Volume 5, 2019
From Research to Learning
Scaffolding for Fine Philosophical Skills
Philosophy students often struggle to master the complex skills needed to succeed in their work, especially in writing thesis-driven essays. Research over the past forty years on instructional scaffolding, both generally and as applied in philosophy, has helped teachers to refine both instruction and assignment design to improve students’ performance on complex philosophical tasks. This essay reviews the fundamentals of scaffolding in order to motivate and support some innovative in-class exercises and writing assignments that can help students develop even finer-grained skills. These skills are useful both intrinsically and for their transfer to longer-form essays, to other philosophical work, and to the general academic and intellectual development of our students.