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Scaffolding vs Spoon feeding

By Hazel M Ingrey, on 10 August 2022

One argument against providing core readings, or a reading list, has been the anxiety of ‘spoon feeding’. That is, coddling your students by providing everything they need, so they are too comfortable to step forward into their own research or wider reading.

Green baby spoon, broken across the middle, on a wooden table.


Naturally, you can instead use the reading list to your advantage and find the optimal balance of ensuring access for essential set texts or resources, whilst also encouraging students into independent reading.

This is sometimes referred to as ‘scaffolding’, where you structure readings and commentary to help familiarise students with a subject (or databases, or libraries).  You can then guide them to related tasks or research questions where they need to use these resources.  You could even teach some core information literacy skills along the way.

The imaginative go further. Some years ago an academic told us how she used her reading list in the first face-to-face class of the year, setting tasks that required using the list. Not only were the lists used as a pedagogic tool, but it also created familiarity and engagement so students continued to use their reading lists, and with confidence, throughout the year.

Ultimately your reading list is a flexible tool, to be utilised in any way you like, to help your students understand how to read and research online.


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