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  • Writer's pictureMaria Zaheer


Updated: Jul 24, 2022

Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky recommended scaffolding as a tool for growth benefitting teachers by providing a support system for acknowledging their learners’ needs during instruction and actively engaging them in the learning process. It is an instructional technique in which individualized support is provided by the teacher incrementally improving a learner’s competence constructed on prior knowledge. Research has shown that learners can perform well if the instructional process provides support and guidance from more knowledgeable others usually a teacher in the learning process. Let’s take a look at the introduction and implementation of the term in instructional practices. Understanding Scaffolding The term Scaffolding was used as a metaphor by psychologist and instructional designer Jerome Bruner proposed the model of scaffolding in teaching around 1976 as a part of social constructivist theory and was principally based on the work of Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky argued that we learn best in a social environment, where meaning is constructed through interaction with others gave the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). It is 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" (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). To put it simply, ZPD in learning indicates learners’ growth from the known to the unknown with assistance from skilled partners who can be a ‘teacher’, ‘peer or peers’ or can be aided through ‘learning artifacts’, or ‘educational technology’. Proximal here refers to those skills that the learner is close to being proficient in. This idea laid the foundation for Bruner’s model of 'Scaffolding' in instructional practices elucidates that when learners are provided with the support they need while learning something new, creates a venture for using that knowledge independently.

Modes of scaffolding Generally, scaffolding can be presented in three different ways based on lesson goals and learners’ needs

. • Action-based [Enactive/Kinesthetic/Sensory] — Use of physical and visual elements, real-life objects, manipulatives, visual aids, and non-verbals together. Action-based scaffolding also includes modeling in front of the class, as action speaks louder than words; images and gestures help paint a whole picture of the lesson.

• Image-based [Iconic/Visual/Spatial] — Mind maps, tables, timelines, graphs, infographics, and anchor charts help learners draw relationships between abstract concepts. These visual supports become more effective if the learners receive guidance on how to read or interpret these images

. • Language-based [Symbolic/Abstract] — In addition to tactile and visual supports, social interaction is an excellent opportunity to use language for meaningful purposes. Think-pair-share, jigsaw, group activities, interviews, discussions, seminars, workshops, webinars, and conferences are the few opportunities where learners learn in collaboration with teachers or peers using language and content which can be utilized to discuss ideas, offer observations, and form opinions. In the process, learners synthesize content knowledge and internalize the language through collaboration and meaningful interaction.

Stay tuned for more in part 2

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