ERIC Number: ED446926
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1998-Apr
Integrating Elements of Inquiry into the Flow of Middle Level Teaching.
Flick, Lawrence B.
This paper is a part of a research program whose purpose it is to design instruction for scaffolding classroom inquiry in middle school classrooms. Scaffolding is a dynamic process, reflecting teacher adjustments based on student responses. Even though a computer, textbook, or laboratory materials may serve as proxy for a "teacher", arguably the most important source of scaffolding in a classroom is the flesh and blood teacher. The teacher decides, consciously or unconsciously, how and when to use a computer, textbook, or laboratory materials. The actions of the teacher are also the primary mediator of the scaffolding effects of other classroom materials. The purpose of inquiry-based instruction is to prompt focused effort on a specific problem. The effort includes recall and application of relevant knowledge and implementation of procedures for generating, analyzing, and interpreting data. Mental effort for inquiry requires evaluation of the fit among a problem statement, recalled knowledge, and evidence either empirical or theoretical. This type of thinking requires self-monitoring of one's understanding of the problem and processes undertaking to solve it. Middle level students are just beginning to show the capabilities for the kinds of thought necessary for scientific inquiry. However, most of the evidence for these thinking skills is clinically based (Keating, 1990). Classroom-based reasoning situations do not afford the time, focus, and cues for employing critical thinking. Cognitive scaffolding is necessary to support student thinking necessary for benefiting from inquiry-based instruction. Cognitive scaffolding has been defined as what a teacher does when working with a student "to solve a problem, carry out a task, or achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted efforts: (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976, p.90). As a psychological construct, it refers to a cognitive orientation in the teacher to select and structure tasks, communicate purpose, and hold expectations with the intention of guiding student work at the limits of their independent capabilities. Scaffolding also refers to an affective orientation in the teacher that is sensitive to variations in student cognitive and affective capabilities that results in adjusting elements of the task or context that promotes continued student effort. For scaffolding to work, however, there must be a complementary cognitive and affective orientation in the student. The student must be willing to apply existing knowledge and make active use of the teacher or other resources to leverage that knowledge toward a learning goal. Student affect must be willing to accept less than immediate gratification and persevere in the task. (Contains 17 references.) (Author/YDS)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (San Diego, CA, April 19-22, 1998).