Strategic Scaffolding for Scientific Inquiry

Though many national and international science organizations stress the importance of integrating scientific inquiry into classroom instruction, this is often difficult for teachers. Moreover, assessing and scaffolding inquiry skills for students can be even more of a challenge. This paper investigated the student performances in an inquiry-based, situated virtual environment assessment and their descriptions of the experience in a strategically scaffolded conversation that followed it. In the strategic scaffold, or “wraparound,” teachers elicited student’s inquiry pathways and problem solving abilities through a series of scripted and improvised questions. These wraparounds were transcribed and coded to determine students’ inquiry vocabulary usage. Students most frequently discussed using tools to gather data within the world. When coded results from wraparounds were compared with scores, paradoxically the only significant relationship was a negative one between the number of times students talked about using tools and the overall class performance on multiple-choice questions. Student vocabulary usage and the cause of the negative correlation are explored within this paper.