Success through Scaffolding

Ed Tech 542 Week 7/8 Reflective Journal Task

Just as scaffolding is necessary in the successful building of a structure the same is true in building foundational knowledge for students that will aide them in achieving success on future endeavors in their learning.  This is especially true in a venture such as employing PBL projects in one’s classroom.  It would be absurd for a teacher to load students into a bus, drop them off in the middle of the woods with no supplies or tools to aide them in navigation or survival, and tell them that the adventure was to find their way back to school.  Sending students on an educational exploration of a PBL without giving them the tools they need for navigation will most likely directly and negatively affect their “survival” or successful completion of the project.  The high motivation and increased student engagement of the project will quickly wane once the students realize they do not know where they are going or how they are going to get there.

To ensure that my PBL has an appropriate level of scaffolding for all students I will employ a tool that my school district has adopted.  This tool is called a “success criteria” and works much like a rubric.  I create my success criteria’s to resemble pyramids because of the visual they present to students of building upon each layer.  In the bottom layer of the pyramid are the base requirements of the project for the student to earn a passing grade.  The next level will include everything in the bottom and an additional element that requires a greater level of understanding.  This continues for approximately four to five levels.  This will enable my students to not only take ownership of their learning through their exploration of the project but it will also allow them to self reflect their level of understanding and give them opportunity to work through cognitive conflict as they attempt to climb the levels of the pyramid and deepen their understanding.

I have found in using this method that there are students who are perfectly happy with doing just the passing requirements.  I have plans in place for these students so that they can not work quickly just to reach this level and coast.  There is always an “extension” of sorts that early finishers work on and ensures that they are practicing the skills that were featured on the pyramid that they elected not to do.  This additional element helps to keep students accountable for the skills and allows me freedom to conference with the student and identify if their reasoning for not working through the pyramid is a cognitive or motivational one.


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