The term “scaffolding” is often heard in educational circles as a teaching method where the teacher shapes the learning strategy or task and then gradually shifts the responsibility onto the students. The teacher first determines the students’ zone of proximal development and then incrementally improves the student’s ability to become independent with the task at hand.
We usually think of scaffolding in construction where a very organized structure is placed alongside a building under construction to support the workers as they carry out the required tasks. In education we use scaffolding to support students in building meaning or the ability to independently complete a goal.
In the field of education, scaffolding provides clear structure and precisely stated expectations, along with models and direct instructions. For example, start with “I do – you watch” which in reading might sound like a teacher reading aloud (teacher models explicit task or learning objective) where the teacher has chosen the reading material. The next step is “I do – you help” which can be a shared reading with the teacher or a highly structured teacher-led guided reading. “You do – I help” is next in the progression. This might feel like a book club or directed reading and thinking activity. The last step is “you do – I watch”. In this stage the student chooses reading material for a guided reading group which is student-led or independent reading and demonstrating the task or objective at hand.
Scaffold instruction components
One of the basic components of the scaffolding includes clear step-by-step directions. The directions are easy to use and written in a way that minimizes confusion. The purpose is also clarified so the student knows why she is completing the assignment or acquiring the new learning. Clear and concise directions along with a well stated purpose aid in motivation and help keep a student engaged. In addition, clearly defined policies with working templates are often provided.
Benefits of scaffolding instructions
Scaffolding education can provide the avenue for individualized and differentiated education. Because the teacher must first determine prior knowledge, starting point instruction can be differentiated and delivered individually or in small groups. Furthermore, the scaffolding of education makes success almost certain, so students feel confident in taking supported risks and therefore are less frustrated, more motivated and engaged in the learning process. Finally, the teaching of self-regulation is incorporated into the scaffolding process. Therefore, many students are able to generalize self-regulation to other learning and tasks.