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11.6: Applications of scaffolding

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    Scaffolding is used in a very wide range of situations. Mothers naturally employ this approach as they teach their children how to live in and enjoy their world. Teachers, from Pre-K to Adult Education appreciate the necessity and increased learning afforded by the use of these techniques.

    Non-traditional educational settings, such as business training scenarios and athletic teams, also use these methods to assure the success of their employees and/or members. Teachers and trainers can even use the techniques and strategies of scaffolding without even knowing the name of this useful method. It is a very natural approach to ensure the learning of the student.

    Pre – School (Toddlers)

    Morelock, Brown and Morrissey (2003) noted in their study that mothers adapt their scaffolding to the perceived abilities of their children. The mothers scaffold interactions at play by modeling or prompting behaviors which they see demonstrated by their child or just beyond the level demonstrated. For instance, the very young child is playing with blocks by stacking them on top of each other.

    The mother attracts the child’s attention and models how to “build” a wall or bridge by stacking them in a different way and using a toy person or truck to climb the wall or ride over the bridge. She then watches and assists as needed until the child appropriates the skill or loses interest and moves on to something else. She will try again the next time the child is playing with the blocks or try another construction which she feels will be more attractive to the child.

    The study further suggested that the mother will adapt her scaffolding behavior to the needs of her child. If she sees that the child is imaginative and creative, she will then scaffold beyond the apparent skill level exhibited. Conversely, if she perceives that the child is less attentive or exhibits behaviors which are not easy to decipher, she will then demonstrate new skills instead of extensions to the skills already present. The authors suggest that this could be a possible early indicator of giftedness.

    Pre-K through Grade 5 (Elementary School)

    An elementary math teacher is introducing the addition of two-digit numbers. She first solicits the students’ interest by using a “hook” such as an interesting story or situation. Then she reduces the number of steps for initial success by modeling, verbally talking through the steps as she works and allowing the students to work with her on the sample problems.

    An overhead projector is a great tool for this activity because the teacher is able to face the class while she works the problems. She can then pick up non-verbal cues from the class as she works. The students’ interest is held by asking them to supply two-digit numbers for addition, playing “Stump the Teacher”. She takes this opportunity for further modeling of the skills and verbally presenting the process as she works through these problems.

    The students are then allowed to work several problems independently as the teacher watches and provides assistance where needed. The success rate is increased by providing these incremental opportunities for success. Some students may require manipulatives to solve the problems and some may require further “talking through” the procedures. These strategies may be applied individually or in small groups.

    More challenging problems can then be added to the lesson. Further explicit modeling and verbalization will be required. Some students will be able to work independently while some will require more assistance and scaffolding. She will begin to fade the scaffolding as soon as she is sure that the students can effectively function alone.

    Upper Grades (6-12)

    Banaszynski (2000) provides another example of instructional scaffolding in his article about a project in which a group of eighth-grade history students in Wisconsin examined the Revolutionary War from two points of view—American and British. He began by guiding his students as they undertook a sequential series of activities in order to thoroughly investigate the opposing reactions to causes of the war. Then students contributed to a class timeline which detailed causes, actions and reactions. Banaszynski describes how work continued:

    “After the timeline was completed, the students were arranged in groups, and each group did a critical analysis of primary-source material, focusing on the efforts each side made to avoid the war. This started students thinking about what the issues were and how each side handled them. The next step was to ask a question: Did the colonists have legitimate reasons for going to war against Great Britain? [I] asked each group to choose either the Patriot or Loyalist position and spend a day searching the Internet for primary sources and other materials to support their positions.”

    The instructor continued scaffolding by interviewing the groups to probe for misconceptions, need for redirection, or re-teaching. Students later compared research and wrote essays that were analyzed and evaluated by fellow students using rubrics; groups then composed essays that included the strongest arguments from the individual works.

    The project, Banaszynski says, was an enormous success; students began the unit working as individuals reliant upon him for instruction. As work proceeded, the feedback framework was altered so that students were guiding each other and, in turn, themselves. Banaszynski’s role in guiding the research and leading the reporting activities faded as the project continued and requirements became more complicated. As a result, students were able to appreciate their mastery of both materials and skills.

    The following examples will serve to illustrate a few common scaffolding strategies:

    • Possible early identifier of giftedness
    • Provides individualized instruction
    • Greater assurance of the learner acquiring the desired skill, knowledge or ability
    • Provides differentiated instruction
    • Delivers efficiency – Since the work is structured, focused, and glitches have been reduced or eliminated prior to initiation, time on task is increased and efficiency in completing the activity is increased.
    • Creates momentum – Through the structure provided by scaffolding, students spend less time searching and more time on learning and discovering resulting in quicker learning
    • Engages the learner
    • Motivates the learner to learn
    • Minimizes the level of frustration for the learner

    11.6: Applications of scaffolding is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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