The idea of “scaffolding” in education is inspired by the large scaffolds we see on construction projects. From an educational perspective, scaffolding represents the teacher giving students a temporary support system to help them accomplish a task. As students become more comfortable with each new task, scaffolding techniques are scaled down gradually, just as the scaffolds disappear from a construction site when the project nears completion. In the end, the student can accomplish the task without any assistance from the teacher.
Benefits of the Scaffolding Theory
Some of the most useful benefits of educators using the scaffolding technique in teaching include:
- Clear direction. When students begin to learn a new technique, all of the necessary steps are laid out for them in detail, thus eliminating confusion and anxiety.
- Clear expectations. Students learning through scaffolding know exactly what the teacher expects them to do from the beginning.
- Gradually increasing independence. When students are expected to perform a task entirely on their own from the beginning, they often become discouraged, especially if they don’t understand the subject matter. Scaffolding allows students to build confidence that helps them tackle more difficult tasks.
- Motivation and momentum. Scaffolding can help motivate students to succeed. As students become more proficient, they desire to learn more and more about the subject. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by a task that seems impossible, students are motivated to prove themselves.
Using Instructional Scaffolding in the Classroom
Teachers can implement scaffolding in the classroom using a variety of strategies. These are some of the most effective options:
- Tackle material in chunks. Asking students to read a large amount of material or complete several pages of math problems often leads to panic. Instead, teachers should ask students to complete a small amount of work and follow it with a review.
- Use visual aids. Charts and graphs are excellent scaffolding tools. Looking at visual representations of information allows students to organize and assimilate the data before putting it to use.
- Teach key vocabulary in advance. When learning new material, students may be confused by words they don’t understand. If they understand these key terms in advance, however, they can focus more on the task at hand.
- Allow students to ask questions. Letting students ask questions at regular intervals during the lesson plan helps students enhance their understanding by clearing up misconceptions when they occur, rather than at the end of the discussion.
- Make connections. Whenever possible, teachers should connect new material to students’ existing knowledge. For example, when studying division, teachers should demonstrate the connection between division and previous lessons, like multiplication.
- Use demonstrations frequently. Students learn differently, and not all students will understand a concept simply from hearing an explanation. Instead, teachers should demonstrate concepts to students as they explain them.
- Differentiate when necessary. In the beginning, all students should receive the same level of support. As students become more independent, however, instruction and support can be differentiated to meet the needs and comfort levels of each individual learner.