Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


THOMAS, Jeff D., Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley Street, New Britain, CT 06050,

Scientific practices include asking scientifically-oriented questions, collecting evidence, formulating evidence-based conclusions, connecting results to valid scientific literature, and communicating findings. Students, however, often have difficulty doing these kinds of scientific practices independently. To assist students, instructors could scaffold the methods of doing science in order for students to be more successful when they conduct inquiry-oriented investigations. Backward faded scaffolding, an instructional strategy, scaffolds the methods of doing science to build students’ knowledge and understanding of science concepts. The four design elements include research questions, procedures, data, and conclusions. This instructional method begins the inquiry process that is teacher centered and leads to a process that is more student centered. As students investigate a concept, the instructor creates a series of inquiry activities that scaffolds students to conduct their own investigations.

To explore this instructional model, a three-step inquiry activity was created for elementary preservice teachers to build their conceptual understanding of the earth-moon-sun system. First, students’ watch a time-lapsed video of a tidal cycle—this is to assess their prior knowledge. The instructor then poses, “what do tidal cycles look like over a 24-hour period?” Using graph paper, students predict this cycle. To assess their prediction, the instructor displays how to collect tidal data from NOAA’s Tides and Currents website. Students graph their results and compare them to their initial prediction. Second, the instructor poses, “how do these tides change over a month?” Again, students predict these cycles, but they now collect their data independently from the NOAA website. Students then draw conclusions by comparing their initial predictions with the data they collected. Third, students brainstorm their own research questions such as “Are all tidal cycles similar among various locations?” Students record their procedures, collect their data, graph their results, and share their conclusions with their peers. Overall, the backward-faded scaffolding improved students’ methods of doing science when compared to iterations prior to this instructional modification.

  • 2012 GSA Presentation-Charlotte NC.pptx (1.7 MB)
  • Sample Student Report.docx (101.0 kB)