Using Scaffolded Instruction to Optimize Learning
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E639
Author: Martha Larkin
Today's responsible learners are challenged to (a) know how to learn, (b) access changing information, (c) apply what is learned, and (d) address complex real-world problems in order to be successful. The ultimate academic goal is for students to become independent lifetime learners, so that they can continue to learn on their own or with limited support. Using scaffolded instruction optimizes student learning by providing a supportive environment while facilitating student independence.
What Is Scaffolded Instruction?The concept of scaffolding (Bruner, 1975) is based on the work of Vygotsky, who proposed that with an adult's assistance, children could accomplish tasks that they ordinarily could not perform independently. Scaffolded instruction is "the systematic sequencing of prompted content, materials, tasks, and teacher and peer support to optimize learning" (Dickson, Chard, & Simmons, 1993). Scaffolding is a process in which students are given support until they can apply new skills and strategies independently (Rosenshine & Meister, 1992). When students are learning new or difficult tasks, they are given more assistance. As they begin to demonstrate task mastery, the assistance or support is decreased gradually in order to shift the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students. Thus, as the students assume more responsibility for their learning, the teacher provides less support. For example, a young child or a child with physical disabilities likely would need assistance when learning how to use a playground slide (Dixon, 1994). At first an adult might carry the child up the steps and slide with the child several times. Then some of the scaffolding or support would be removed when the adult placed the child on the lower portion of the slide and allowed him or her to slide with little guidance. The adult would continue to remove the scaffolding as the child demonstrated that he or she could slide longer distances successfully without support.
Scaffolding is one of the principles of effective instruction that enables teachers to accommodate individual student needs (Kame'enui, Carnine, Dixon, Simmons, & Coyne, 2002). Hogan and Pressley (1997) summarized the literature to identify eight essential elements of scaffolded instruction that teachers can use as general guidelines. Note that these elements do not have to occur in the sequence listed.
Larkin (2001) interviewed and observed teachers who scaffolded instruction to help their students to become more independent learners. She found that these teachers regularly incorporated several of the eight essential elements of scaffolding into instruction. Other guidelines for effective scaffolding that these teachers shared included the following:
Scaffolding Throughout The Lesson
In order to incorporate scaffolding throughout the lesson, teachers may find the framework outlined by Ellis & Larkin (1998) helpful.
For additional scaffolding tips, teachers may want to view the videotape, How to Scaffold Instruction for Student Success (ASCD, 2002). See Beed, Hawkins, & Roller (1991) for examples of teacher-student dialogue during scaffolded instruction. Scaffolding Challenges and Cautions Although scaffolding can be used to optimize learning for all students, it is a very demanding form of instruction (Pressley, Hogan, Wharton-McDonald, Mistretta, & Ettenberger 1996). The following are some challenges and cautions for scaffolding instruction.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (Producer). (2002). How to scaffold instruction for student success. [videotape]. (available from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria,VA 22311-1714).
Beed, P. L., Hawkins, E. M., & Roller, C. M. (1991). Moving learners toward independence: The power of scaffolded instruction. The Reading Teacher, 44, 648-655.
Bruner, J. S. (1975). The ontogenesis of speech acts. Journal of Child Language, 2, 1-40.
Dixon, R. (1994). Research-based guidelines for selecting a mathematics curriculum. Effective School Practices, 13(2), 47-61.
Dickson, S. V., Chard, D. J., & Simmons, D. C. (1993). An integrated reading/writing curriculum: A focus on scaffolding. LD Forum, 18(4), 12-16.
Ellis, E. S., & Larkin, M. J. (1998). Strategic instruction for adolescents with learning disabilities. In B. Y. L. Wong (Ed.), Learning about learning disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 585-656). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Hogan, K., & Pressley, M. (Eds.). (1997). Scaffolding student learning: Instructional approaches and issues. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
Kame'enui, E. J., Carnine, D. W., Dixon, R. C., Simmons, D. C., & Coyne, M. D. (2002). Effective teaching strategies that accommodate diverse learners (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Larkin, M. J. (2001). Providing support for student independence through scaffolded instruction. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 34(1), 30-34.
Pressley, M., Hogan, K., Wharton-McDonald,R., Mistretta, J., & Ettenberger, S. (1996). The challenges of instructional scaffolding: The challenges of instruction that supports student thinking. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 11(3), 138-146.
Rosenshine, B. & Meister, C. (1992). The use of scaffolds for teaching higher-level cognitive strategies. Educational Leadership, 49(7), 26-33.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education