What Is Vygotsky's Scaffolding?

Scaffolding theory describes social and instructional support for students
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Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky developed the scaffolding theory. Scaffolding theory describes social and instructional support for students learning new concepts, comparable to structures erected alongside newly constructed buildings. The scaffolding supports the construction (the introduction of new material) and is taken away after completion (or when the lesson is understood.)

1 Zone of Proximal Development

Children collaborating on a lab experiment
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Vygotsky proposed that learning depended on the zone of proximal development (ZPD), which he 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.”

2 Within the ZPD

Working independently
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Vygotsky believed students must be taught information within their ZPD to develop a relationship with the material, then the scaffolding must be taken away to fully form an understanding.

3 New Task

Teacher working with a student
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If a task seemed outside the students abilities with and without the scaffolding, it was the instructors responsibility to seek a challenging task still within the student`s ZPD.

4 Social Interaction

Social interaction and learning
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Vygotsky`s scaffolding stood apart from other theories of the time in its inclusion of social interaction as a necessity in learning.

5 Advanced Scaffolding

Children engaged in learning
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Assigning tasks that are likely intriguing to the student and sessions designed to enrich cognitive and social skills are typical of advanced scaffolding.

Mateo Zeske has written professionally for over five years, including articles for "High School Sports," the industrial "How to Get Started with a Talent Agency" and community-oriented e-zines. As a filmmaker Zeske worked with production companies Hit It and Quit It, Road Dog Productions and masterminded the series "Bastardized Product." He holds a Master of Journalism from the University of North Texas.