21 institutions. Findings may be used to inform strategic priorities, inform continual improvement processes, or as a baseline measure for institutional initiatives.

Using Student Feedback to Enhance Teaching Practices and Policies

Name(s) of Researchers: Kiruthika Ragupathi (PI), Johan GEERTSEMA
Project Duration: 2 years


Student feedback for instructors (or student evaluation of teaching, SET) is widely used to make personnel decisions, yet its strength lies in the instructors’ systematic interpretation of data. SETs can provide reliable information on teacher characteristics and teaching effectiveness. However, it can be challenging for instructors to systematically engage in and use SET data to inform teaching development and improve quality of student learning. Insights from the study aim to:

- support instructors in utilizing data to guide reflection, regularly reassess their teaching strategies, and
- improve their teaching over time;
- align institutional policies and practices to support the strong developmental function of SET;
- build a dynamic professional development culture.

UTown Students' Experience: A Longitudinal Study

Name(s) of Researchers: Adrian LEE (PI), Kiruthika Ragupathi
Project Duration: Longitudinal Study


This study investigates the impact of the NUS University Town Residential Colleges on students' holistic development so as to gain a better understanding of the social and academic outcomes of the NUS student experience. The study analyses the online perception survey results, on-site field observations, focus group discussions and interviews for students who belonged to five sub-groups based on the residence arrangements to gain additional granularity with which to understand the NUS student experience. The five sub-groups of students in this study are: those who stay off-campus with family (OCF) and in rental accommodation (OCR), those who stay in halls of residence (HR), those who stay in student residences (SR), and those who stay in Residential Colleges (RC). The study is aimed to help the university in understanding the distinctive features of student experience, the common and positive student outcomes at the respective living arrangements, and the conditions that foster positive outcomes (academic, intellectual and social).

It is hoped that learning from this diverse experience will strengthen policies and practices and identify those that can be adopted to sustain and enhance the positive outcomes at residential colleges and halls of residence while also enable the sharing of best practices amongst colleges and halls.