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Scaffolding Instruction Toolkit: Best Practices

Background information, tools, resources, and ideas for learning more about and implementing scaffolded instruction

Best Practices, Scaffolding

Scaffolding Best Practice
The literature suggests several ways to implement scaffolding.  This list compiles general best practices.

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  • Break a skill or concept into three levels, such as Introduce, Reinforce, and Enhance/Build  (Lemire & Graves, 2019).
  • Scaffolds should complement instructional objectives and learning outcomes (NIU, 2015).
  • Provide transparency about the scaffolding process, purposes of the assignment, and learning outcomes (Skene & Fedko, 2012).
  • Avoid the use of scholarly jargon in communicating this (Caruana, 2012).
  • Connect students' current knowledge with their prior knowledge. Be explicit about how new skills and tasks connect to previously introduced, reinforced, or enhanced skills (Sardo & Sindelar, 2019).
  • Front load concept-specific vocabulary (Mulvahill, 2018).
  • Model.  Use "think aloud" or verbalize your thinking process when completing a task (Pinantoan, 2013).
  • Ask students to engage in self-reflection about their learning process and task progress (Sardo & Sindelar, 2019).
  • Use a variety of scaffolds, such as Advance Organizers, Guided Questions (Sardo & Sindelar, 2019), Mind Maps, and More as students progress through a task, skill, or concept (NIU, 2015).
  • Create a curriculum map or outline of how each major assignment/assessment is scaffolded (Caruana, 2012).

Image by Bhuvaneswaran, S.

Best Practices, Scaffolding IL

Information Literacy Scaffolding
The literature also offers tips for scaffolding information literacy (IL).  Here is a list of best practices specific to IL.

  • Scaffold a class session, such as a one-shot, in four levels (NIU, 2015).
    • Instructor models.
    • The class does it.
    • Groups or partners do it.
    • The individual does it.
  • Level information literacy outcomes and learning domains (Witek, 2016).

Associate Dean for Public Services at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Stephanie N. Otis suggests teaching sorce skills before search skills in her contribution to Marta M. Deyrup's book Successful Strategies for Teaching Undergraduate Research.

  • Teach students how to work from a single source before teaching them how to search.
  • Teach students the skill of summarizing and evaluating before searching for their own sources.
  • Have students trace the authors' use of sources and other research in their work.
  • Instruct and practice similarities and differences among primary/secondary sources, scholarly/trade/popular before asking students to find their own.
  • Give more "attention to the meaning of information and less to the tools and mechanics of search."