Wednesday, July 10, 2024

What Is Scaffolding In Psychology

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Have Students Think Aloud

What is Scaffolding?

Having students discuss their thought process is one of the best ways to figure out where their current skills are and make sure they’re actively learning. As a student is working on a project, have her talk about why she’s making certain decisions, what she thinks she should do next, and what she’s unsure about. When you give advice, make sure you also explain your own thought process so students can understand why you’re making the decisions you did.

Efficacy Of Instructional Scaffolding

David Wood and colleagues produced the first empirical studies of scaffolding. Mother’s levels of contingent shifting and the percentage of their interventions in the “region of sensitivity” correlates highly with task performance, even when the overall number of interventions by mothers is controlled for. The quality, not quantity of interventions by mothers predicts better performance by children. However, in this study, possible mediating factors such as social class or the childs intelligence are not controlled for. Other research has compared different teaching strategies and controlled for pre-tutoring ability, and this research has shown that contigent shifting produces greater increases in ability compared to giving the same level of help regardless of the ability of the learner.

What Is Instructional Scaffolding

Instructional scaffolding, also known as “Vygotsky scaffolding” or just “scaffolding,” is a teaching method that helps students learn more by working with a teacher or a more advanced student to achieve their learning goals.

The theory behind instructional scaffolding is that, compared to learning independently, students learn more when collaborating with others who have a wider range of skills and knowledge than the student currently does. These instructors or peers are the “scaffolding” who help the student expand her learning boundaries and learn more than she would be able to on her own.

Vygotsky scaffolding is part of the education concept “zone of proximal development” or ZPD. The ZPD is the set of skills or knowledge a student can’t do on her own but can do with the help or guidance of someone else. It’s the skill level just above where the student currently is.

ZPD is often depicted as a series of concentric circles. The smallest circle is the set of skills a student can learn on her own, without any help. Next is the ZPD, or skills a student wouldn’t be able to do on her own, but can do with a teacher or peer helping her. Beyond that are skills the student can’t do yet, even with help.

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Don’t Offer Too Much Help

A potential drawback of Vygotsky scaffolding is the possibility of providing too much help. This causes the student to be a passive, instead of active, learner and actually reduces the amount the student learns.

If you’re using scaffolding techniques, don’t jump in right away and start offering advice. Let each student work on their own first. When they begin to struggle, first start by asking them questions about what they’ve done and what they think they should do next. As much as possible, ask open-ended questions that encourage them to find a solution on their own, as opposed to just telling them the next step.

For example, if a student is trying to build a block tower, it’s much more helpful to say things like “How do you think you can make this tower stronger?” or “Why do you think the tower fell down?” than “You need to make the base bigger.”

If after you’ve had the student think through the problem, then you can begin offering concrete advice for what to do next, but be sure to continue to ask questions to help increase the student’s understanding. For example, after giving advice on how to improve the block tower, you can ask “Why do you think making the base bigger helps the tower stay up?”

Why Should I Scaffold My Course


As you might imagine, scaffolding requiresadditional effort on an instructors part, particularly in an online context,but the benefits make the work worthwhile. Cho and Cho note that somestudents arent comfortable reaching out to the instructor, meaning that thesestudents actually could be avoiding the very support they need to succeed. Buildingscaffolding into your courses design, however, addresses this problem by incorporatingsupport directly into the course content.

Northern Illinois Universitys FacultyDevelopment and Instructional Design Center notes some additional waysstudents benefit from instructional scaffolding:

  • Scaffolding challenges studentsthrough deep learning and discovery.
  • Scaffolding helps learners becomebetter students.
  • Scaffolding increases thelikelihood of student success.
  • Scaffolding individualizesinstruction.
  • Scaffolding creates opportunitiesfor peer instruction.

Scaffolding can also benefit the instructor bystreamlining student support. By designing a course that offers studentsguidance or assistance as they need it, you increase the likelihood thatstudents will independently explore solutions to questions and issues theyhave. This frees you to tackle other tasks such as grading, responding todiscussion forum posts, and addressing additional questions that might arise.

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How Can I Scaffold My Course

Caruana suggests that when determininghow to scaffold or what to scaffold, a good rule of thumb is the higher thestakes, the more scaffolding you need to include. In other words, the heavierthe weight, the stronger the support. Following are just a few of thestrategies you can use to begin scaffolding your course.

Levels And Types In The Educational Setting

According to Saye and Brush, there are two levels of scaffolding: soft and hard . An example of soft scaffolding in the classroom would be when a teacher circulates the room and converses with his or her students . The teacher may question their approach to a difficult problem and provide constructive feedback to the students. According to Van Lier, this type of scaffolding can also be referred to as contingent scaffolding. The type and amount of support needed is dependent on the needs of the students during the time of instruction . Unfortunately, applying scaffolding correctly and consistently can be difficult when the classroom is large and students have various needs . Scaffolding can be applied to a majority of the students, but the teacher is left with the responsibility to identify the need for additional scaffolding.

In contrast with contingent or soft scaffolding, embedded or hard scaffolding is planned in advance to help students with a learning task that is known in advance to be difficult . For example, when students are discovering the formula for the Pythagorean Theorem in math class, the teacher may identify hints or cues to help the student reach an even higher level of thinking. In both situations, the idea of “expert scaffolding” is being implemented : the teacher in the classroom is considered the expert and is responsible for providing scaffolding for the students.

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How To Use Scaffolding At Home

Parents can use scaffolding to empower kids to do things on their own by breaking down the skill they are trying to master. The key is that you don’t hover or do things for your child, but rather use patience and guidance to allow them to master skills on their own.

Allow your child to experiment with something new on their own before intervening. Observe what your child is doing by watching, waiting, and listening. Offer to help if your child appears frustrated or particularly stumped. Make a specific suggestion or comment about the next step, such as “You might want to try a smaller puzzle piece.”

Help your child accomplish a task by showing them how to break it down into smaller, more manageable steps.

Model new skills when needed, but allow your child to try on their own. Offer support if needed. Fix mistakes only when necessary and without pointing them out. Refrain from finishing a task for your child. Give lots of praise for your child’s hard work and effort. Help your child feel proud of what they accomplished.

What Is Scaffolding In Simple Terms

Vygotsky’s Scaffolding | Scaffolding in Psychology | Scaffolding Theory

Lesson Summary

Scaffolding is a process in which teachers model or demonstrate how to solve a problem, and then step back, offering support as needed. The theory is that when students are given the support they need while learning something new, they stand a better chance of using that knowledge independently.

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Vygotskys Zone Of Proximal Development

Inherent in scaffolded instruction is Lev Vygotskys idea of the zone of proximal development. Vygotsky suggests that there are two parts of a learners developmental level: the actual developmental level and the potential developmental level. The zone of proximal development is the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers .

The zone of proximal development can also be described as the area between what a learner can do by himself and that which can be attained with the help of a more knowledgeable other adult or peer. The more knowledgeable other, or MKO, shares knowledge with the student to bridge the gap between what is known and what is not known. Once the student has expanded his knowledge, the actual developmental level has been expanded and the ZPD has shifted. The ZPD is always changing as the student expands and gains knowledge, so scaffolded instruction must constantly be individualized to address the changing ZPD of each student.

  • help the learner with those aspects of the task that the learner cannot manage yet and
  • allow the learner to do as much as he or she can without help .

Example Of The Zone Of Proximal Development

During the week of learning the forehand, the instructor notices that Maria is very frustrated because she keeps hitting her forehand shots either into the net or far past the baseline. He examines her preparation and swing. He notices that her stance is perfect, she prepares early, she turns her torso appropriately, and she hits the ball at precisely the right height.

However, he notices that she is still gripping her racquet the same way she hits her backhand, so he goes over to her and shows her how to reposition her hand to hit a proper forehand, stressing that she should keep her index finger parallel to the racquet. He models a good forehand for her, and then assists her in changing her grip. With a little practice, Maria’s forehand turns into a formidable weapon for her!

In this case, Maria was in the zone of proximal development for successfully hitting a forehand shot. She was doing everything else correctly, but just needed a little coaching and scaffolding from a “More Knowledgeable Other” to help her succeed in this task.

When that assistance was given, she became able to achieve her goal. Provided with appropriate support at the right moments, so too will students in classrooms be able to achieve tasks that would otherwise be too difficult for them.

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Advantages Of Vygotsky Scaffolding

There are many advantages of using scaffolding with your students:

  • Challenges students: Scaffolding challenges students to learn past their current knowledge of a topic with the help of others. It enables them to learn content that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to learn on their own.

  • Engages students: This method of teaching promotes engagement and discussion between pairs and small groups of students to expand comprehension of learning material. Learners and teachers can collaborate and become more engaged with the content than they would if working independently.

  • Gives students an opportunity for success: Scaffolding increases the likelihood for students to meet instructional objectives. You can provide students with explicit instruction on how to complete a task and work with them while they master the objective and can then work independently.

  • Provides differentiated learning: In smaller classrooms, teachers can determine each student’s zone of proximal development. With that information, they can adapt the format of instruction for each student depending on their zone of proximal development.

I Do Explicit Teaching


In the first stage of gradual release, the teacher provides direct instruction to the class by explaining the new material. They then model the correct behavior of how to complete the work. During the “I do” stage, the student is mostly a passive observer of the learning and watches the teacher demonstrate the lesson.

After the teacher has finished instruction and modeling, the teacher can check their students’ understanding of the content by doing a quick informal assessment such as the thumbs up or down strategy or writing a brief response on a whiteboard. This allows educators to quickly assess each student before moving on to the second phase of the gradual release scaffolding strategy.

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Reduces Anxiety And Uncertainty

Learning something new can be stressful and confusing, but scaffolding makes the process more manageable. Asking a student to do something outside of their capabilities can create anxiety and hinder the learning process. Scaffolding can help students see how they might be able to accomplish the task, which builds confidence.

How To Scaffold Childrens Learning

Picture this: A 5-year-old boy has got a new pair of school shoes and is learning how to put them on. He can loosen the laces, slip his foot inside, but does not know how to tie the laces.

The child and his father watch a YouTube clip of how to do the shoelaces up. They then have a go at doing the activity together where the father instructs the child on how to weave and tighten the laces step-by-step. It is a success. Each day that follows, the father reduces the intensity of instruction on how to tie the laces until the child can do it independently. The father has scaffolded his childs learning through the Zone of Proximal Development.

Scaffolding childrens learning can involve showing them how to use new art tools

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Scaffolding Vs Discovery Learning

Freund wanted to investigate if children learn more effectively via Piaget’s concept of discovery learning or by guided learning via the ZPD.

She asked a group of children between the ages of three and five years to help a puppet to decide which furniture should be placed in the various rooms of a dolls house. First Freund assessed what each child already understood about the placement of furniture .

Next, each child worked on a similar task, either alone or with their mother . To assess what each child had learned they were each given a more complex, furniture sorting task.

The results of the study showed that children assisted by their mother performed better at the furniture sorting than the children who worked independently.

Support For Scaffolding From Embodied Cognition

Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding EXPLAINED!

There has been considerable recent interest in the ways in which higher mental processes are intimately related to perceptual and motor processes, such that the mindâs activities cannot be divorced from the physical, bodily context in which they occur . For example, Barsalouâs perceptual symbols system theory holds that cognition is based on modality-specific sensorimotor symbols thus mental activity is inextricably based on bodily activity. When a concept is called to mind, neural activity associated with the initial formation of that concept is simulated, and thought is based upon these simulations . In the strongest possible characterization of the embodiment hypothesis, human action is determined and constrained by the physical environment .

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Vygotsky’s Definition Of Zpd

The concept, zone of proximal development was developed bySoviet psychologist and social constructivist Lev Vygotsky .

The zone of proximal development has been defined as:

“the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” .

Vygotsky believed that when a student is in the zone of proximal development for a particular task, providing the appropriate assistance will give the student enough of a “boost” to achieve the task.

To assist a person to move through the zone of proximal development, educators are encouraged to focus on three important components which aid the learning process:

  • The presence of someone with knowledge and skills beyond that of the learner .

  • Social interactions with a skillful tutor that allow the learner to observe and practice their skills.
  • Scaffolding, or supportive activities provided by the educator, or more competent peer, to support the student as he or she is led through the ZPD.

Scaffold Parenting Characteristic #: Intervention

When kids have a hard time breaking through a barrier, scaffold parenting requires intervention. But instead of jumping in to fix the situation by doing things for the child, look for opportunities to enter the activity as a collaborator. Help the child pause, reflect, or problem solve. Interventions can also serve the purpose of modeling how to stay calm in the face of frustration and the difference between asking someone to help with a task instead of asking someone to complete a task for you.Scaffold parents should still take an active role in teaching their children, Lagoy says. Interventions can happen early, before kids reach the point of frustration.Playfulness is often a helpful tool to use when modeling or intervening. Children like to copy their parents, and this is a great way for them to do so in a constructive way.

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Zone Of Proximal Development And Related Concepts

Vygtosky’s zone of proximal development , describes the difference between what a learner can do alone and with the help of a more able individual, although he did not go into as much depth into the didactic process, which scaffolding describes. Confusingly, David Wood also has a term called the “region of sensitivity to instruction”, which is circularly defined as the most effective level of instruction which “required the child to do more than he is immediately capable of… too much…ideally the child should be asked to add one extra operation or decision to those which he is presently performing”. Critics have noted its similarity to the Vygotsky’s ZPD and in later papers David Wood refers more to that.

Wood & Middleton’s also termed the concept of the “recognition-production gap”, although it defined slightly differently as the difference between what a child can recognise and what a child can produce. This was based on the observation that a child could often recognise a solution before producing it, and the researchers hypothesised that it was here where teaching would be most beneficial.

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