Project Synergy Research

Project Synergy is a cross-cultural research study on secondary gifted class teaching practices in two cultures: Singapore and the United States. The subject areas under investigation covered math, science (chemistry, biology, and physics), English, social studies, and secondary foreign language (Latin in US, Chinese in Singapore). The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which important features of teaching expertise are carried out in gifted classrooms, to investigate teaching and learning patterns, and to probe similarities and differences of teaching practices and beliefs in the two cultures through both observation and in-depth interviews.

Research findings based on an analysis of classroom observation data include:
  • Secondary teachers in Singapore as a group employ differential strategies both more frequently and more effectively than US teachers did.
  • Differences among subject areas are less pronounced than might be expected, given content differences in both cultures. Use of creative thinking strategies appeared to produce the least variation, in respect to effectiveness of use.
  • An under utilization of problem solving and research strategies were observed in both cultures.
  • More years of teaching experiences in general yielded higher mean scores on teaching behaviors in Singapore; more than ten years of gifted classroom teaching experiences specifically translated into higher ratings. However, no similar relationships were found in the US sample.
  • A practicum on differentiation in Singapore appeared to have a positive effect on enhancing critical thinking, curriculum planning and delivery as well as on overall effectiveness in the use of differentiated strategies in Singapore.
Research findings based on interviews with exemplary teachers in both cultures:
  • Exemplar teachers possess strong content knowledge, are open to people and use an effective array of teaching strategies. Teachers are skilled in analytical, critical, creative, and flexible thinking abilities.
  • Exemplar teachers embrace the philosophy of student centered-learning with some direct instruction, time for thought and discussion, hands on practice, and applications.
  • Exemplar teachers use an array of appropriate differentiated strategies for gifted learners, including effective questioning, effective in-class grouping, and classroom management.
  • The subject area dictated pedagogy employed to some extent. However, teachers viewed critical thinking skills and strategies as applicable across all subjects.
  • Teachers appreciated support for training and flexibility to attend professional development conferences and seminars.