Vygotsky scaffolding

Of the many instructional tools and methods that a teacher can use on her students, perhaps none can be as effective or more rewarding for the student than the Scaffolding Method, developed by Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist back in the 1930’s. According to Vygotsky scaffolding takes place when the instructor gives support to the student during the lesson by giving him the tools, resources, encouragement and all manner of support he may need, and gradually withdrawing these support systems bit by bit as the lesson progresses and the student gains mastery of the lesson.

Scaffolding is based on the theory of the Zone of Proximal Development, or ZPD. In a nutshell, ZPD, according to Zygotsky, is when a child or learner follows the adult’s example and eventually develop his own problem solving skills without any assistance. This leads to the development of cognitive skills, self reliance, initiative, and confidence.

lev vygotsky theory

Problem Based Learning on Vygotsky Scaffolding

The emphasis of scaffolding is on how well it approached problem based learning, or PBL. Scaffolding is most effective when given in a problem based learning situation, as studies have shown that they develop better and deeper understanding of the material, a better retention and critical comprehension, and better attitude towards the lesson which is crucial in motivating the students to advance to more difficult tasks.

The Benefits of Scaffolding

Educators over the years have acknowledged the merits Vygotsky scaffolding in the educational setting, among them are:

  • Its ability to provide clear directions and reduce the learner’s confusion; The key here is that the instructors must anticipate what problems may encounter and develop step by step instructions as well as set proper expectations towards the accomplishment of the lesson.
  • Clarifies purpose: it helps students understand the reason why they are doing the work and its implied importance
  • Provides structure and a clear pathway for the students to use; The student is of course free to choose what path to take, but they cannot wander off or be distracted away from the path or structure.
  • It reduces uncertainty and even disappointment by giving them the expectations they need to meet, proper tools to accomplish the task.
  • Clarifies what the expectations are and provide assessment and feedback along the way, as expectations are important to be set at the start of the activity. Providing them with an exemplary example of what they need to accomplish often helps.
  • Directs students to reliable sources; the instructor gives them resources that they can use in order to solve the task. There may be multiple options so that the student can use the sources he deems fit to use.

Metaphorically, scaffolding draws parallel to how a contractor would start building a house: he provides it with support scaffolding and removes the support beams when the house can stand on its own. And just like a good builder, for Lev Vygotsky scaffolding is also about how a good instructor having the right tools to provide the proper scaffolding to their students in order for them to develop critical thinking and the cognitive abilities in solving challenging tasks.