Scaffolding is a teaching philosophy that helps people to learn new tasks and skills in a simple and effective manner. It is a process of the educator controlling and guiding the learning initially and over the course of the training, releasing responsibility and placing it on the learner until the training objectives are met. Here’ the four-step process:

  1. Initially, the trainer or more knowledgeable person controls and guides the learners’ activities using a variety of teaching techniques.
  2. Eventually, the trainer and learner share the responsibilities with the learner taking the lead. The trainer continues to guide the learners’ emerging understandings, aiding as needed.
  3. Finally, the trainer gives the learner the full range of responsibilities by removing all assistance. This progression from someone else being responsible for the learning to the student being responsible for themselves is an appropriate way to create an effective sequence of learning.
  4. Information, knowledge and skill becomes part of everyone?s abilities.

Scaffolding is described by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) as “…controlling those elements of the task that are initially beyond the learner?s capability thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence”.

As the trainer or more knowledgeable person creates a supporting structure that can initiate and sustain interest, the students become involved. As the students gradually gain control of the task, they take over more of the responsibility. When the assumption of responsibility and control occurs, the trainer removes the scaffolding.

Scaffolding works with the field between what a learner can do by himself and what can be achieved with the support of a knowledgeable instructor. It?s often a matter of degrees of learning.

For a new process the instructor may need to start at 100% of the process to show the learner how the process works. ?I?m going to do 100% of the process. Watch as I perform the process and listen while I explain it to you.? The instructor performs 100% of the process so the learner can see the work performed in its entirety.

At 50% of the process, the instructor is performing half of the process and the learner is performing the other half. This gives the learner time to learn the process and start building the tactics and tasks of the process and committing it to memory. Everything is still new and foreign and it may take time to learn.

At 0% the instructor is performing none of the process and the learner is performing 100% of the process. The learner has learned the process.

Scaffolding is time consuming as an instruction process. It?s a formal and defined process that transfers valuable knowledge from one person to another. It?s not the ?trial by fire? method used by most organizations to teach their people.

Teaching Techniques

Here are a few teaching techniques commonly used by educators.

  1. Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a process that allows for creative thinking and new ideas during learning. For example, a new process may be implemented and the educator teaches the learner. If the new process looked good on paper but implementation is difficult, a brainstorming session on improving the process may be warranted. The learner has an opportunity to further involvement and learning by participating in the brainstorming session and draw on the educator’s knowledge and experience. Brainstorming activity is often intense and tends to become unfocused. It needs to be facilitated well by the educator.

  1. Demonstrating

In a demonstration, the educator performs the tasks of the process so the learner can see how it is done. The learner doesn’t have to use any imagination. The process is performed by the educator and step-by-step instructions are provided during the demonstration.

  1. Feedback

Feedback is the process of providing comment, critical analysis, or acknowledgment to the student during and after learning has occurred. It is a process and action and reaction. The student takes action and the educator provides a reaction. Critical analysis of the learning process is used often to provide the boundaries of the exercises being learned. In the absence of feedback students often learn the wrong things.

  1. Give Instructions

An instruction is a step-by-step detail on how to perform the process. It details the inputs, transformation steps, outputs, delivery and targets in an instructional format. “Do this. . .” and “Next, go here and get this. . .” Instructions provide the detailed commands that produce the work of a process.

  1. Instructional Conversations

Instructional conversations are discussion-based lessons geared toward creating opportunities for students’ conceptual and linguistic development. The teachers focus on concepts that are relevant for students and of some educational value. Background information on a topic is activated, teachers build on the students’ ideas, and then guide the students to new levels of understanding. The teacher’s responsibility is the facilitation of oral and written discourse in meaningful and/or useful ways. This enhances learning.