Championing innovation in education – Mr James Han

Step into Mr James Han’s classroom, and you may see not only students, but also other teachers from Blangah Rise or other schools.


Being a champion of “open classrooms”, Mr Han hopes to foster a culture of peer learning among educators to promulgate good classroom practices so that our children learn better and experience the joy of learning. On one particular occasion, Mr Han prepared an English lesson on gerunds using the Student Learning Space (SLS) as an online platform. He invited teachers from other schools to come into his classroom to observe and learn together as fellow educators. Following the lesson, they proceeded to the school library where Mr Han shared his lesson design considerations, addressed queries and received feedback on how he could improve on his lesson.


To his students, Mr Han is a dedicated and innovative teacher. To his colleagues, Mr Han plays another important role within the school – that of a School Staff Developer (SSD). He likens the SSD role to that of a pencil sharpener. “We have all used a pencil before and a sharp pencil allows for clear and crisp writing or colouring. We often need to sharpen our pencils regularly after use. If students are like pieces of paper and teachers are the pencils that leave their marks on the paper with knowledge, skills and values, I would be the pencil sharpener that regularly sharpens the pencils, or the competencies of the teachers, so that the knowledge, skills and values that they impart to their students are useful and current.”


Mr Han’s firmly believes that all teachers need to have a firm grasp of the disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge as they have a long-lasting impact on their students. He models lifelong learning and has pursued two Masters degrees, one in curriculum and teaching, and the other in assessment and evaluation. He was an Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Scholar, had made presentations at the ASCD Annual Conference and was part of a global Professional Learning Community with educators from all over the world.


On Blangah Rise Learning Campus, every staff member – teacher, MOE Kindergarten educator, Allied Educator, Executive and Administrative Officer – is in at least one Professional Learning Team (PLT) that looks into work improvement and innovation. Mr Han provides consultancy to the PLTs on their innovation projects. He introduced the Learning Circles protocol and the Scan-Plan-Act-Observe-Reflect (SPAOR) cycle to facilitate planning and discussions among PLTs. He helped the PLTs refine their problems, conduct literature scans and analyse the data collected. He designed a rubric for PLTs to reflect on and evaluate their projects. To celebrate the learning from the innovation projects, he facilitated a Learning Fest where PLTs shared their ideas with one another. That encouraged the cross-pollination of ideas across departments and levels. In 2020, Mr Han will be bringing in an expert in Action Research to work with the PLTs and collaborating with Master Teachers to further raise the quality of teaching in the classrooms.


To regularly affirm staff efforts and encourage the prototyping of ideas, Mr Han started a bi-monthly Staff Bulletin  to showcase innovative practices. For example, the latest issue featured Mdm Liu Cuixian, our MOE Kindergarten Educator, on how she used different pedagogies to motivate preschool children to use the Chinese language in purposeful and authentic contexts. It also highlighted how Mr Leow Qinjin and Mrs Jocelyn Ho used Escape Rooms to create that natural problem-solving environment for students to learn and apply Science concepts.


For his efforts, Mr Han received MOE’s Distinguished InnoChamp Award 2019, which recognises InnoChamps who have exceeded expectations in providing innovation consultancy to their school’s project teams, facilitating innovation discussions among project teams, and advising their school on innovation strategies.


“I hope that one day, I will attain the pinnacle level described in Maxwell’s levels of leadership, where others will follow because of who I am and what I represent,” says Mr Han. “To achieve that, I stay open and cherish all opportunities to learn and better my knowledge base, which would help me to serve better as a leader.”


James - Labelled