The Effect of Scaffolded Vignette Instruction on Student Mastery of Subject Matter

Jan. 06, 2009

Source: The Teacher Educator, Volume 44, Issue 1. January 2009. pages 21 - 39
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Vignettes have long been used as a tool to model, teach, and research behavior and understanding.
They also have been used to stimulate discussion and problem solving in learning situations. The growing body of research on vignettes as an instructional and assessment tool to enhance recognition, recall, and transfer of subject matter knowledge suggests that the effectiveness of vignettes is due in part to its use as a scaffolding tool during instruction.

Vignette Definition
vignettes are defined here as incomplete short stories that are written to reflect, in a less complex way, real-life situations in order to encourage discussions and potential solutions to problems where multiple solutions are possible.

The paper summarizes an analysis of the effects of vignette instruction on vignette quiz performance in three sections of a blended graduate educational psychology course.
Eight instructional vignettes administered to two sections and eight traditional scaffolding activities completed by the third section represented the only difference in the intervention.


Data were collected in 2004-2005 from 51 participants taking a graduate educational psychology course in a secondary teacher credential program at a west-coast public university. All had limited experience working with children in Grades 6-12 (e.g., tutoring, working as teacher aides).

The percentages in the three sections according to age, gender, and ethnicity were very similar. The sample population was fairly homogeneous in terms of age and heterogeneous in terms of gender and ethnicity: 90% between the ages of 20 to 30 years, 59% female, and 71% Caucasian.
The sample population's average age was 28.0.

The course content, readings, and use of technology in the three sections were identical. Course topics included learning, motivation, development, teaching models, and the application of theory to adolescent education. The same instructor taught all of the sections.

Study results suggest that vignette instruction provides efficient near-transfer opportunities and richer scaffolding experiences on student mastery of subject matter than does instruction without vignettes, regardless of whether the scaffolding is conducted in class or online or whether the vignette tasks involve solving a problem or evaluating a solution to a problem in a hypothetical teaching situation.

Updated: Mar. 12, 2009