Scaffolding is a strategy that is often used alongside other educational tools to aid understanding and learning. The idea behind scaffolding is that new information and skills are more easily learned when building on previous experiences and when there is support from teachers.
“When building, scaffolding is erected to help supply support to the new structure that is being created. When the building is complete, the scaffolding is removed and the new building is able to stand alone. In scaffolding in early childhood education, the philosophy is very similar and works almost the same way to build independence in children.” (Quote taken from source at bottom).
So how exactly does scaffolding in education work? In a way, it employs the logic of Zygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. The zone of proximal development essentially suggests that learning takes place in this sweet spot between things a child can do alone and things a child need’s done for them. This is called the zone of proximal development and it is defined as things a learner can do with some help. (for more info on ZPD theory see this blog post: http://parklandplayers.com/vygotskys-zone-of-proximal-development-in-early-childhood-education/). Essentially, scaffolding is the help/support that takes place in the zone of proximal development. As the child begins to learn and master the skill, the support provided by the teacher decreases, until eventually the child can begin to do the task on their own.
Scaffolding can look like the following:
- Providing suggestions or asking questions to inspire children when they are stuck on a project or task
- Strategic lesson planning so that concepts from one lesson carry over to the next and are built upon
- Observing that a child has mastered a skill and then asking them if they can complete a task that is a step above that skill or assisting them in completing a task that is a step above that skill.
Why is scaffolding beneficial? Well, it helps children build confidence in their own abilities as a learner. It also allows them to be independent and gives them the ability to direct the pace and timing of their education.