Fostering Learning with Incremental Scaffolds During Chemical Experimentation: A Study on Junior High School Students Working in Peer-Groups

Mirlinda Mustafa, Anestis Ioannidis, Laura Ferreira González, Timo Dabrowski, Jörg Großschedl


Scaffolds are considered to be a promising method of supporting learning. In this study, we investigated the learning efficacy of scaffolds in an inquiry-based learning scenario. Three tasks posed a question/problem to facilitate inquiry-based learning, and scaffolds offered the answer/solution in multiple steps (so-called incremental scaffolds). The use of the scaffolds was voluntary and students’ learning efficacy was compared with a traditional teaching approach. A total of N = 105 seventh graders participated in the quasi-experimental study. Incremental scaffolds were available to the students in the treatment group. Students in the control group received the same question/problem but could only ask the teacher about the answer/solution. Concept maps were used at pre- and posttest to assess conceptual knowledge acquisition. In-line with our hypothesis, results show that students in the treatment group outperformed controls concerning conceptual knowledge acquisition. Regarding the number of misconceptions students used, there were no differences between the groups. Our study indicates that incremental scaffolds are an appropriate method to provide students with the exact help they really need. Based on our findings, we offer practical implications and recommendations for future research.

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