Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Journal of Science Teacher Education 25:6 (2014), pp. 681–708.

doi: 10.1007/s10972-014-9392-1


Copyright © 2014 The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA. Published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


This study investigated the effects of the use of scaffolds in written classroom assessments through the voices of both native English speakers and English language learners from two middle schools. Students responded to assessment tasks in writing, by speaking aloud using think aloud protocols, and by reflecting in a post-assessment interview. The classroom assessment tasks were designed to engage students in scientific sense making and multifaceted language use, as recommended by the Next Generation Science Standards. Data analyses showed that both groups benefited from the use of scaffolds. The findings revealed specific ways that modifications were supportive in helping students to comprehend, visualize and organize thinking, and elicit responses. This study offers a model for both sensitizing teachers and strengthening their strategies for scaffolding assessments equitably.