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Paper: An Introduction to Backwards Faded Scaffolding in the ASTRO 101 Laboratory Course
Volume: 443, Earth and Space Science: Making Connections in Education and Public Outreach
Page: 389
Authors: Slater, S. J.; Slater, T. F.; Lyons, D. J.; Sibbernsen, K.; Robison, P.
Abstract: The Boyer Report, “Reinventing Undergraduate Education,” eloquently argues that all undergraduate coursework would benefit greatly by being framed as authentic research experiences where students create and defend knowledge. Yet, our experience in guiding students to do research projects using astronomical databases has demonstrated time and time again that the most difficult aspect of engaging in scientific research is helping students identify and frame a fruitful research question itself. To scaffold students’ learning experiences to help them ask better research questions, we have adopted a backwards faded scaffolding approach where students do multiple inquiry experiences, rather than a single protracted one. In this approach, we first carefully guide students through an entire astronomical inquiry sequence, from giving them the targeted research question through an accurate scientific conclusion tightly matched to the research question. Then, for their second inquiry experience, students generate their conclusions independently, with the previous experience set out as a guide. Students are required to make sense of data that has been purposefully planned, collected, and analyzed with instructor guidance. They construct and defend conclusions based upon data that is, effectively, given to them. By the time students reach their third inquiry, they have been exposed to two experiences in which they were guided through. During this third inquiry, data collection and analysis become independent tasks. By the fourth inquiry, students have received explicit instruction on the connection between the research questions and the procedure undertaken to address them three times. They are prepared to take responsibility for creating a plausible method for collecting data given a research prompt. By the fifth inquiry, students have now seen four examples of quality research questions/hypotheses and their relationship to procedures, data collection, and conclusions. At this point students are finally positioned to successfully conduct an entire inquiry.
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