Exploring Student Engagement Through Teacher's Scaffolding Practices in Mathematics

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I carried out an action research project at State School, involving four of Year 5 students. The primary purpose of my research was to see whether teacher scaffolding practices support students’ Mathematics learning. The target group for this research was Year 5 weaker students in Mathematics. This research took place during Mathematics problem-solving group activity. The notion of scaffolding, which is a means of coaching students to the extent that they can perform intellectual tasks on their own proposed by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976, as cited in Anghileri, 2006) has a profound effect on children’s learning. Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976, as cited in Paul & Hwa, 2001) in their article ‘The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving’ believe that scaffolding is needed in order to enable a child to solve a problem which is beyond their unassisted effort. This view is also supported by Vygotsky's (1978, as cited in Sukor, Aris & Ali, 2003) socio-cultural approach where child’s interactions with adult or more capable peers is required as an assistance in their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), the area between what children can do independently and what they can do with assistance, to help the child grow intellectually by providing information and support. Proven instructional techniques for teaching Mathematics in the elementary school suggested by Baker, Gersten and Lee (2003, as cited in Bradley, Notar, Herring & Eady, 2008) also includes offering scaffolding to support students’ Mathematics learning. Therefore, it was expected that scaffolding practices would contribute to student development in Mathematics learning. Summary of planned action

In the context of this research, scaffolding practices refer to the strategies used by teacher to support students’ Mathematics learning. There were four scaffolding practices involved in this research: modelling, collaborating, guiding and convince me. Modelling is demonstrating and explaining to students what to do and how to do it. Collaborating involves teacher as a co-learner or problem-solver who contributes ideas, responds to suggestions of students and invites opinions from students. Meanwhile, guiding is observing, listening, monitoring students’ work and asking questions to help them see connections. ‘Convince me’, on the other hand, is when the teacher encourages students to provide explanation, evidence and justification for what they are doing (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2004). The idea of this research emerged due to the attempt to find ways on how to increase weaker students’ enjoyment and success in learning Mathematics as they kept saying they have no interest in Mathematics and do not like doing worksheets when I talked to them during my third school visit. Therefore, the aforementioned scaffolding practices were investigated to measure their effectiveness in enhancing weaker students’ Mathematics learning as well as to measure the students’ level of engagement and performance in Mathematics. In investigating the effectiveness of scaffolding practices in students’ Mathematics learning, I sat with a small group consisting of four weaker students for two learning episodes. We worked on mathematical problem-solving worksheet. The worksheet contained questions of different topics that students have learned. Students were expected to accomplish the worksheet within an hour by using their understanding of mathematical concepts that they have learned to solve the problems. At the end of the lessons, I interviewed the students and asked for their views on which learning episodes helped them to enhance their interest in Mathematics learning. I then compared their interests in both learning episodes to find which scaffolding practices increased their interest to learn Mathematics. I also documented student work and performance in solving mathematical problems to see their progress in the two learning episodes by checking...
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