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  Feature Name: System of scaffolds for participating in a cognitive practice
Author: Janet Kolodner

Category: Inquiry Tools: Guided inquiry

Subject: NA

Kind: Work Environment

 Elementary School
 Middle School
 High School
 Higher Education
 Teachers & Principals


Software URL: SMILE

Created by: Owensby, Ericson & Kolodner

Reference URL

This Feature is connected to (2) Principles
  • Communicate the rich diversity of inquiry
  • Model scientific thinking
    Feature in Visual Map
    SMILE is a suite of scaffolding tools, each of which helps with a variety of planning, doing, and reflection/interpretation activities. The tools are integrated through a system of scaffolding that repeats in each tool. SMILEs system of scaffolding has 5 parts: (1) tool sequences make process sequence visible (e.g., interpret a case, try to apply its lessons, assess how good its application might be),(2) within each tool, structured questioning makes the task sequence clear (e.g., in designing an experiment, identify the question to be asked and hypothesis, the variable to be varied, the ones that need to be kept constant, number of trials, ...), (3) for each task in the sequence, SMILE has hints and (4) sample nice answers, and (5) for some tasks in the sequence, SMILE provides a template or chart to help with lining up ones reasoning (e.g., the design decisions chart mentioned above).
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    Our experience is that learners need more than just a single feature in a system to be able to successfully participate in complicated practices (carry out complicated cognitive skills). Cognitive apprenticeship tells us of a whole system of scaffolding needed to help learners learn cognitive skills -- modeling, coaching through the steps in the process, scaffolding of individual pieces of the process, and so on. Whats needed changes over time as learners develop their capabilities over time. No single scaffold or feature can provide this. Weve therefore designed our scaffolding as a system of scaffolds, each meeting a different developmental need and all integrated with each other in ways that allow learners to use the parts they need.
    Context of Use:
    SMILE is designed to be used in any middle-school project-based inquiry classroom, whether science, math, or social studies. Its planning tools (e.g., designing an experiment, designing a model, preparing for a pin-up presentation) are used for getting ready for an activity that will come next. Its reflection tools (e.g., experimental results, solution-in-progress presentation) are used after completing some important project activity. Students use the tools in small groups -- the same group they are working with on their project. Or, they can use the tool individually. Reflection tools are usually used before a class presentation, and discussions following presentations may cause users to want to revise what theyve written. Students can publish what theyve written for others to see. Those in other classes are particularly interested in reading and commenting, as they havent had the chance to hear presentations about work reported. It should be noted that SMILEs tools are meant to be used only after students have had experience carrying out the reasoning it helps with. If theyve had that experience, they know how hard it is and what they need help with. That also keeps us, as tool designers, from having to introduce the process.
    Field-based Evidence:
    In classrooms where SMILEs tools have been used for preparing for presentation activities, the level of discussion in the classroom was far higher than when the tools were not used (Kolodner & Nagel, 1999). When some students in a class used SMILEs Case Interpretation Tool and Case Application Tool (Owensby & Kolodner, 2002), their case interpretations and ability to apply a cases lessons to their challenge was considerably ahead of those who had not used the tool (Owensby & Kolodner, submitted)
    Owensby, J. & Kolodner, J.L. (2002, in press). Case Application Suite: Promoting Collaborative Case Application in Learning By Design™ Classrooms. Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, CSCL-2002, Jan 2002, pp. 505-506.

    Owensby, J.N. & Kolodner, J.L. (submitted). Helping Middle Schoolers Use Cases To Reason: The Case Interpretation Tool.

    Kolodner, J.L. and Nagel, K. (1999). The Design Discussion Area: A Collaboration Learning Tool in Support of Learning from Problem-Solving and Design Activities. Proceedings of CSCL 99. Palo Alto, CA, 300-307.

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