Chapter 15: Writing Research Proposals
Sample Research Proposal #1
(used with permission)
Study of Contingent Scaffolding and Higher Order Thinking Strategies
Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree of Education Specialist
In the Graduate School of the
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
College of Education
Donna C. Dayer, B.S., M.Ed.
Contingent Scaffolding and Higher Order Thinking
The United States Department of Education is searching for research on basic and higher order thinking skills and their links to improve student learning and higher academic achievement (“Education Department Announces New Grant,” 2002). The research described in this report contends that with the right amount of support, and by keeping the task at a manageable challenge, the learner’s cognitive thinking will be lifted to a higher level (Wood, 2003). To begin, the goal of the task must be identified and the tutor needs to have some understanding of what background knowledge the child brings to the task (Wood, 2003). The child then needs to initiate a plan of action for solving the problem. This could be monitoring, searching or making an attempt to solve the problem. If the child’s attemp t works and the problem is solved, then the learner moves on to the next step. If it doesn’t work, the teacher moves in to scaffold the learner, and the learner makes another try using the mental tools she has available to her (Wood, 2003). The scale of help provided by the tutor is contingent on the needs of the learner; if the learner is not making progress toward solving the problem with a low level of help the tutor increases the scaffolding. As the learner succeeds, the tutor fades the amount of help or increases the challenge. In this way the tutor gives less help with each step that gets the learner closer to completing the task alone. Contingent scaffolding insures that the learner is never left alone when she has difficulty nor is she “held back” by the tutor who is too directive and interfering (Wood, 1998). Successful scaffolding directs the learner’s attention on the task and keeps her engaged and motivated to continue to work. Wood (1998) asserts the tutor makes the task manageable by dividing the task into simpler
components and controlling the environment so the learner can direct her attention to the essential and relevant elements. Diaz, Neal, and Amaya-Williams as found in Moll (1990) states,
“The scaffolding tutor demonstrates and models suc cessful performance while keeping the task at a proper level of difficulty, avoiding unnecessary frustration and encouraging children’s functioning. Research shows that children’s increasing mastery and competence on a given task, therefore, depend on detailed adult interventions that are tailored to and determined by children’s level of mastery and need for external assistance” ( p. 140).
If a teacher has been effective at using contingent scaffolding, what student behaviors indicate that this kind of tutoring has helped a child improve complex literate thinking? Teachers can observe behaviors that indicate literate thinking, specifically, how a student makes effective decisions regarding the relevance and presentation of the problem solving task. Some behaviors that indicate literate thinking include: considering alternative solutions to problems, comparing and analyzing options, weighing choices for making the best decisions, questioning the quality of the decision, and reflecting on the problem and the resolution (Wells & Chang-Wells, 1992). “Thinking is literate when it exploits the symbolic potential of language to enable the thought processes themselves to become the object of thought” (Wells & Chang-Wells, 1992, p. 70) Higher thinking has been exemplified in the student’s ability to self- regulate the thinking process according to the purpose or demands of the problem-solving task (Diaz,...
References: Borgatti, S. P. (1996). Introduction to grounded theory. Retrieved June28, 2004, from
Diaz, R., Neal, C., & Amaya-Williams, M. (1990). The social origins of self-regulation.
Education Department Announces New Grants for Research in Student Learning. (2002).
Retrieved April 20, 2004, from
Levine, M. (2002). A mind at a time. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Merriam, S. B. 1998. Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Moll, L. C. (Ed.). (1990). Vygotsky and education: Instructional implications and
applications of sociohistorical psychology
Pandit, N. R. (1996). The Creation of theory: A recent application of the grounded theory
Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory
procedures and techniques
Wells, G., & G. L. Chang-Wells. (1992). Constructing knowledge together. Portsmouth,
Wertsch, J. V. (Ed.). (1985). Cultural, communication, and cognition: Vygotsky
Wood, D. (2003). Literacy teaching and learning. Reading Recovery Council, 7(1&2).
Wood, D. (1998). How children think and learn (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell
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