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Scaffolding Instruction

Posted in Ed Tech 101 on March 25, 2014 by

What is “Scaffolding Instruction”?

Scaffolding instruction is a teaching strategy that involves breaking up learning into distinct parts (“chunks”) and guiding learners by providing context, motivation, and structure around each chunk. Scaffolding provides a supportive learning environment for all students. Just as physical scaffolding supports construction workers as they build or repair buildings, scaffolding instruction provides the necessary framework for students to develop mastery in a given topic area. Students receive various forms of assistance (hints, directions, guidelines, modeling, or coaching) as they complete an activity. As students continue to prove mastery, scaffolds can be reduced and eventually removed.

Scaffolding instruction is closely related to the zone of proximal development — the difference between what a learner can do independently and what a learner can do with the help of a parent, teacher, coach, or other authority. The zone of proximal development posits that most learning involves a student’s progression from dependence to independence with respect to completing a specified task, i.e. scaffolding instruction.

Technology can help make scaffolding instruction possible within a classroom setting. By providing a scaffolding of hints (definitions, encyclopedic knowledge, formulas), adaptive learning can help level the playing field and ensure every student is engaged with course material.

For more on how technology can provide scaffolding within the classroom, check out these resources:

Why Students Don’t Like School, and What Adaptive Learning Can Do About It:

Video: How Technology Automatically Differentiates Instruction

Here at Knewton, we love geeking out over edtech – the people, the technology, and its potential to change the world. As part of our participation in the community, we’re putting together an “Ed Tech 101” glossary to explore the language itself – the buzzwords, the jargon, the neologisms, and everything in between. Have an ed tech word or phrase you’d like us to feature? Leave a comment!