Another pedagogical tool designed to support the teachers in assessing the inquiry skills of their students is the ‘backwards scaffolding’ technique. This technique builds upon the inquiry slider, and was typically introduced at workshops that included teachers who had attended a previous ASELL Schools workshop. In ‘backwards scaffolding’ three versions of an investigation are prepared at the ‘prescribed’, ‘guided’ and ‘open’ levels of inquiry. The different sections of the investigations, which correspond to the essential features of inquiry, are also given out independently. In this manner, students are first supplied with the ‘open’ level of inquiry for the ‘questions’ section of the experiment. If students are struggling to form their own question, they will be given the ‘guided’ version of the ‘questions’ section, and finally the ‘prescribed’ version, if it is required. Once students have completed the ‘questions’ section satisfactorily they will be given the ‘open’ version of the next stage/essential feature, this being the ‘plans’ section, and the process will begin again. Through this process a teacher is able to evaluate their students’ inquiry skills for each of the essential features of inquiry. This directly supports the ability of teachers to teach and asses the final strand of the Australian Curriculum ‘Science Inquiry Skills’. It also helps teachers to identify gaps in their students skills so that future investigations can be tailored to address these skills gaps.
The investigations Science in Your Pocket & Vampire Power have multiple versions, at the ‘prescribed’, ‘guided’ and ‘open’ levels of inquiry. These can be used right away to give backwards scaffolding a go!