[Edu-sig] Scaffolding

Richard Guenther heistooheavy at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 8 22:08:08 CEST 2007

Looking back, I was the one who used "scaffolding" first in this thread--so I apologize for that :-).  

To give a simple example of how I would use what I consider to be scaffolding, consider this real-life example from my teaching the IMP math curriculum:

When in the "Solve It" unit, some of the problems quicly go from this problem:

1)  7t-5=10t+8-4t

to this one:

2)  6(x-2)=4(x+3)-32  (p.70 IMP Year Two).

Now I'm pretty entrenched in the constructivist approach, but when people have studied my teaching style, they have pointed out how much "scaffolding" I do.  That was the first time I heard the term, so I went and looked it up.  For me, though, it's basically seeing that students may not be able to make the leap in front of them, but they can make smaller leaps leading up to that.  Thus, I may put a problem like this one between #1 and #2 above:

1.5)  8(x-4)=64

That way, I'm able to tell if they even understand that distribution withough having two cases of distribution and some simplifying coming at them all at once.  This may sound like "dumbing it down", but somehow I have to know where and why students are tripping up.  Your term "guided exploration" seems right to me.


----- Original Message ----
From: Tom Hoffman <tom.hoffman at gmail.com>
To: kirby urner <kirby.urner at gmail.com>
Cc: "edu-sig at python.org" <edu-sig at python.org>
Sent: Sunday, July 8, 2007 1:12:35 PM
Subject: Re: [Edu-sig] Scaffolding

On 7/8/07, kirby urner <kirby.urner at gmail.com> wrote:
> So I've learned a new term from ya'll:  scaffolding.  Of course I knew it
> from the namespace of construction, but here it means a framework
> or prewritten code or auxiliary aids such as diagrams.  Anyone want to
> elaborate?
> I see links between "scaffolding" and the concept of "immersion", already
> well established in the language learning community -- human languages
> that is.

I think of "scaffolding" as the difference between "exploration" and
"guided exploration."  To flesh out the architectural analogy, it is
as if the teacher builds a scaffold around empty space & provides an
array of tools and materials.  It is clear that the objective is to
build within the space provided, and more or less direct instruction
may be given on the tools provided, but within this context the
students have freedom to create and explore.

But in particular, an emphasis is made on making sure kids have access
to the intermediate skills necessary to complete the task.

How much scaffolding to do is a central issue in constructivist
education.  I've read studies that indicates there was a huge
difference between the amount of scaffolding done in a classroom by
Papert (a lot! but mostly informal), how he described the process
(downplaying his role), and what happened when people tried to
replicate his process without the scaffolding he provided (didn't work

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