My friend and fellow professor wanted to talk about her use of scaffolding in class but couldn’t quite remember the word. As you can see from the image of our conversation, ‘laddering’ is the new phrase (but not quite helpful in a Google search).
I can’t imagine not 'laddering’ my larger assignments in the classroom. I see this as necessary for the instructor and students. I tend to use semester-long team projects in my courses and find scaffolding key for my learning goals for these assignments. The team projects are generally broken down into four phases: idea generation, work in progress, final product, and reflection. The final step, reflection, is used to intentionally reflect on teamwork processes at the end and is not necessarily part of my scaffolding like the first three phases.
The first step in my team project scaffolding is idea generation. This step is as much for me as it as for my students. I get a sneak preview of what they plan to do and do some course correction as needed. My students are forced to make decisions about their project as a team early on. It’s also important to do team building, such as a team contract, at this step. Once the topic is established, we can apply it to course material in class discussions allowing us to have integration from the assignment to the class.
The second step is the ‘work in progress’ step, which helps me provide feedback on what the team is lacking for their final product. It is important this step is spaced appropriately from the final product step to allow for enough time to make necessary changes and corrections. This step often takes the form of an informal paper showing data collection efforts or a rough draft of a final paper. I see this step as a means to show me accurate applications and information gathering, but they are not penalized for inaccuracies at this step (they are in the final product). For team projects, this is a good time for me to check-in with teams to help with any social loafing or conflict. From a student perspective, they’ve had to do most of the ‘work’ on the project by this step but not convey it professionally yet.
The final product step is when the team present’s their project and possibly turn in a final paper. There are no last minute topic changes or data collection because they’ve had to turn those in already. The students can focus on delivering a great presentation and/or paper.
Scaffolding allows my students to work on specific applications and skills one at a time. For students, step one focuses on setting up good teamwork processes, step two focuses on accurate content applications and information gathering, step three focuses on communicating ideas to an audience, and step four is reflecting on teamwork successes and failures. From my perspective, I can constantly check on the progress and help where needed instead of grading it all at the end where either substance or style may have been sacrificed for the other. If students had one assignment to turn in at the end of the semester, instructors would miss out on intentionally building these skills into their assignment.
guest post written by Kat Narciso
Kathryn Narciso (jake_steele): Kathryn is a Lecturer of Psychological Science at the University of North Georgia. While teaching at UNG, she is also finishing her doctorate at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she has a focus on Industrial/Organizational psychology.