Scaffolding students' reflective dialogues in the chemistry lab: challenging the cookbook

Birgitte Lund Nielsen, Rikke F. Hougaard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution to proceedingpeer-review

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The paper reports on a cross-case analysis comparing students’ activities and dialogue during BA level laboratory exercises, applying a mixed methods research design with video-data, student questionnaires and interviews. Our analysis identified specific affordances in relation to macro and micro-scaffolding of students’ activities and dialogues, in order to stimulate them to work at higher cognitive levels. A lab-exercise in the course Macroscopic Physical Chemistry was redesigned with the aim of stimulating students’ metacognition both before and during the experimental work. The redesign included a prelab task, related to planning experimental work and explaining theory, and a definite level of openness in relation to the choice of data points. The analysis of activities and dialogue during the laboratory work indicated that this rather simple redesign of a laboratory exercise successfully supported/stimulated student-student dialogue on course content. Furthermore, dialogue between students and teaching assistant revealed elements of exploratory talk including a dialogic approach with open questions and prompts. The students expressed that the preparatory assignments and the dialogue with the teaching assistant supported their understanding. The redesigned exercise cannot be labelled as a full inquiry-based laboratory exercise, but the students were scaffolded in guided inquiry, making definite choices related to calculations, representations, and assessing their data.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch, Practice and Collaboration in Science Education Proceedings of the ESERA 2017 Conference : Proceedings of ESERA 2017
EditorsOdilla Finlayson, Ellish McLoughlin, Sibel Erduran, Peter Childs
Number of pages10
Place of PublicationDublin, Ireland
PublisherDublin City University
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-1-873769-84-3
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-873769-84-3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • schools, courses and institutions
  • learning, educational science and teaching


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