Academic Profile : Faculty

Mary Anne Heng's photo for NIE website (rev)_1_1_2.jpg picture
Assoc Prof Heng, Mary Anne
Associate Professor, National Institute of Education - Policy, Curriculum and Leadership
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Mary Anne Heng is Associate Professor, Policy, Curriculum and Leadership at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

Dr. Heng has a track record of academic leadership at NIE. Until 2021, Dr. Heng was Associate Dean, Higher Degrees and Strategic Partnerships at the Office of Graduate Studies and Professional Learning at NIE, NTU. As Associate Dean for six years, Dr. Heng led the academic, intellectual and administrative conceptualisation, development and implementation of NIE’s graduate programmes. These programmes included: the NIE Doctor in Education, Doctor in Education Dual Award by NIE, NTU and University College London Institute of Education, Master of Arts in Leadership and Educational Change joint programme by NIE, NTU and Teachers College, Columbia University, and Master of Arts in Professional Education. She was Acting Head of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning (2006 - 2015), Head, Early Childhood and Special Needs Education (2004 - 2005) and Head, Specialised Education (2002 - 2004) at NIE, and led and oversaw teaching and research programmes in gifted education, special needs education and early childhood education.

As Director, Master of Arts in Leadership and Educational Change (2012 - 2015), a signature programme jointly offered by NIE, NTU and Teachers College, Columbia University, she provided academic and administrative direction for the first graduate programme worldwide with a dual focus on organisational and curriculum leadership for a new generation of senior education leaders in Singapore and the region. As Associate Dean, NIE, she played an important role in the founding of NIE’s new Master of Science (Science of Learning) programme and establishing the collaboration between NIE and NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

Dr. Heng was awarded the Nanyang Technological University Overseas Graduate Scholarship for her doctoral studies. She earned her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she was awarded the International Student Scholarship and Milestone Award from Teachers College, Columbia University for academic excellence in doctoral studies. She holds a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Science (Upper Class Honours) in Physics from the National University of Singapore. In 2006, she also completed a leadership programme for women professors and administrators at the Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Heng’s work focuses on critical issues and interrelationships in teaching, learning, policy and leadership that drive purposeful and transformative educational change. She researches and publishes in the areas of youth purpose, meaning and wellbeing, curriculum innovation and leadership, and in differentiated curricula and teaching for diverse learners in regular classrooms.

She has been the Principal Investigator (PI) of several major grants, three of which involve international research partnerships with Israel and the USA in the areas of youth purpose, meaning, life satisfaction or wellbeing and gifted education. Her research projects on youth purpose are the first in-depth studies in Singapore to tackle the question of purpose and meaning head-on to learn from adolescents what matters to them in school, and thus begin deeper and more critical discussions about what purposeful education is, and should look like in Singapore schools. She believes that what our youth tell us about their school and lived experiences, their sense of larger purpose and meaning (or lack of) can become much more than a guidepost or inspiration. These indicators are central to the flourishing of the self in relation to the larger school and community and can become an organising principle for curriculum decisions, educational policy and governance.

Since 2018, Dr. Heng has been the PI of an interdisciplinary research partnership that brings together the fields of education and health sciences. In collaboration with a senior clinician and professor at a public hospital in Singapore, this research advances a novel contribution: the development of a biopsychosocial paradigm in education that can be applied to investigate the complex interrelationship between life purpose, meaning, social support, psychological states and somatic symptoms. The study problematises Singapore’s high-achieving education system, investigates relatively unexamined aspects of schooling experienced by students, and serves as a catalyst for uncovering and addressing what critically matters in Singapore schooling and how this impacts adolescent development. Dr. Heng received a research award from the Research and Evaluation Division of the National Association for Gifted Children, USA.

Dr. Heng’s most recent book is “Curriculum leadership by middle leaders: Theory, design and practice” (Routledge, 2017; co-edited with Drs. Kelvin Tan and Christina Ratnam-Lim). Her peer-reviewed journal articles have appeared in Cambridge Journal of Education, Journal of Educational Change, Journal of Moral Education, The Curriculum Journal, Teaching in Higher Education, Educational Leadership, Educational Studies in Mathematics, Gifted Child Quarterly, Journal for the Education of the Gifted, Gifted and Talented International, Journal of Special Education, Preventing School Failure, Teacher Education and Special Education, and Intervention in School and Clinic. She is currently writing a sole-authored book, “Finding purpose in high-performance schooling” (Routledge) that calls for a new imperative and educational change that emphasises both the academic and the human purposes of schooling.

A dedicated teacher, Dr. Heng has received three NIE teaching commendation awards. She has taught graduate, leadership, pre-service and in-service courses at NIE. Several of the doctoral students she supervised are in senior academic and leadership positions in universities and schools in Singapore. She pioneered the use of clinical interviews as a powerful approach to formative assessment in the classroom, and, with the use of innovative curriculum models from the fields of gifted and general education as well as key insights from educational theory and research, she leads critical deliberations on enduring educational problems and big ideas for educational innovation and change. Before joining NIE, she taught Physics at Raffles Institution and Nanyang Junior College in Singapore.

Dr. Heng has served as a reviewer for competitive external grants and has served as External Examiner, Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) Primary and PGDE Secondary programmes for The Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as External Examiner, Master of Teaching programme for The Education University of Hong Kong.
Youth purpose, meaning in life and wellbeing; Curriculum innovation, leadership and transformative educational change; Differentiation of curriculum and teaching for diverse learners in the regular classroom
  • Teachers' Educational Purpose and Teacher Professionalism
  • Leading Differentiated Instruction: Perspectives from the Middle
2017: 25 Years Long Service Award, NIE, NTU

2011, 1996, 1995: NIE Excellence in Teaching Commendation, NIE, NTU

1998: Research Brief of the Year, Research & Evaluation Division, National Association for Gifted Children, USA

1997-1998: International Student Scholarship, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA

1996-1997: Milestone Award for Academic Excellence in Doctoral Programme, Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA

1996-1997, 1995-1996: The National Dean’s List, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA

1995–1998: Overseas Graduate Scholarship, Nanyang Technological University, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Fellowships & Other Recognition
2019–2024: Visiting Fellow, Institute of East Asian Education, Tokyo, Japan
Courses Taught
MALC 805 Seminars in Educational Inquiry

MALC 806 Integrative Study Project

MCT 902 Crafting the curriculum

MCT 911 Curriculum implementation and educational change

MCT 913 Differentiating curriculum and teaching for diverse learners

MLS 031 Differentiating curriculum and instruction for diverse learners
Supervision of PhD Students
Lucy Fernandez (PhD, 2019): Are we listening? Exploring perspectives, possibilities and pitfalls of student voice from the Singapore classroom

Rachel Ong Lay Geok (PhD, 2018): Teachers' approaches to designing problems for a problem-based learning environment in Singapore

Theresa Thor Poh Sin (EdD, 2016): An ecological approach to understanding highly able students’ experiences of their academic talent development in a Singapore school