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This is a synthesis grant. In it, we use meta-analysis to synthesize quantitative research on scaffolding and scaffolding-related interventions in STEM fields, including but not necessarily limited to biology, chemistry, physics, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

This project builds off of our pilot work, which has recently been published: Belland, B. R., Walker, A. E., Olsen, M. W., & Leary, H. (2015). A pilot meta-analysis of computer-based scaffolding in STEM education. Educational Technology and Society, 18(1), 183-197. Available online:

Brian Belland, Principal Investigator

Brian Belland

Andy Walker, Co-PI

Andy Walker

NamJu Kim, Graduate Student

NamJu Kim

Jacob Piland, Undergraduate Student


The project team will search widely for empirical articles on scaffolding and scaffolding-related interventions throughout STEM disciplines, code articles that meet inclusion criteria, and analyze the data to determine the influence of scaffold characteristics, study and assessment instrument quality, and assessment type on cognitive outcomes in K-Adult STEM education.


This project is important because currently there is a lack of comprehensive assessment of what works in scaffolding in STEM education. Such a lack hinders scaffold designers' abilities to create the most effective scaffolds they can, and causes educators to have poor guidance on what the research says works best in scaffolding. This research will identify scaffolding features and contexts of use that lead to strong learning outcomes in STEM.


The project will lead to three publically available outputs. The first will consist of open-access publications

1. a traditional meta-analysis article (already published; please see Belland, B. R., Walker, A. E., Kim, N. J., and Lefler, M. R. (2017). Synthesizing results from empirical research on computer-based scaffolding in STEM education: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 87(2), 309-344. Available online:

2. 2 Bayesian network meta-analyses

3. A cluster meta-analysis looking at how scaffolding's effect varies by international region

4. A Bayesian meta-analysis looking at scaffolding within problem-based learning, an article targeted to K-12 teachers

5. An open-access book that will go in depth into scaffolding designs and associated efficacy data in diverse STEM disciplines (already pbulished; please see Belland, B. R. (2017). Instructional scaffolding in STEM education: Strategies and efficacy evidence. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. Available open access:

The second is a publically available database of primary source literature on scaffolding that can be used by researchers, scaffold designers, and educators to (a) find scaffolding-related references, (b) conduct power analyses, and (c) find the magnitude of effects for various scaffolding strategies, paired interventions, intended outcomes, and other characteristics. Finally, webinars will be conducted with members of different STEM disciplinary and teacher communities to introduce (a) scaffolding and related interventions, (b) associated efficacy information, and (c) an appropriate article from this project.