Scaffolded Learning using Smart Worksheets

Ashleigh Steele
March 11, 2022

Scaffolded Smart Worksheets have removed the intensive marking burden of traditional lab reports, whilst increasing student grades. Dr. Roy Lowry shares his experiences of using Smart Worksheets as chemistry module lead for Foundation Year at Plymouth University.

Scaffolded Learning is an instructional method that leads students through a concept or process, progressively increasing their independence and understanding. Support is gradually removed as the student becomes more confident and autonomous at the task.

Illustration of students climbing steps and helping each other to ascend.

To truly measure a student’s ability to understand a concept or undertake a process within an online assessment, a formative task closely matched in format must precede it. Otherwise, a summative assessment may simply just measure how well a student can navigate the particular interface used. Our Smart Worksheets can act as both formative teaching tools and summative assessments. Educators are able to scaffold learning in an online format as the degree of feedback and support given to the student can be tailored.

The payback in terms of revenue time year-on-year was very significant. In the long run it has saved me a lot of time, a lot of energy, and students get better feedback. It’s a win win situation!
Dr. Roy Lowry, Associate Professor at Plymouth University

With a Foundation Year student cohort increase of over 50% in only three years at Plymouth University, the labour intensive marking burden of lab assessments swelled. Marking the students’ lab reports and mark books before the next lab session became impossible without compromising on the level of feedback provided.

To address this challenge, Smart Worksheets were implemented to replace the traditional lab reports for each session. The first in a pair was formative, with instant feedback providing students with guidance throughout, whilst the second was summative, requiring the same knowledge but applying the students’ understanding to a new situation without feedback. The purpose behind this paired approach was highlighted to the students before they began, along with instruction and demonstration of how the interface was to be used.

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The following benefits were seen in the Foundation Year at Plymouth University from using scaffolded Smart Worksheets:

  • An estimated 100 hours of marking time is saved every year across the module. This allows more of the educators’ time to be spent on student support and curriculum development.
  • Students gain instant detailed feedback on their lab assessments before they attend the next lab session.
  • Average student marks increased for the summative lab assessment.
  • Student satisfaction did not decrease with this change in assessment format.

Use Scaffolded Learning to support your students on the journey to becoming autonomous, by implementing Smart Worksheets. Browse our Smart Worksheet Collection covering fundamental scientific skills and much more across chemistry and biosciences. Contact us to find out how Smart Worksheet settings can be customised to meet your teaching needs.