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Using scaffolding strategies for improving student science practical skills
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Paper presented at the 12th Hawaii International Conference on Education, Honolulu, Hawaii, 5-8 January 2014
Learning in the 21st century is focused on information management and students are expected to be developed as inquiry learners instead of just knowledge gatherers. As inquiry learners, they have to be observant, for example when conducting experiments in the laboratory, and to make use of information to solve or complete science-related problems or tasks. Traditionally, science practical skills are assessed through single-session laboratory-based examinations and students are prepared through drill-and-practice strategies. However, school systems around the world today have chosen to adopt course-based science practical assessment which assesses students on their abilities to identify and select appropriate hands-on skills when conducting laboratory experiments. Thus, there is a need to help students prepare for this change in practical assessment format and one established way is the use of scaffolding strategies. Although scaffolding is a tried and tested method to help students master new knowledge and skills in many school subjects, its effectiveness in school science practical work has not been thoroughly investigated. This paper reports some of the current work done in Singapore schools where the use of scaffolding strategies in preparing students for school-based practical assessment is being studied. The findings from these studies are significantly positive and do indicate the potential of scaffolding strategies in helping students become more motivated and skilful in science practical work.
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