More than just teaching at a different pace: An exploratory study of teachers' ways of speaking, instructional practices and perceptions of students in different streams

Ng Soo Cheng

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2004


As the impact of streaming on classroom learning is a relatively unexplored area in the Singapore context, this study examines and presents the crucial link between streaming, teacher perceptions as well as the kinds of teaching and learning made available for primary students streamed into the highest and lowest language streams.

Adopting a case study approach that was largely qualitative in nature, this study focused on the classroom learning of an EM1 and an EM3 class in one neighbourhood primary school. Data collection procedures included observations of three English language lessons and subsequent interviews with the teachers. The analysis of the classroom data spanned over four phases funnelling from broad level analysis to more fine-grained micro-analysis while the interview data was subjected to inductive analysis.

The findings of this study reveal that streaming in the primary school may mean far more than just curriculum differentiation and teaching at a different pace. Differentiation was found in these areas: how and to what purpose are students regulated in the class; how teachers manage and construct learning activities; what students hear as the object of lessons; what version of literacy is taught in each class; and as what kinds of literacy learners the students are positioned. As the interviews show, these different ways of teaching can be seen as being driven to a large extent by teachers' perceptions of students in different streams.

This study concludes that streaming may result in a situation where for the EM1 students 'success breeds success', whereas the EM3 students, by virtue of their placement into the lowest stream, may get limited opportunities for improvement.