The term “scaffolding” is often heard in educational circles as a method of instruction in which the teacher models the learning strategy or task and then gradually shifts the responsibility to the students. The teacher first determines the students’ zone of proximal development and then incrementally improves the learner’s ability to become independent with the task at hand.
We usually think about scaffolds with regard to construction where a very organized structure is put up beside a building under construction in order to support workers as they perform their required tasks. In education we are using scaffolding to support students to construct meaning or the ability to independently complete an objective.
Within the field of education, the scaffold provides clear structure and precisely stated expectations, along with models and direct instruction. For example, it begins with “I do–you watch” which in reading might seem like a teacher reading aloud (teacher modeling the explicit task or learning objective) where the teacher chose the reading material. The next step is “I do–you help” which may 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 could look like literature circles or a directed reading and thinking activity. The last step is “you do–I watch”. In this stage the student chooses the reading material for a guided reading group which either is student-led or independent reading and demonstrating the task or objective at hand.
Components of Scaffolding Instruction
One of the basic components of scaffolding includes clear step-by-step directions. The directions are user friendly and written in a way that minimizes confusion. Purpose is also clarified so the learner knows why he/she is completing the task or acquiring the new learning. Clear, concise directions along with a well stated purpose aids in motivation and helps to keep a student on task. In addition, clearly stated criteria with work models are often provided.
Benefits of Scaffolding Instruction
Scaffolding instruction can provide the avenue for individualized and differentiated instruction. As the teacher first needs to determine the prior knowledge so the starting point instruction can be differentiated and given individualized or in small groups. In addition, scaffolding of instruction almost makes success certain, so students feel safe in taking supported risks and therefore are less frustrated, more motivated and engaged in the learning process. Finally, the teaching of self regulation is embedded within the scaffolding process. Therefore, many students are able to generalize self regulation to other learning and tasks.