Scaffold student learning

As a teaching academic you might have students from diverse backgrounds and equity groups (such as low socioeconomic (LSES), culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders or mature age) who may not have the academic literacy of their fellow students. They need to be taught academic discourses and skills or be directed to where they can learn such skills.

This is also important for all first-year experience students. First year students may be asked to research, analyse and synthesise ideas and information, and provide a considered response; and there are expectations about the way in which that response should be structured, the kind of information that is valid, and how it should be acknowledged. What assumptions do we make about student knowledge and skills in this area? And how do we currently support their transition into academic culture? 

Deakin University’s Course Design and Delivery Procedure mandates that curriculum designers and teachers:

  • build the academic skills of students in transition into the University learning environment
  • scaffold progress towards the achievement of expected course learning outcomes.

Teaching academic literacies using a scaffolded or a step-by-step approach supports your students’ learning journey. This comprises a ‘variety of instructional techniques used to move students progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process’ (Great Schools Partnership 2015).

­­­ Activity

Scaffolding student learning: tips for getting started

Importantly, scaffolded learning builds knowledge and skills required for students to succeed in their assessment tasks. Here are some ideas to help you design a scaffolded learning approach:

  • List the skills students require to complete each assignment.
  • Consider which of these skills may need to be scaffolded into students’ learning activities in order to prepare them to successfully complete their units.
  • Design small assessment tasks and activities that enable students to practise and build these skills progressively throughout the trimester.
  • Now create a curriculum map that visually depicts how each assignment aligns with scaffolded tasks, skills’ acquisition and content modules/topics.
  • Clearly explain to students the benefits of step-by-step learning and how it is incorporated into their study program.

(Adapted from Caruana 2012)

Teaching academic literacies: a transition toolkit has further examples of teaching activities that you can use or adapt to support students in the development of academic literacies.

Exemplar curriculum map for Deakin’s AIX160

Dr Petra Brown, Unit Chair for AIX160, Introduction to University Study, developed the curriculum map depicted below as a teaching tool to scaffold students’ learning. It progressively maps out week by week content making clear the links with skills’ acquisition and assessment tasks.

This curriculum map was developed as an html file designed to be uploaded to and edited in your CloudDeakin Unit site. Download the Curriculum map (ZIP 104KB) and follow the Curriculum map upload instructions (DOC 25KB). Click on the image below for a larger view.

AIX160 Curriculum map

Download an alternative format here: AIX160 Curriculum map (DOC 28KB)

Further teaching tips for inclusive assessment design are discussed in Make assessment inclusive.


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