Rachel R. Van Der Stuyf
Adolescent Learning and Development
Section 0500A - Fall 2002
November 17, 2002
I. Scaffolding as a Teaching Strategy – Definition and Description
Scaffolding instruction as a teaching strategy originates from Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and his concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). “The zone of proximal development is the distance between what children can do by themselves and the next learning that they can be helped to achieve with competent assistance” (Raymond, 2000, p.176). The scaffolding teaching strategy provides individualized support based on the learner’s ZPD (Chang, Sung, & Chen, 2002). In scaffolding instruction a more knowledgeable other provides scaffolds or supports to facilitate the learner’s development. The scaffolds facilitate a student’s ability to build on prior knowledge and internalize new information. The activities provided in scaffolding instruction are just beyond the level of what the learner can do alone (Olson & Pratt, 2000). The more capable other provides the scaffolds so that the learner can accomplish (with assistance) the tasks that he or she could otherwise not complete, thus helping the learner through the ZPD (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). Vygotsky defined scaffolding instruction as the “role of teachers and others in supporting the learner’s development and providing support structures to get to that next stage or level” (Raymond, 2000, p. 176). An important aspect of scaffolding instruction is that the scaffolds are temporary. As the learner’s abilities increase the scaffolding provided by the more knowledgeable other is progressively withdrawn. Finally the learner is able to complete the task or master the concepts independently (Chang, Sung, & Chen, 2002, p. 7). Therefore the goal of the educator when using the scaffolding teaching strategy is for the student to become an independent and self-regulating learner and problem solver (Hartman, 2002). As the learner’s knowledge and learning competency increases, the educator gradually reduces the supports provided (Ellis, Larkin, Worthington, n.d.). According to Vygotsky the external scaffolds provided by the educator can be removed because the learner has developed “…more sophisticated cognitive systems, related to fields of learning such as mathematics or language, the system of knowledge itself becomes part of the scaffold or social support for the new learning” (Raymond, 2000, p. 176). Caregivers help young children learn how to link old information or familiar situations with new knowledge through verbal and nonverbal communication and modeling behaviors. Observational research on early childhood learning shows that parents and other caregivers facilitate learning by providing scaffolds. The scaffolds provided are activities and tasks that: • Motivate or enlist the child’s interest related to the task • Simplify the task to make it more manageable and achievable for a child • Provide some direction in order to help the child focus on achieving the goal • Clearly indicate differences between the child’s work and the standard or desired solution • Reduce frustration and risk
• Model and clearly define the expectations of the activity to be performed (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000). The activities listed above are also detailed in the Executive Summary of the Research Synthesis on Effective Teaching Principles and the Design of Quality Tools for Educators, which refers to these as “…Rogoff’s six characteristics of scaffolded instruction” (Ellis, Larkin, Worthington, Principle 5 section, para. 2). In the educational setting, scaffolds may include models, cues, prompts, hints, partial solutions, think-aloud modeling and direct instruction (Hartman, 2002). In Teaching Children and Adolescents with Special Needs the authors provided an example of a procedural facilitator...