University of Sussex
Woo, Boon Seong.pdf (2.7 MB)

Lecturers' engagement with digital pedagogy in a polytechnic in Singapore

Download (2.7 MB)
posted on 2023-06-09, 16:56 authored by Boon Seong Woo
This study is located at a polytechnic within the higher education sector in Singapore. As a young nation state, Singapore’s transformation from a mud-flat swamp to a metropolis can be attributed to its intensive and purposeful investments in education and technology. As Singapore celebrated her golden jubilee and reflected on her achievements in 2015, she has also laid the foundation for her progress and prosperity in the Asian Century by embarking on three future-oriented initiatives which continue to emphasise the importance of education and technology. Recent education reforms such as the SkillsFuture initiative and Singapore’s aspiration towards building a Smart Nation have placed polytechnics at the centre of the action. To support these national initiatives, polytechnic lecturers have to increase the online learning components in their courses, deploy more micro-learning modules and learn to use learning analytics platforms. As one who has worked within the higher education sector for the past 20 years – as a lecturer, technology service provider, educational developer – I have witnessed the unquestioning optimism of education leaders in the apparent transformative power of technologies. Technology implementations within Singapore’s higher education context is appealing as it is related to the notions of progress, development, and the preparation of her citizens for an imagined technology-rich future. However, taking such a perspective will obscure the complex interactions between the technological and the social, political and cultural contexts, and introduce certain silences into any discussion involving education and technology. My study aims to explore and interrogate the silenced and the hidden realities in the subterranean world of digital pedagogy: how various discourses shape the identity and the practices of the lecturers in the polytechnic; how changes being made at the macro-level of the system affect the doing and being of lecturers in the polytechnic. I will achieve this aim by addressing the following research questions: • How are lecturers constructed as they engage in the technology imperative? • In what ways are lecturers affected as they engage in the technology imperative? • How are pedagogical practices enacted in the online space? I review the literature to highlight the dominant discourses that promote the use and integration of technology in higher education with the aim of unravelling the power relations between different actors and how their agendas may re-constitute the identities and re-define the work of lecturers. I take an anti-essentialist methodological stance as I do not seek to find one universal truth, but I seek to understand how multiple meanings are produced and how such productions interact with issues relating to power and privilege. Through the use of semi-structured interviews with 8 lecturers, I seek to unpack the immediate and everyday practices where neoliberalism is installed and realised in professional work and lives. I draw from Foucault’s concepts of power, governmentality and discipline in my analysis and ask how the generated data relate to patterns of power. By analysing the interviews through this approach, I am able to examine how the power that is invested in social practices (both discursive and non-discursive) and through a process of discursive formation affects the production of knowledge and subject positions. My findings reveal that lecturers are differently constructed by the dominant discourses of technology use in education. Some have come to own the discourse and see themselves as agents of change in these reforms. Others are more tentative and have expressed some forms of resistance. The production of ambivalent subjectivities can also be observed as neoliberal policies worked through the hard disciplines of measurement and visibility and the softer entreaties of self-management and self-improvement. This results in lecturers having to pay a high price of academic labour and occupational stress. I have also discovered that diverse forms of pedagogical practices were carried out when lecturers moved their courses online. These varied outcomes were caused by a confluence of different contexts and mechanisms. This study offers a unique insight into how national and institutional policies developed by a highly technocratic and pragmatic state have come to govern the rationalities and practices of lecturers in one institution. I conclude by reviewing the ethical aim of my study and propose how higher education needs to engage with critical pedagogy. I aim to identify spaces within my professional work context where alternatives to the pragmatic and the rational may be imagined, discussed and enacted.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Education Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • edd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager