The Scaffolded Knowledge Integration Framework for Instruction (Linn, Davis, & Eylon, 2004)

Linn, M.C., Davis, E.A., & Eylon, B. (2004). The Scaffolded Knowledge Integration Framework for Instruction. In M. C. Linn, E. A. Davis, & P. Bell (Eds.), Internet environments for science education (pp. 47–72). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

The authors translate their “knowledge integration perspective” into concrete, actionable principles for designers of science inquiry projects. Overall, these principles comprise the “scaffolded knowledge integration framework.”The scaffolded knowledge integration framework translates our knowledge integration perspective on learning into guidance for those designing science instruction (p.47). Design principles can synthesize the pragmatic aspects of practice, capture results from compelling comparisons, and inform theories of learning (Kali, 2002) (p.47).

As a first step towards communicating design knowledge, the authors put forth four meta-principles based on instructional research in several contexts. These meta-principles are (p. 47-8):

  1. make science accessible – build on student ideas; provide personally relevant examples
  2. make thinking visible – Model scientific thinking; scaffold students to make their thinking visible; provide multiple representations
  3. help students learn from others – Encourage listening to others; design discussions; highlight cultural norms
  4. promote autonomy and lifelong learning – Encourage monitoring; provide complex projects; revisit and generalize inquiry processes; scaffold critique

Make science accessible: build on student ideas; provide personally relevant examples

-Resonates with the work of Piaget (Inhelder and Piaget, 1958/1972), Vygotsky, (1978), and Dewey (1901). Contributes to knowledge integration by building on what students know. Instructors should design material that connect students’ ideas and encourage students to reconsider their existing ideas (p.48).

-Involves adding ideas to the mix that students bring to science class, scaffolding the inquiry process so that students generate new connections, and providing support that move students in a normative direction. It also involves ensuring that students connect ideas in a web such that they are prepared to revisit science in everyday life rather than isolate school science. Finally, it means ensuring that students get feedback on their reasoning that motivates them to continue to learn science rather than to either give up on understanding science or on taking more science courses (p.55).

Build on student ideas

Designers often make science inaccessible by selecting abstract expert examples rather than choosing examples consistent with student understanding. Models are selected for being illuminating rather than because they contain ideas that resonate with the experiences of students. “When students encounter such abstract or in comprehensible models, they often revert to a memorization approach to learning and isolate the new ideas rather than connect them to existing ideas (Linn & Hsi, 2000)” (p.50-1).

Students’ epistemological ideas about science affect the development of their science understanding (Bell & Linn, 2002). Illustrating wrong paths, shaky assumptions, and inadequate interpretations will also illustrate the cultural influences of science practice and help students reinterpret their ideas (p.51). Piaget’s clinical interviewing method: students are often asked to connect their views to those of their peers. This may force the learner to generate an explanation that shows why their ideas will hold up under new circumstances or in different settings. They may also reveal dimensions of the situation that the learner had neglected (p.51).

Research on accessible examples include “benchmark lessons” (Minstrell, 2000), “bridging analogies” (Clement, 1993), or “anchored instruction” (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt [CTGV], 1997). Likewise, diSessa (2000) described the critical role that those intuitive ideas play in how students make sense of science. With technology, in fact, ideas that were once considered far beyond students’ ken are now feasible to teach in middle school or high school (p.51).

Designing problems at the right level of complexity such that they both encourage students to generate alternative solutions and help students distinguish among those solutions have advantages for lifelong learning (Brunner,1979; Kintsch,1998; Linn, in press; and Stiegler & Heibert, 1999). Examples can both promote and discourage knowledge integration. Luchins Water Jar problem, for example, in which students continue to engage in a multistep process even when a single step process could succeed. Schoenfeld (1987) extended this finding to mathematics instruction showing that students often apply procedures rather than an inquiry process. Reif and Larkin (1991) demonstrated that students often learn to manipulate formulas without insight (p.51-2).

Provide personally relevant examples

Students reason about personally relevant problems such as determining how to keep a drink cold more effectively than laboratory problems such as cooling a beaker of water because they contrast  their own ideas with class ideas (Linn & Hsi, 2000; Songer & Linn, 1991). Clement (1993) referred to successful examples as bridging analogies because they help students connect scientific ideas to more familiar situations they encounter in their lives (p. 52).

Student also need to participate in the process of inquiry to integrate their ideas. Krajcik, Blumenfeld, et al. (1998) used “driving questions” to ground students’ investigations in personally meaningful, sustainable, and challenging inquiry contexts (p.52).

Complex, confusing examples compared to straightforward examples can encourage students to reconsider the connections in their knowledge web with appropriate scaffolding. Bjork (1999), Kintsch (1998): when students encounter verbally presented information that seems straightforward and logical, they recall less than when the information takes more effort to understand. An outline that aligns perfectly with a text it helps learners immediately; however, an outline that aligns poorly with the text elicits more inquiry and ultimately enhances long-term recall (Kintsch, 1998). Similarly, students learn material such as foreign language vocabulary better when they practice, perform an intervening task that results in some forgetting, and then practice some more rather than when they skip the complex, intervening test (Bjork, 1994). In both of these examples, the successful condition required students to spend time testing their ideas and resolving apparent discrepancies (p.53).

Lynn and Eylon (2000): contrasted a principal condition with an enhanced experimental condition. In the principal condition, students connected their ideas to examples with and without feedback and wrote principles to summarize the results, thus making connections at multiple levels of analysis. In the experimental condition, students performed multiple experiments, including experiments they designed themselves, and explained their results but did not abstract principles. Result: The two conditions were equally successful immediately but the principal condition was more successful on the delayed post tests, supporting the advantage of scaffolding inquiry to encourage connections at several levels of analysis. Also see Eylon and Helfman (1984) (p.53).

Designers should provide well-designed examples combined with scaffolding that incorporates a representative range of contexts to promote knowledge integration. The scaffolding should spur comparison, reorganizations, and even critiques of views in the repertoire of ideas (p. 53).

Pivotal cases (Linn & Hsi, 2000) are complex examples that enable students to reorganize and sort out their ideas and come up with a more cohesive and normative account of a scientific phenomena. Research to date suggest four criteria for pivotal cases: 1) designers should provide a compelling comparison distinguishing two situations to illustrate the key ideas and central variable; 2) designers need to place inquiry in an accessible, relevant environment; 3) designers should provide feedback to promote pro-normative self monitoring; 4) designers should enable narrative accounts of science (p.54).

Make thinking visible: Model scientific thinking; scaffold students to make their thinking visible; provide multiple representations

-Involves modeling and evaluating how ideas are connected and sorted out to form new knowledge webs (Bransford, Brown, et al., 1999; Collins, Brown, and Holum, 1991; Linn, 1995) (p. 55).

-Provides valuable opportunities for students to exercise the interpretive process of knowledge integration, which requires careful attention to the views added to the repertoire of ideas and to the context for generation of explanations. Limiting opportunities to interpret complex ideas may interfere with learning. Designers can take advantage of the propensity of learners to monitor progress by providing feedback linked to articulation of views (p. 60).

Model scientific thinking

Scientists can show students how they discover new ideas to add to their mix of ideas, but they are even more effective if they also show students how they detect failures, deal with negative feedback, and communicate with others (p. 57). See Reif and Scott, 1999 for a computer-based model of expert problem-solving strategies. Role models can encourage students to distinguish among their notions, interpret feedback from others, reconsider information in light of experimental findings, and develop a commitment to scientific endeavor (p. 57). Also see Kozma et al., 1996.

Scaffold students to make their thinking visible

Common strategies include essay assessments, prompts (sentence starters), SenseMaker, causal mapping tools — these support students in making sense of the factors that come into play in scientific models.

-Involves inspecting and reorganizing one’s knowledge web; reconciling ideas when reorganizing these knowledge webs to resolve incompatibilities. Students strengthen their knowledge web when they distinguished their ideas in a new context and when they augment existing links and enrich the contexts where the element applies. Ultimately, learners benefit from making their thinking visible by creating their own representations. (DiSessa, 2000; Maher and Martino, 2001). Students learn more when they monitor their own process, stop and reflect, critique their own methodologies, and invent and refine representations of their experimental findings (Chi, de Leeuw, et al., 1994; Davis and Linn, 2000; diSessa, 2000; White and Frederiksen, 1998).

Provide multiple representations

-Computer animations, modeling programs, dynamic representations, and scientific visualizations make scientific processes and ideas visible (so do online forums). Design of examples to take advantage of symbolic, episodic, visual, verbal, kinesthetic, and other types of memory can improve learning because recall of one type of representation can support recall of another type of representation of the same material (Baddeley and Longman, 1978) (p. 59).

Visualization and representation can lead to understanding as well as confusion (Hegarty, Quilici, et al., 1999; Tversky, 1977). Learners need the opportunity to understand the visualization and conduct experiments with it. Students benefited more from real-time graphing if they first predict the outcome and then test their predictions (Linn & Hsi, 2000; Linn & Songer, 1991). Students may also find the efforts at visible thinking inaccessible and end up avoiding knowledge integration. Models can also deter students from critical thinking and problem-solving by either providing an illusion of comprehension or encouraging memorizing (p. 60).

Help students learn from others: Encourage listening to others; design discussions; highlight cultural norms

-Takes advantage of the collective knowledge in the classroom community. Encouraging students to analyze and build on ideas from peers can introduce new perspectives and motivate students to interpret their own ideas. Also, when students interact, they connect to the cultural aspect of learning by bringing to light the alternative views held by learners and the criteria used to interpret ideas. Finally, by enabling students to question peers and authorities, social supports can encourage the deliberate nature of learning. These insights result in pragmatic pedagogical principles associated with helping students learn from each other (p. 60).

-Class discussions, peer collaboration, online discussion. and class debate help students learn from others and learn about the varied norms, argument preferences, and beliefs associated with the cultural nature of knowledge integration.To take advantage of learners’ natural propensity to add ideas, discussions need participants with varied expertise. To help students generate connections, scaffolds are needed to encourage critique and linking of ideas (p. 64).

Encourage listening to others

-Many researchers have stressed how communities of learners can help students become more deliberate learners with better ability to monitor their progress (Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1993; AL Brown and Campione, 1994; Cohen, 1984; Heller, Heller, and Heller, 2001; Pea, 1987. Cohen (1984), for example, described the complex interactions that take place between pairs of students and identified interaction mechanisms that succeed and fail. Communities of learners, like individuals, can make progress using knowledge integration mechanisms. Aronson (1978) described the jigsaw in which groups of individuals specialize in different aspects of a complex domain and follow a process of forming new groups from the prior groups to jointly compare and contrast their ideas and assertions to build a broader and more comprehensive understanding of the situation. Design principles summarized in the reciprocal teaching approach to instruction encourage students to compare ideas about complex situations (p. 61-2).

Design discussions
Online asynchronous discussion tools when properly designed can encourage all learners to participate. Classroom assignments to contribute to online discussions typically have far more success than do similar assignments when used for class discussion. In online discussion, students have time to reflect, incorporate ideas of others, and compose their contributions carefully rather than rapidly forming imperfect arguments. Often in class discussions, students pay little attention to the contributions of others and make contributions that lack reflection or connection to classroom evidence. In online discussion, students may consider more ideas generated by peers, provide more warrants for their ideas, and articulate their norms for evidence more carefully (Hsi, 1997).

Design challenges include ensuring that persuasive, unproductive or unfruitful ideas are balanced with alternative views (Linn and Burbules, 1993), providing equitable opportunities for students to participate in scientific discourse (A. L. Brown and Campione, 1994; Lave and Wenger,  1991; Lemke, 1990; Sadker & Sadker, 1994) and enabling communities to devise agreed-on norms or criteria (Saxe, Gearhart, et al., 1993).

Highlight cultural norms

To become a community of learners, students negotiate shared criteria for scientific reasoning and shared standards for scientific argument. Developing shared criteria for science projects can improve group progress on scientific understanding (White  Frederiksen, 1998). Also see (H.C. Clark, 1996).

Employ multiple social structures — technology can play a significant role here.

Promote autonomy and lifelong learning: Encourage monitoring; provide complex projects; revisit and generalize inquiry processes; scaffold critique

-Involves establishing a rich comprehensive inquiry process that students can apply to varied problems both in science class and throughout their lives. Students need to guide their own learning, recognize new ideas, and develop a view of effective inquiry to become autonomous  science learners.

-To become responsible for their own learning in carrying out projects, students need to recognize new ideas and to decide whether these ideas make sense. Instruction that elicits provocative ideas takes advantage of the interpretive nature of learning (even when the ideas lack credibility) by motivating learners to distinguish them from powerful ideas (p. 65).

Encourage monitoring

-Goal is to motivate learners to review the connections in their knowledge network and evaluate their success — can be done via requests to monitor progress and respond to feedback (Chi, de Leeuw, et al., 1994; Davis, 2003a).  Encourage students to look for incongruities, identify gaps and establish a plan for their own future activities. Unambiguous feedback in the form of, for example, specific organizations for information may derail personal monitoring and stand in the way of individually constructed networks. (p. 66).

-Generating a summary, account, outline, set of questions helps monitor progress; generating reflections on a topic can  help students develop a more robust understanding. Knowledge integration = connections between the topic, their own ideas, and the ideas they have studied (p. 66).

-Designers must balance feedback with opportunities for students to evaluate their own ideas (so they may form norms for their networks or explanations) (p. 66).

Provide complex projects

Behaviorists tend to favor more controlled instructional settings  over complex cases and problems (ACT theory; Anderson, 1982). Software based on this area of research inhibit generation of unsuccessful steps in problem solving.

“By developing concentrated, cohesive knowledge webs students can deal with the more dilute ideas that arise naturally. By concentrated we mean webs that have links to all the nuances of the situation and that clarify the central and peripheral notions of the topic. When students already have some comprehensive ideas, they are more likely to connect new ideas to more powerful ideas, and they also can begin to develop a set of criteria for their own organization of ideas. To succeed in developing such webs, students need to engage in sustained reasoning, to encounter ideas in multiple contexts, and to prepare themselves to recognize ideas in familiar contexts” (p. 68).

Revisit and generalize inquiry processes

-Students need a repertoire of approaches to inquiry that they can reuse. By highlighting common aspects of inquiry (critiquing perspectives, designing experiments, making predictions, interpreting perspectives, and forming arguments), on can help students recognize general inquiry skills.

-By making revisiting of ideas part of instruction, designers mimic the experience of lifelong learning in which students might encounter an instructed topic outside of class (p. 69).

-Retrieval of information has a greater impact on learning than additional study of the same info (Bjork, 1994).

-Commonly used software supports: checklist, inquiry map

Scaffold critique

-Conflict among ideas can promote knowledge integration and learning, but it can also cause students to isolate ideas. When conflicts reveal new relations, they can be resolved with more connections.

-Students need to add new ideas to their repertoire, but they also need opportunities to identify weaknesses in their knowledge. This identification, promoted by productive reflection, helps students link ideas and distinguish among others.


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