Scaffolding & Student Supports

When planning course assessments, we recommend that you scaffold your assignments and tests. Scaffolding is structuring assignments and course material in a systematic way to support your learning objectives and make the goals and process transparent to students. Ideally, scaffolding should stem from your learning objectives. When scaffolding, you can break learning outcomes into manageable steps using low stakes assessments to help students to succeed in high stakes assignments. Here are two examples: a scaffolded assignment and a scaffolded exam.

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(Figure 4.2: Two Scaffolding Examples: Term Paper and Final Exam)

Scaffolding offers you a chance as a teacher to check students’ understanding of the assessment and provide feedback while they can still make improvements. When scaffolding assessments, you will also want to keep in mind the size of your class and whether or not you have a TA to mark them. The more complicated your scaffolded process is, the more marking there will be. Although ideally we would like to make as many assessments as necessary for our students to learn the skills they need, realistically, we also need to account for the time it takes for students to complete assessments and for us to provide meaningful feedback on them. For more about scaffolding, have a look at the online resource Assignment Scaffolding.

Each level of the scaffolded assessment should also provide relevant student supports. Ask yourself: What additional supports will students need to complete the assessment well? For example, if you assign a research paper, contact your faculty liaison librarian. They can create a library guide for research and can come to your class to talk about how to use the library guide as well as library resources.