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Scaffolding is the support provided to students by the learning environment, which includes the teacher but also curricular design, technological tools, and classroom social practices. Scaffolding is a social encounter between a teacher and a student and can involve tutoring and mentoring, but is more effective when both teacher and learner participate jointly in a complex and authentic disciplinary practice. Scaffolding simplifies a task so that it is within reach of the learner; it supports learners in participating in authentic disciplinary practices even before they have mastered the discipline; it helps learners focus on the most important aspects of the problem. Effective scaffolding is adaptable and contingent on the learner’s evolving understanding – the degree of structure should be gradually reduced or “faded.” This can be done by inferring a learner’s current understanding using digital traces or dynamic software.
We used sex, observed parenting quality at 18 months, and three variants of the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene (Val158Met [rs4680], intron1 [rs737865], and 3′-untranslated region [rs165599]) to predict mothers' reports of inhibitory and attentional control (assessed at 42, 54, 72, and 84 months) and internalizing symptoms (assessed at 24, 30, 42, 48, and 54 months) in a sample of 146 children (79 male). Although the pattern for all three variants was very similar, Val158Met explained more variance in both outcomes than did intron1, the 3′-untranslated region, or a haplotype that combined all three catechol-O-methyltransferase variants. In separate models, there were significant three-way interactions among each of the variants, parenting, and sex, predicting the intercepts of inhibitory control and internalizing symptoms. Results suggested that Val158Met indexes plasticity, although this effect was moderated by sex. Parenting was positively associated with inhibitory control for methionine–methionine boys and for valine–valine/valine–methionine girls, and was negatively associated with internalizing symptoms for methionine–methionine boys. Using the “regions of significance” technique, genetic differences in inhibitory control were found for children exposed to high-quality parenting, whereas genetic differences in internalizing were found for children exposed to low-quality parenting. These findings provide evidence in support of testing for differential susceptibility across multiple outcomes.
In recent years, it has become increasingly common for researchers and educators to advocate engaging learners in authentic practices as part of their learning experiences. In the United States, authentic practices are central to many educational standards documents. For example, the National Geographic Standards argue that “students should be given the opportunity to ask geographic questions, acquire geographic information, organize geographic information, analyze geographic information, and answer geographic questions” (Geography Education Standards Project, 1994, p. 47). These are the same tasks that geographers and others who use geographic knowledge perform in the course of their professional practice. Similarly, the National Science Education Standards state, “Students at all grade levels and in every domain of science should have the opportunity to use scientific inquiry and develop the ability to think and act in ways associated with inquiry …” (National Research Council, 1996, p. 10).
The arguments for engaging learners in authentic practices tend to focus on three benefits. First, learning to participate in a particular practice may be valuable to a population of students because they will engage in that practice outside of the learning environment. Second, engaging learners in authentic practices can provide a meaningful context that may increase their motivation to learn and may improve their learning of content by focusing their attention in ways that will enhance their ability to apply what they have learned in the future (Edelson, 2001; Kolodner et al., 2003; Rivet, 2003).
Remembering experiences from one's own past is a central cognitive process that is a component in the performance of many behaviors. Much of conversation, for example, consists of two parties conveying experiences relevant to their topic of discussion. Comprehension not only relies on generalizations that have been learned about the world but often entails accessing individual experiences in order to make sense of a story or a real-world event (Schank, 1982). Furthermore, planning actions in order to solve problems often requires accessing past experiences along with general knowledge (Carbonell, 1982; Kolodner, 1983a; Ross, 1984).
Consider, however, the difficulty of retrieving particular individual experiences from memory. This type of retrieval typically involves searching through an enormous data base of stored experiences using an ill-specified description of the experience (or type of experience) targeted for retrieval. To date, most studies of memory have largely addressed the architecture of the memory system. Most memory models, for example, have focused on structural factors affecting the retrieval and accessibility of items in memory, such as the frequency of a target item, the discriminability of targets, the recency of encoding the item, and the strength of associations connecting items. Yet, as memory researchers now turn to studies of more natural and complex retrieval phenomena such as memory for real-world events, characterizations of the architecture of the memory system are unlikely to be sufficient (Neisser, 1978; Reiser, in press).
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