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1 Definition

From Vygotsky (1926, 1997 p. 50) “ (The educator) calls upon the services of powerful forces in the environment, directs them, and places them in the service of education.”


“ Education is realized through the student’s own experience, which is wholly determined by the environment, and the role of the teacher (tutor) then reduces to directing and guiding the environment.”

Scaffolds can be any of or combination of cognitive and metacognitive tools or strategies used in instruction either by human or computer-based tutors to help learners gain an understanding that would not be possible by the learner alone. See ILE, Intelligent tutoring system, E-tutoring, Mentoring

2 Scaffolding in socio-constructivist learning

Scaffolding aiming to increase Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development—the difference between what a learner can do independently and what the same learner can do when tutored (Vygotsky, 1978).

Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976) cited by Langer & Applebee, 1986:177) list characteristics of effective tutoring that are aimed at engaging and keeping the learner to task as:

  • recruitment
  • reduction in degrees of freedom
  • direction maintenance
  • marking critical features
  • frustration control
  • demonstration.

According to Langer & Applebee, 1986:178-179), Wood et al. (1976) define four phases to describe the internalization process of a scaffolded instruction involving children/adult language learning activities:

  1. learner and tutor have different representations of the task
  2. learner mimics the structures presented by the tutor without full comprehension
  3. learner needs less direction, tutor is available to offer solicited guidance,
  4. the structures necessary to complete a task have been internalized, self-regulation takes the place of the tutor.
Contingent teaching

Coined by Wood & Wood (1996), refers to helping when needed, and the eventual fading out of support. Also, the knowledge-building community model approach advocates opportunistic (i.e. on demand as needs emerge) planning on the teacher side.

2.1 Procedural facilitation vs. substantive facilitation

Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987a, p. 254) define two types of scaffolding.

Procedural facilitation

Introduction of self-regulatory mechanisms to scaffold a task

From Bereiter and Scardamalia, Langer & Applebee (1986, p. 184) derive a checklist of options to scaffold cognitive strategies:

  • offer examples for imitation
  • set up structures to help self-monitoring
  • limit choices
  • make cognitive process visible
  • provide labels to categorize and organize tacit knowledge
  • procedures should be tailorable to the learner’s level and needs.
Substantive facilitation

Reduces the burden of the executive structure (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987a, p. 256) by providing explicit guidance on the conventions and standards in a given domain

3 Scaffolding in ILEs

Scaffolding should adapt to learners' cognitive, metacognitive and motivational factors using student models and open learner models.

3.1 Considerations

Outlining some considerations in understanding the role of scaffolding as presented in current research Azevedo & Hadwin (2005) list some issues related to building effective scaffolding:

  1. Types of instructional targets of scaffolding in a computer-based learning environment
    • learning domain knowledge (declarative, procedural),
    • learning about one’s own learning (metacognition, self-regulation),
    • learning about using the computer-based learning environment
    • learning how to adapt to a particular instructional context (help-seeking behavior).
  2. source of scaffolded support
  3. effect of types of scaffolds
  4. diagnosing scaffolding needs

3.2 Related articles

Scaffolded knowledge integration, socio-constructivism, cognitive tool, metacognition

4 Links

5 References

  • AZEVEDO, R., HADWIN, A.F. (2005) Scaffolding self-regulated learning and metacognition – Implications for the design of computer-based scaffolds. Instructional Science33: 367–379
  • Bell, P., & Davis, E. A. (2000). Designing Mildred: Scaffolding students’ reflection and argumentation using a cognitive software guide. In S. O’Connor-Divelbiss (Ed.), Proceedings of the 4th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 142–149). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Bereiter C., Scardamalia, M. (1987a) The Psychology of Written Composition. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum.
  • Fretz, E. B., Wu, H.-K., Zhang, B., Krajcik, J. S., & Soloway, E. (2002). An investigation of software scaffolds supporting modeling practices. Research in Science Education, 32, 567–589.
  • Langer, J., Applebee, A. (1986) Reading and Writing Instruction: Toward a Theory of Teaching and Learning. Review of Research in Education. Vol. 13. pp. 171-194.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1924, reprinted 1997) Educational Psychology. CRC Press LLC, Florida, USA.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in society: The development of higher mental processes (M. Cole, V.John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Wood, D., Bruner, J.S., Ross, G. (1976) The role of tutoring and problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Vol. 17, pp. 89-100
  • Langer, J. and Applebee, A. (1986). Reading and writing instruction: Toward a theory of teaching and learning, in E. Rothkopf, Review of Research in Education, Vol. 13, Washington, DC: AERA, 171_194.
  • Linn, M. C. (1995). Designing computer learning environments for engineering and computer science: The Scaffolded Knowledge Integration framework. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 4, 103–126.
  • Puntambekar, S., & Kolodner, J. L. (2005). Distributed scaffolding: Helping students learn science by design. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42.
  • Puntambekar, S., & Hubscher, R. (2005). Scaffolding in complex learning environments: What we have gained and what we have missed. Educational Psychologist 40(1), 1-12. PDF reprint
  • Quintana, C., Reiser, B. J., Davis, E. A., Krajcik, J., Golan, R., Kyza, E. A., et al. (2002). Evolving a scaffolding design framework for designing educational software. In P. Bell, R. Stevens, & T. Satwicz (Eds.), Keeping learning complex: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 359–366). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Reid, D. K. (1998). Scaffolding: A broader view. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 386–396.
  • Reiser, B. J. (2002). Why scaffolding should sometimes make tasks more difficult for learners. In T. D. Koschmann, R. Hall, & N. Miyake (Eds.), Carrying forward the conversation: Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (pp. 255–264). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Reiser, B. J., Tabak, I., Sandoval, W. A., Smith, B., Steinmuller, F., & Leone, A. J. (2001). BGuILE: Strategic and conceptual scaffolds for scientific inquiry in biology classrooms. In S. M. Carver & D. Klahr (Eds.), Cognition and Instruction: Twenty five years of progress (pp. 263–305). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Roehler, L. R., & Cantlon, D. J. (1997). Scaffolding: A powerful tool in social constructivist classrooms. In K. Hogan & M. Pressley (Eds.), Scaffolding student learning: Instructional approaches and issues (pp. 6–42). Cambridge, MA: Brookline.
  • Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3, 265–283.
  • Stone, C. A. (1998b). Should we salvage the scaffolding metaphor? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 409–413.
  • Wood, D., Wood, H. (1996) Vygotsky, Tutoring and Learning. Vygotsky and Education. Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 5-16