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Selected Research Project
Project Title

Research and Development Project on Developing Package for Independent Enquiry Study in the CMI Context

Principal Investigator

Professor Cheng May Hung, May and Professor So Wing Mui, Winnie

Area of Research Project Learning and Assessment
Project Period
From 10/2008 To 8/2009

1. Develop a resource kit with instructions and tools for guiding students to conduct Independent Enquiry Study (IES) at different stages;
2. Provide schools with suggestions for planning the 90 hours of lesson time for students to conduct IES;
3. Illustrate how the activities and tasks could be conducted in the IES process with classroom experiences and student works; and
4. Make use of the outcomes of this study to help NSS LS teachers prepare for effective learning, teaching and assessment strategies of the subject.

Methods Used

A. School Participants
In June 2008, the Education Bureau (EDB) and the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) invited 7 Chinese as the Medium of Instruction (CMI) schools to participate in the project. All 7 invitees consented. As of February 2009, the 6 school participants were the Hong Kong Taoist Association the Yuen Yuen Institute No. 2 Secondary School, Confucius Hall Middle School, HHCKLA Buddhist Ching Kok Secondary School, Heung To Middle School, Lee Kau Yan Memorial School, and Lok Sin Tong Young Ko Hsiao Lin Secondary School.

B. Participants
12 teachers participated in the project from these 6 schools. 420 student participants came from various forms. The project included 7 classes including junior form students from Form 2 (5 classes) and Form 3 (1 class). Trial dates were flexible as the junior student participants did not need to stick to the teaching and learning schedule. 7 classes comprised senior form students, including 2 classes from Form 4, 1 class from Form 5, 3 classes from Form 6, and 1 class from Form 7. These senior form classes were more restricted to the teaching and learning schedule under the public exam.

C. Resource Kit
The development of the resource kit was based on a 3-phase approach to IES [i.e., Proposal Development (Phase 1), Method Development (Phase 2), and Data Analysis and Writing Up (Phase 3)]. The 3-phase approach suggests the use of 90 hours of lesson time for supporting students to conduct IES. The resource kit aims to equip students with enquiry skills to conduct IES in these 3 phases. EIS is divided into 9 modules, which are subdivided into several units and activities. These activities are also set to various difficulty levels ranking from fundamental to advanced levels. Teachers may choose activities which suit their students and teaching purpose.

Summary of Findings

The first draft of the resource kit was finished in October 2008, and was sent to teachers for evaluation. Trials of these activities then began in November 2008. After collecting the comments and feedback from teachers and our project team members, the resource kit was revised. A second draft was released in mid-February 2009, containing more teaching tips and guidelines for teachers. Trials of the second draft were conducted from mid-February until the end of May. This second draft was then revised based on the recommendation of teachers, student feedback observed in class, and collected student works. The third draft was completed at the end of July for final revision by the project team members. The resource kit for the IES project was then finalized in mid-August based on the feedback and suggestions. Major advancements of the product compared with the previous versions include

  • Providing more background information for the teachers;
  • Achieving consistency in format of the activities and presentation among the activities;
  • Adding teaching tips for the teachers;
  • Providing more detailed suggested answers of the activities;
  • Revising the contents and structures of the activities;
  • Providing detailed suggested solutions to nearly all activities;
  • Suggesting the duration necessary for the completion of each activity;
  • Assigning 3 difficulty levels to each activity; and
  • Providing more than one teaching approach or instructional teaching strategy to some activities.

43 activities were distributed over different modules in the resource kit. 20 activities were tested in this project. Because most schools had just begun their IES project during the trial period, many activities were selected from Phases 1 and 2.

The most popular module in term of number of hours tested was Finding a Theme. This finding reflects the fact that many teachers considered this topic to be important for students, yet difficult to teach. The resource kit provides appropriate and helpful teaching materials and activities, which are demanded by teachers, regarding this topic.

Most teachers seemed to appreciate that the resource kit was comprehensive, user-friendly, and effective. Because this kit covers nine modules from 3 phases (Proposal Development, Method Development, and Data Analysis and Writing up) and each module is subdivided into several units and activities, teachers believed that the contents were sufficient to cover all topics in the teaching IES project. Teachers also believed each activity to be neatly presented and well organized. They could understand clearly the rationale, logic, teaching flow, and strategy by reading teacher’s guide in each activity, thereby making the adoption of resource kit easy and timesaving. The resource kit succeeded in easing the burden of teachers. It minimized the teacher’s efforts in researching information, creating teaching materials, and preparing classes. Because the kit was handy and supported by teacher’s guide, teachers could adopt it directly in conducting IES lesson, or amend it to better reflect the need and characteristic of students.

A. Student’s Learning Outcome
Students’ learning motivation is aroused by participating in activities that allow interaction between teachers and students and collaboration among students. By providing stepwise guiding questions, demonstrating different skills, and introducing examples related to the everyday lives of students in the resource kit, students acquire the knowledge and skills it introduced. Students then practice and solidify their prior knowledge and skills by performing different activities in the same module. The resource kit provided a detailed teacher’s guide to guide the debriefing session of each activity; as a result, students could further assimilate what they have learned from the activity. To conclude, the interest, confidence, and ability of students in conducting IES project were enhanced.

B. Planning of Lesson Time
The development of the resource kit was based on a three-phase approach to IES. This approach suggests the use of 81–99 hours of lesson time for supporting students to conduct IES. These 3 phases are Proposal Development, Method Development, and Data Analysis and Writing Up.

35 to 53 hours of lesson time were allocated in Phase 1, which equips students with all the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct their IES projects. These knowledge and skills assist students to decide a doable theme for enquiry, to master enquiry methods, and to understand the format of report and the assessment criteria for their project. The resource kit allows flexibility for teaching one to four enquiry methods according to the needs of students. Phase 2 allowed students to develop a detailed plan for enquiry methods and to share preliminary data before implementing data collection. It also consisted of another session of Understanding the Assessment Rubrics. Because the assessment criteria include “task” and “process,” the teacher could divide the teaching of these 2 assessment criteria into 2 occasions. Finally, students learned to analyse the data collected, summarize their findings, write up a report, and present their IES project in Phase 3.

Selected Publications Related to the Study
  • Cheng, M. H. M., & Lee, T. H. T. (2010). Addressing the challenges in school-based assessment: practices in the assessment of inquiry learning. Curriculum and Teaching, 25(1), 25–41.     
  • So, W. M. W., & Li, T. H. T. (2011). Effects of teachers’ perceptions of teaching and learning on the implementation of assessment for learning in inquiry study. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 18(4), 417–432.
Biography of Principal Investigator

Professor Cheng May Hung, May
Professor Cheng is currently Chair Professor of Teacher Education, Associate Vice-President (Academic Affairs) cum Registrar at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.  She has a first degree in Biology, and her Master’s and Ph.D. are in science education. She graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a B.Sc. (First Class Hons) degree in Zoology, a Certificate in Education (Distinction), and a Master in Education. She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Professor Cheng has served at the Sir Robert Black College of Education. She was a Reader in Professional Education at the Department of Education, University of Oxford, from 2010 to the end of 2011, and a fellow of the Governing Body at Kellogg College. Professor Cheng has been a long-serving member at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, and has taken up various academic leadership positions. She has served as Acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Associate Dean (Programmes), and Associate Programme Director. Her earlier roles included being Deputy Head of Department and Programme Leader. She has extensive tertiary teaching experience and has taught in undergraduate programmes, post-graduate diploma, Master of Education, Doctor of Education, in Biology Education, Science Education, General Studies, and/or Liberal Studies. She has also served on subject committees at the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority and the Curriculum Development Council in several subject areas including Biology, Science Education, Science and Technology and Liberal Studies.

Professor Cheng’s main areas of research are teacher education and science education.  She researches inquiry learning, assessment for learning, and the nature of science with a focus in teacher learning and teacher professional development. She has published extensively in international refereed journals, and book chapters on science education and teacher education.  More recently, she has published an editor book Science Education in International Contexts, which highlights the contribution of science education researchers from Asia and international contexts. She has been successful in obtaining various research grants from General Research Fund, Quality Education Fund, and the Education Bureau.

Professor Cheng participates and contributes actively to the international science education arena. She is currently a member of the International Committee of the National association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST in the US) and a Fellow of the Society of Biology in UK.  She has been a Vice President of the East Asian Science Education Association (EASE), and a member of the Membership and Election Committee of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST in the US). She is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Quality School Education, and the Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching. [Online Available: http://www.ied.edu.hk/apfslt/]. She is a reviewer for a number of international journals and associations.


Professor So Wing Mui, Winnie

Professor So is currently Professor and Head in the Department of Science and Environmental Studies where she teaches post-graduate courses in Master of Education, Doctor of Education, and Ph.D. in Science Education, General Studies, and/or Liberal Studies.

Professor Winnie Wing-mui So obtained her Teacher’s Certificate at Grantham College of Education in Hong Kong and her Bachelor of Education Studies in the UK. She then continued with her Master’s and Ph.D. Studies at the University of Hong Kong. She attained a distinction with her Master of Education degree and obtained her Ph.D. for a longitudinal study that investigated the thinking of Hong Kong primary school teachers with regards science teaching and learning.

Professor So’s main research areas are in inquiry learning in Science/General Studies/Liberal Studies, integrating IT in Science/General Studies/Liberal Studies, project-based learning, and teacher development. She has been the principal investigator of various research grants from the General Research Fund, the Quality Education Fund, and the Education Bureau. Professor So has published books and multimedia publications on science learning, science investigations, and project learning. She has been the project leader of a large-scale inter-school function, the "Primary Science Project Exhibition" since 1998.

Internationally, she is now an executive member of the World Education Research Association. Locally, she is a member of the Humanities and Social Science Panel of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong. She also serves as a member of the Curriculum Development Council Committee on Science Education and Liberal Studies. She is currently on the editorial board of the online journal, Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, as well as serving as a reviewer in several international journals.

Funding Source

Education Bureau