From the ground up: A comprehensive theoretical framework of computer based scaffolding

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Andrew Walker


Scaffolding was initially defined as the "process that enables a child or novice 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) . Wood et al. (1976) listed the six scaffolding "functions" as: recruitment, reduction in degrees of freedom, direction maintenance, marking critical features, frustration control, and demonstration. In the 38 years since, scaffolding has expanded to many content areas and educational levels (Reiser, 2004). Many researchers have provided additional frameworks for understanding scaffolding. Kali and Linn (2008) organized scaffolding under four "Meta-Principles" and eight "Pragmatic Principles" such as: making thinking visible, promoting autonomous lifelong learning, enable three-dimensional manipulation, and encourage reflection (Kali & Linn, 2008). Quintana et al. (2004) organized a framework of scaffolding functions by looking at the process of "sense making". While existing scaffolding frameworks (e.g., Authors, 2011; Ge & Land, 2004; Kali & Linn, 2008; Lin et al., 1999; Kim & Hannafin, 2011; Puntambekar & Kolodner, 2005; Reiser, 2004; Quintana et al., 2004), have made important contributions, they do not seamlessly integrate into a single framework. Furthermore, no single framework or conglomeration of multiple frameworks has kept pace with the terms, functions and forms present throughout existing empirical research. This has led some researchers to argue that scaffolding has become too broad (Pea, 2004; Puntambekar & Hubscher, 2005) while others have called for a common theoretical framework from which scaffolding can be understood and evaluated (Quintana et al., 2004). Months into a two-year National Science Foundation (NSF) funded meta-analysis on computer-based scaffolding, it became apparent that existing frameworks (Kali & Linn, 2008; Quintana et. al., 2004; Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976) were insufficient to characterize the broad range of scaffolding literature. We thus decided to create a new theoretical model through the grounded theory approach. The purpose of this research is to develop a single scaffolding framework that (a) includes an inductively defined list of scaffolding forms and functions and (b) covers computer-based scaffolding used in classroom contexts as well as intelligent tutoring systems.

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