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Library Instruction

What is Assignment Scaffolding?

Assignment scaffolding is a way to systematically structure assignments (and course material) to support student learning. Scaffolding breaks down large ideas or tasks into smaller ideas or tasks that build on each other.

For example, writing a research paper involves many different tasks and skills, as well as development of ideas and knowledge. Your learners might need to develop those skills and relevant knowledge over time. Breaking down the assignment into smaller (and perhaps lower-order) tasks allows your learners to gain the skills and knowledge that are required to write the final paper. It also allows faculty the chance to periodically review the student's progress to see if they need more assistance with a particular skill, or whether they need support in developing their knowledge.

Please feel free to reach out if you are interested in scaffolding or revising an assignment. Librarians are happy to help faculty use this rewarding strategy to revise or design research assignments!

Scaffolded Assignment Ideas & Options

Below are some ideas that can be used to scaffold or revise assignments. There are many other strategies and assignments out there but this list can provide a starting place for those interested in using scaffolded assignments.


Skills to Develop Potential Assignments
Find Sources

Research journal/log

Annotated bibliography

Submit source for review, with an explanation of why it is useful & relevant

Evaluate Sources

Guided critique of source

In depth analysis of author of source(s)

List of supporting/refuting evidence


Reading Close Reading Questions

Taking Notes &

Annotating Sources

Annotate a source using Canvas Annotation Assignment
Summarizing Source(s)

KWL Chart

Mind Map or Concept Map



Comparing Sources

Comparison Essay

Comparison Table


Ask students to note & describe where they see synthesis in what they read

Have students draw/illustrate the relationships & connections that they see between sources

Reverse outlining






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