What Is Scaffolding in Teaching?

Like a structure that aids in building construction, educational scaffolding helps students to build new knowledge.
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Scaffolding is the assistance (parameters, rules or suggestions) a teacher gives a student in a learning situation. Scaffolding allows students to have help with only the skills that are new or beyond their ability.

1 Expert Insight

"A set of training wheels on a bicycle is a classic example of scaffolding. It is adjustable and temporary, providing the young rider with the support he or she needs while learning to ride a two-wheeler. Without an aid of this sort, the complex tasks of learning to pedal, balance and steer all at one time would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many youngsters. This scaffold -- training wheels --allows the learners to accomplish a goal, riding a bicycle successfully, and then to happily pedal his or her way into the wider world." -- Michael F. Graves, Bonnie Graves and Sheldon Braaten, "Scaffolded Reading Experiences for Inclusive Classes"

2 Types

Scaffolding can also include breaking a large task into smaller parts, verbalizing cognitive processes, working in peer groups or prompting. As the student begins to work independently, the teacher removes all or some of the scaffolding.

3 Warning

Teachers must be familiar with the students' abilities in order to apply scaffolding successfully.

4 Considerations

Scaffolding can be used at any level of education (K-12 and beyond) and in any discipline, but it requires detailed planning on the part of the teacher.

5 Benefits

The benefits of scaffolding include more motivated learners, more time spent on learning with less on searching and a greater chance of learners acquiring the desired skill.

6 History

The concept of scaffolding was first discussed in a landmark 1976 article by David Wood, Jerome Bruner and Gail Ross titled "The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving."

Margaret Montet has been a freelance writer for five years and a librarian for 20. She has master's degrees in library science and music theory. She writes extensively about America’s oldest seashore resort, Cape May, N.J. Montet has published articles in "Edible Jersey," "The Traveler," "Twin Capes Traveller," "Chesapeake Family" and "Go!" on topics including medieval art, murder mystery dinner parties, cranberries and quilting.