Scaffolding open inquiry: How a teacher provides students with structure and space

Birgitte Bjønness, Stein Dankert Kolstø


The present case study examines a teacher’s scaffolding strategies supporting his students during a twelve-week open inquiry project at an upper secondary school. We use interaction analysis to identify how he provides structure and space in the different phases of open inquiry as well as how it constitutes the students’ inquiry process. The study reveals that the teacher scaffolded this open inquiry in two opposing ways; he created space for the students to make their own experiences and ideas, which eventually set up the need for more directed scaffolding to discuss the challenges students experienced, and directing students’ ideas in certain directions in phases with structure. We suggest that the interplay between structure and space creates what can be seen as a driving force providing both exploration and direction for open inquiry. Moreover, we propose that the dual concept of ‘structure and space’ can work as a thinking tool to promote teachers’ competence on how to scaffold more authentic versions of scientific inquiry in schools.


natural science; science inquiry; 16; case study

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