Scaffold final projects to improve learning

Featured instructor: Leah Sandall

As teachers, our final projects are designed to demonstrate mastery of the content, the pinnacle of a student’s learning in our class. As content experts, we have high aspirations for our students’ final projects and can help them learn and be successful by “scaffolding “the project.

Scaffolding is a teaching technique where you break the final project into smaller pieces, each one asking the student to reach just beyond what they know. For each piece, you provide structure and feedback to help them reach each step (van de Pol et al., 2010). Then, all the pieces are put together to create the final project.

Scaffolding often leads to greater learning in any educational context, but it is especially effective in the online environment where communication often must be more structured. Breaking the project into defined pieces creates a feedback cycle between the teacher and student. The teacher’s feedback at each step helps the learner evaluate their work and improve it (Shute, 2008).

As Sandall demonstrates with her projects, scaffolding and rubrics are a perfect match. Using rubrics for each piece of the project not only saves grading time, but it supports the learner in evaluating their own work. A rubric makes your expectations clear, allowing students to evaluate their own work against your expectations before submitting. They can then compare their self-evaluation with your expert-evaluation after you fill out the rubric (Reddy & Andrade, 2010). This supports their movement from dependent, to independent learners.

If you have specific questions about how scaffolding was used in this course, please contact Professor Sandall.


Reddy, Y. M., & Andrade, H. (2010).A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(4), 435–448.

Shute, V. J. (2008). Focus on Formative Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153–189.

van de Pol, J., Volman, M., &am; Beishuizen, J. (2010). Scaffolding in Teacher—Student Interaction: A Decade of Research. Educational Psychology Review, 22(3), 271–296. .