News Details | 07-Apr-2016

​NTU partners Johns Hopkins in science of learning research 

​How does being bilingual affect a student’s brain? Should bilingual students be taught differently to overcome their reading difficulties in vernacular languages? As technology enabled learning becomes widely adopted in schools and universities, how can technology be used for more effective learning?

To answer these and other important questions, two of the world’s top universities in education – Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) – have joined forces to support leading scientists from Singapore and the United States in their multidisciplinary research into the science of learning. 

Under the direction of NTU’s Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE@NTU) and JHU’s Science of Learning Institute, the projects will bring together scientists from diverse disciplines, language neuroscience researchers and neuroimaging experts from both NTU and JHU to work with children and young adult learners in Singapore. 
To start off, $3 million in competitive funding has been made available in a bid to stoke frontline research into this area over the next two to three years. Both universities hope that this new seed funding programme will uncover innovative and fresh ideas to refine existing teaching strategies and pedagogies to optimise students’ learning.

Professor Lee Sing Kong, NTU’s Vice President (Education Strategies) said, “This exciting collaboration combines the expertise of two major technologically-advanced research universities with dedicated institutes to address new and emerging challenges in education. NTU is already a leader in this area, having pioneered the new flipped classroom model of learning, and being home to the National Institute of Education, a renowned teacher education institute in Asia.”

“The results of our joint collaboration will enable educators and policymakers to devise better learning and teaching strategies, share best practices and resources for practical use in schools, making a positive impact in the classroom and raising attainment for our 21st century learners,” said Prof Lee, who is leading the development of NTU's strategies and innovations in teaching and learning. 

Professor Barbara Landau, Director of JHU’s Science of Learning Institute, said, "Our growing collaboration with CRADLE@NTU is an exciting part of our strategic plan, which includes partnering with other scientists and institutions to stimulate innovative and highly interdisciplinary basic science that helps us to understand the brain and cognitive bases of learning and uses those findings to improve learning.  The collaborative projects that we have begun to develop with NTU scientists reflect our complementary goals and expertise that we can leverage to carry out some very unique research on learning."

Deepening insights into brain’s role in learning

For a start, NTU and JHU are embarking on three joint research projects focussing on bilingual language acquisition, bilingual reading and technology enabled learning. 

Associate Professor Annabel Chen, who is co-leading a project on bilingual reading and literacy said, “Singapore has a unique and complex linguistic environment with learners from different language backgrounds learning together in the same classroom. This offers many opportunities for us to deepen our understanding about bilingual learning and acquisition by leveraging on the latest advances in neuroscience, psychology, education and technology. 
“For example, are the brain networks that process language in children who first learn English as their mother tongue, any different from those who first learn another language? How can we more effectively help Chinese-English bilinguals with dyslexia overcome their difficulties when reading Chinese?” Assoc Prof Chen said.

A related project focusing on learning in early infancy aims to investigate how different patterns of language use in the home influence the ways babies learn their first languages. Led by Nanyang Assistant Professor Suzy Styles, a developmental psychologist who studies language acquisition, the research team will be developing a new type of baby monitor that tracks how much time a child and its caregivers spend speaking certain languages. By combining this technology with systematic tests of infants' language development, the research findings will provide valuable information about effective strategies that parents and teachers can adopt to support language development in infants and toddlers. 

Another research project is looking into the use of technologies in higher education, and the effectiveness of team-based learning. The team, led by neuro-engineering expert Associate Professor Justin Dauwels, will adopt state-of-the-art speech and video processing technologies and conduct trials in real-life classrooms. The study aims to discover how technology can be more effectively used to motivate students at different stages of social interactions during the team-based learning process. This has potential applications within and outside the classroom, particularly for adult and online learners.

The research study is timely as NTU ramps up its implementation of the flipped classroom model with ambitious plans to redesign 1,500 of its courses using this new pedagogy within the next five years.

To support this new way of teaching and learning, NTU last year opened a new learning hub named The Hive, which houses 56 smart classrooms equipped with flexible clustered seating, multiple LCD screens and wireless communication tools to facilitate small group discussions. 

NTU has also converted all tutorial rooms across its 200-hectare campus into new generation smart classrooms. 

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Media contact:

Feisal Abdul Rahman 
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations) 
Corporate Communications Office 
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6687 

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI). 
Ranked 13th in the world, NTU has also been ranked the world’s top young university for the last two years running. The University’s main campus has been named one of the Top 15 Most Beautiful in the World. NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.​
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