What is scaffolding

Among the many teaching methods available to the instructor, perhaps none is as commonly used as the Scaffolding Instructional Method, and with good reason. It is one of the most universally practiced methods, even by those who may not have been aware of its premise. But what is scaffolding really all about?

The Theory Behind Scaffolding

Scaffolding, or the concept behind it, was developed by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky in 1930 but was not widely circulated until the 1950’s. Scaffolding here metaphorically means a structure, instructional or educational method that is put into place to help the learners reach their goals and is removed, bit by bit, when the learner no longer needs it.

Much as a scaffolding will be placed on a building as it is being built and would eventually be removed upon completion, scaffolding in education puts emphasis on the ability of the instructor to assist the student with his learning experiences by providing just the right support at the beginning stages of his instruction, and then, when the learner has already developed the cognitive learning skills to cope with the rest of the lessons, or in parlance, has “gotten the hang of it”, then the underlying support that the teacher had given at the start of the lesson is withdrawn bit by bit.

Advocates of the scaffolding method of instruction praise it for its ability to help the student understand the lesson being taught efficiently with much better result because the student is taught to develop his own problem solving skills and not rely on the teacher or resources overly much. His cognitive development is accelerated faster than if older; more conventional methods have been used in his instructions.

Thus, the student develops confidence and a sense of self reliance that will serve him much better in other learning obstacles—skills that he may not have developed had he been schooled in the conventional teaching instructions.

What is scaffolding to many people may like common sense parenting to some. And yet, a large bulk of our teaching methods still hail from outdated teaching instructions and worse, patterned after archaic parental disciplinary methods. Thankfully, modern teaching methods have evolved and are being practiced and this advocacy for a more scientific approach to learning trickles down into the parental level. Scaffolding will perhaps work best if supplemented and supported by the children’s parents at home.

Scaffolding however is not an instant process. It is a skill both the student and especially the teacher/instructor/parent needs to learn. Scaffolding—as is any other teaching method—is a skill that must be learned over time and developed with practice. Scaffolding the student learn from their mistake and in the process, develop surprising concepts that even the teacher may not have anticipated.

It is critical to know that the student may also have a hard time adjusting to what is scaffolding demanding of him/her: independent thought, focus, self reliance and self discipline. However, rest assured that mastery of the skills will result in a more productive and more self confident learner, ready to take on life’s myriad problems head on.