Why is Scaffolding in Education Important?

09 August, 2020
Although you may not know it, scaffolding is much more present in education than you might imagine. It's a tool students can use to progressively learn and develop their potential.

Scaffolding in education is currently a part of many institutions around the world. This is because it’s a useful tool to promote learning. In addition, it promotes skill development. However, this isn’t only intended for young people in elementary schools but also for students at higher levels, including those in college.

How can one define the concept of scaffolding? Well, if you go by the studies on this subject, you could say that scaffolding refers to the various levels of help an adult can offer a child in order to facilitate their completion of the tasks they haven’t been able to solve on their own. However, this definition is nuanced because scaffolding also applies to college students.

Vygotsky and scaffolding in education

Firstly, the term “scaffolding” is based on Vygotsky’s constructivist perspective of effective student development. He introduced a fundamental concept known as the zone of proximal development. This term referred to those parts that, due to their difficulty, challenged the skills of any given student. It’s the thin line between those tasks that are impossible to them, with and without some orientation, and those that are effortless.

Psychic development comprises everything people can do on their own. Instead, potential development is what they can achieve when a teacher or trained adult helps or guides them. The term scaffolding lies somewhere in this existing distance, between these two developments. Without this tool, an individual can achieve a goal they wouldn’t be able to achieve on their own otherwise. It can be any task that requires completion, such as a simple exercise or a project.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to scaffolding. Thus, regardless of the educational level of a student, it isn’t about facilitating things to them so as not to challenge them at all. This tool allows a trained person, such as a teacher or a parent, to provide them with the resources they need to complete it. They must do so without assuming the weight of the task, as this is the student’s job.

“The teacher should adopt the role of facilitator not content provider.”

-Lev Vygotsky-

Keys to scaffolding effectiveness

In order to effectively carry out scaffolding in education and truly support the development of psychological processes, you must take into account the following rules. Note that it won’t lead to the expected results if any of them is missing.

  • The student must participate in the activity. This means their personal contributions are essential. However, the activity must be at their level.
  • The importance of adaptation and challenge. The activity must be appropriate to the level of the student but it must also provide a doable challenge to allow them to progress and not stagnate.
  • Development of structured learning. You must organize activities and tasks in a way in which they provide natural development and progress.
  • Guide intervention. The guide must actively collaborate with the student. They must do so through interaction and fluid communication.

Transfer of control

When you properly apply scaffolding to education and allow the student to develop their potential, it’ll lead to a “transfer of control“. In other words, the student will learn to trust their newly found abilities. It’ll allow them to be in greater control over any situation they encounter. Thus, they’ll maintain a sense of responsibility for any task they undertake.

A teacher smiling at her student.

As you can imagine, the student learns to be active and committed when it comes to completing a simple exercise. Make no mistake, it may seem somewhat trivial but it’s crucial to their daily life. Scaffolding helps build much more elaborate knowledge structures, reinforcing the students through their own achievements. This is because it puts them in charge.

You’ve probably followed this method without labeling it. Scaffolding is a frequently used tool to encourage proper student development. Unfortunately, some teachers don’t put it into practice, despite the fact that it’s a fantastic way for students to learn to handle their frustration. It helps them feel responsible for the parts they can undertake and, therefore, develop their skills and knowledge.

  • Applebee, A.N. (1986) Problems in Process Approaches: Towards a Reconceptualization of Process Instruction. En A.R. Petrosky y D. Bartholomae (Eds.) The Teaching of Writing Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Díaz, E. S. M., Díaz, N., & Rodríguez, D. E. (2011). El andamiaje asistido en procesos de comprensión lectora en universitarios. Educación y Educadores14(3), 9.
  • López Vargas, Omar, Hederich Martínez, Christian, & Camargo Uribe, Ángela. (2012). Logro de aprendizaje en ambientes hipermediales: andamiaje autorregulador y estilo cognitivo. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología44(2), 13-26. Retrieved February 14, 2019, from http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0120-05342012000200002&lng=en&tlng=es.
  • Vargas, O. L., & Martinez, C. H. (2010). Efecto de un andamiaje para facilitar el aprendizaje autorregulado en ambientes hipermedia. Revista Colombiana de Educación, (58), 14-39.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Irq913lEZ1QC&pgis=1