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Developing Singapore Teachers' Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge for 21st Century Learning

(by Prof Ching Sing Chai and Joyce Hwee Ling Koh)

© Flickr/Steel Wool

Ching Sing Chai and Joyce Hwee Ling Koh are both associate professors from the Learning Sciences and Technologies Academic Group, Nanyang Technological University.

Education researchers who are interested in promoting 21st century learning have identified Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as the primary driving force. ICT can engender collaborative learning that involves students in the solving of authentic problems through a range of higher order thinking strategies. However, it is also clear that merely providing technology to teachers and students will not change teaching and learning. To date, there are still wide-spread concerns about teachers’ ability to design lessons that can engage students in adventurous and meaningful learning activities. The authors proposed that the key to resolving this problem lies in enabling teachers to create Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) for 21st century learning. This article encapsulates ways of promoting TPACK that the authors have been engaged in for the past 5 years under the support of the Office of Education Research in the National Institute of Education (Singapore). 

The notion of TPACK was derived from the notion of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) (Shulman, 1986) with the recognition that 21st century learning necessarily involves technology. In short, technology integration involves the interaction of technological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge. When such knowledge resources interact and are synthesized through teachers’ lesson design, opportunities to transform the teaching and learning of specific subject matter with technologies are created. In addition to TPACK, some general principles about the pedagogical use of specific technology across different subject matter (i.e. technological pedagogical knowledge) and specific use of technology to represent specific content knowledge (i.e. the technological content knowledge) could be created.  The TPACK framework emerged around 2005 and even though it is a relatively new framework, it has been widely applied in teacher education and has generated more than 600 research articles (for more details, see Koehler et al., 2014). Like the PCK framework, TPACK is likely to be a lasting framework for researchers to understand technology integration.

Singapore’s Ministry of Education recognized the importance of ICT and is one of the early adopters of 21st century learning. It has formulated and implemented three ICT Masterplans and it has just launched its fourth Masterplan for ICT. The efforts in the past fifteen years have changed the ICT infrastructure in schools, shaped teachers’ pedagogical beliefs towards constructivist learning and engaged many teachers in designing lessons oriented towards 21st century skills. In continuously supporting the masterplans, the National Institute of Education periodically reviews and updates its pedagogical foci. The TPACK framework has been employed to design pre-service and in-service courses for teachers. In the pre-service courses, the pre-service teachers are tasked to research and perform reciprocal teaching to build deep pedagogical understanding about the different aspects of 21st century learning. Technologies were introduced through experiential learning. After a brief demonstration of mainly Web 2.0 tools, the pre-service teachers used the technology to learn. They were then guided to articulate the pedagogical reasoning behind the use of that the tools to build their technological pedagogical knowledge. The learning of pedagogical and technological knowledge is further enhanced through multiple cycles of designing lesson ideas. The pre-service teachers review their content knowledge and design ways of helping students to construct understanding about the subject matter.

For the in-service teachers, a redesigning approach through school-based teacher learning communities was adopted. The teachers were provided with rubrics that illustrate different levels of 21st century learning. They reviewed and assessed their lesson using the rubrics in order to decide on the design goals they wanted to achieve, select and/or explore specific technological tools and to revamp their lessons. Both pre-service and in-service teachers are treated as knowledge creators, while collaborative design is used as the means to create the knowledge needed.

To date, the authors have published a number of researched articles (see for example, Koh, Chai, Wong & Hong, 2015). Congruent to other TPACK studies from a number of countries, it was found that learning by design for technology integration is generally effective for enhancing the quality of the technology integration lessons. The teachers also gained a stronger sense of efficacy for technology integration. Some lessons that the authors have learnt are: i) it may be important to have experienced educational technologies to facilitate the collaborative design of TPACK at the initial stage; ii) multiple design cycles are needed to foster design capacity of the teachers; and iii) support from school leaders in creating opportunities for teachers to be deeply engaged in design work.

On a larger scale, the case for Singapore’s relative success in promoting the use of ICT can be attributed to continuous policy and financial support from the Ministry of Education (the four Masterplans); the proactive and responsive adoption of relevant theories (the TPACK framework and 21st century learning); and the efforts that school leaders and teachers devoted to innovative pedagogical practices through professional learning communities.    


Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., Kereluik, K., Shin, T. S., & Graham, C. R. (2014). The technological pedagogical content knowledge framework. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 101-111). Springer New York.

Koh, J. H. L., Chai, C. S., Wong, B., & Hong, H. Y. (2015). Design Thinking for Education. Springer Singapore.

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational researcher, 4-14.


Contact info: Ching Sing Chai,; Joyce Hwee Ling Koh,