A scaffold is a temporary platform used in the construction industry to support workers while working at a high level. Scaffolding learning borrows from this concept to describe the act of support a learner until he or she reaches his or her potential. It allows learners to complete activities that they could not do without assistance. Once the learners have achieved a goal, the instructor adds a new challenge to deepen the understanding, and it begins again.
How does Scaffolding work?
The first level of scaffolding assesses what a learner can already do. This is called foundational knowledge. Think of this as the “You are here” sticker on a map through a person’s mind. You need to bridge the gap from this point to the next stop on the learning path.
After a learner’s knowledge has been assessed, the instructor gives learners a task to complete that he or she will unlikely to complete on their own. The instructor can then provide the scaffold, or support so that the learner can complete the activity.
Once the learner can work on the activity independently, the instructor removes him or herself from the learning process. At this point, the learner’s “You are here” sticker has moved to another location. The next lesson begins with a new level of understanding.
How Do You Scaffold?
Scaffolding strategies should match curriculum goals and the learner’s needs. Before selecting a plan, consider whether it is appropriate for the content and if the learners will experience any barriers to learning by using this strategy. If so, pick a more appropriate way to scaffold. Additionally, keep in mind the principles of Universal Design for Learning. Learners enjoy being able to express themselves in ways they feel comfortable. Allowing learners to have some autonomy about how they will demonstrate their abilities
There are several strategies for scaffolding learning during a training or course.
- Learners can learn from each other by watching others complete a task or activity. A small group of learners can work together on a task while the larger group watches.
- Access the Learners Prior Experiences. Asking learners to draw from their current experiences can lead them to bring more significant conclusions from new ones.
- Graphic Organizers. Learners can draw pictures or infographics to organizes their ideas. Using concept maps to bridge smaller ideas to bigger ones will also help learners dig deeper.
- Chunking Lessons. Break up lessons into small pieces that build on each other. Start with a simple concept – like vocabulary – and then move into the application. Between each chunk, instructors can pause and check the learner’s understanding.
For an online learning course, instructors can easily create pre-assessments and understanding checks using computer-based training software. Mindflash is a learning management system that has integrated content creation software, which can be used to develop chunked lessons and assessments. To find out more about Mindflash and how you can begin using it to scaffold learning, request a demonstration of the Mindflash platform.