In 2014, NTU President Bertil Anderson was provokingly asked what were the defining hallmarks of an NTU graduate. His interrogator was Professor Lee Sing Kong
, then Director of the National Institute of Education
(NIE). The casual exchange between the two university administrators led to Professor Lee delaying his retirement and accepting a long-term appointment as University Vice President for Education Strategies and Director of the Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE) so he could answer his own question.
Bringing with him decades of interdisciplinary leadership, Professor Lee put together a team to address the void in Singapore’s science of learning research as it relates to Universities and life-long learning. As CRADLE continues to build capacity and expand its lines of research beyond the boundaries of NTU, it stands as one more pillar of Professor Lee’s legacy of cultivating educational research in Singapore.
Through qualitative and quantitative studies, CRADLE attempts to address how learning occurs, how cognition works, and how to transfer what happens inside a classroom to the real-life problems that await graduates once they leave the University. The Centre positions itself in the front row of an academic dialogue on the science of learning, and evaluates how well NTU students demonstrate the graduate attributes of character, communication, civic-mindedness, competence, and creativity.
Being a research-intensive institution, NTU welcomed CRADLE as an opportunity to improve the University’s leadership in teaching excellence through rigid scholarship. As described in the Education Pillar of the NTU strategy for 2020
, CRADLE is aligned with Future Learning
– one of NTU’s Five Peaks of Research Excellence.
What CRADLE does
Since its inception, the Centre has served as an activity and technology incubator for research to transform teaching and learning in higher education. CRADLE engages in empirical studies to evaluate and influence the efficacy of the University’s strategies for developing global skill sets. The University’s graduate attributes enable students to thrive wherever they find themselves in the future.
CRADLE also acts as a catalyst to enrich the twin process of teaching and learning by developing educational technologies. In an age where nearly all information can be accessed, transmitted, and transformed according to specific needs, the development of mindful learning environments conducive for developing critical thinking, and systems for monitoring activity designs and teaching practices become paramount. CRADLE supports translational research directed toward the improvement of learning assessments and design processes, and develops scalable innovations for both traditional classrooms and technology-enhanced courses.
Recognising that no single field can stand alone when advancing the interests of learning, CRADLE provides a meeting ground for faculty and researchers from Education, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Technology Design. CRADLE researchers believe that transformative innovations for learning happen at the nexus of these disciplines.
The Centre’s researchers pursue interdisciplinary collaborations and scholarship across a spectrum of topical interests – from intimate studies of the human brain to the design and on-site practice of pedagogical approaches. They examine how a person’s body changes during learning, and the experience people have in both physical and virtual learning spaces.
CRADLE draws on expertise from a diversified staff who collectively exhibit intellectual curiosity in the pursuit of new knowledge. Researchers at CRADLE come from a diverse set of backgrounds including linguistics, learning sciences, cognitive science, psychology, creative writing, information technology, and engineering. Together, they combine their effort and expertise to address learning-centred research gaps.
CRADLE reaches out to students, professionals, and the teaching community to identify learning needs, support development opportunities, and diffuse research outcomes.
To increase the impact of its learning interventions in higher education and life-long learning settings, CRADLE also forges partnerships with NTU’s schools and offices, Singapore’s governmental institutions, and overseas research institutes. These partnerships strengthen the linkages between cross-cultural scholarship, policy-making, and workplace practice.
Through a more holistic understanding of learning within an individual, among a group, throughout a community, CRADLE seeks to prepare learners for the challenges lying ahead in the 21st Century global market place and answer Prof Lee’s lasting question—“What do we know about what it means to be a learner in Singapore?”