Scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development
The scaffold is a metaphor, originated by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976), to describe the ideal role of the teacher. This metaphor is the basis for a theoretical model of the teacher in informal education. The scaffold, as it is known in building construction, has five characteristics:
- it provides a support;
- it functions as a tool;
- it extends the range of the worker;
- it allows the worker to accomplish a task not otherwise possible; and
- it is used selectively to aid the worker where needed.
- The "region of sensitivity" to instruction lies in the gap between comprehension and production
- Shaping involves a series of successive approximations to the ultimate task goal. While the learner is successful at every point in the process, he or she starts with a simplified version of the ultimate task.
- Scaffolding, in contrast, does not involve simplifying the task during the period of learning. Instead, it holds the task constant, while simplifying the learner's role through the graduated intervention of the teacher.
Learning to Weave in Zinacantan, Chiapas, Mexico: The role of scaffolding in informal instruction was also illustrated in weaving in Zinacantan
- The basic idea that a scaffold functions to close the gap between learner abilities and task requirements implies that more scaffolding will be used in the harder parts of the task.
- Equally fundamental to the scaffolding concept is sensitivity to the skill level of the learner and the idea that the scaffold supports what the learner can already do.
- There is an interesting commonality here with the language learning process: the use of multiple and potentially redundant communication channels also decreased as the learner became competent in going from words to meaning.
- An unanswered question is the extent to which school instruction could be improved by greater use of the principle of scaffolding, thus putting more emphasis on cooperative success in the early stages of learning and less emphasis on independent discovery through a process of trial-and-error.
- Scaffolding is also related to the concept of cooperation. It can be conceived as an asymmetric type of cooperation where one person takes greater responsibility than the other for the successful accomplishment of a task by compensating for the other person's weaknesses.
- This concept of scaffolding and its potentially broad applicability to situations of everyday learning raises questions as to the cognitive skills required of the teacher. Usually the focus is on the cognitive development of the learner. Perhaps more important in real life is the cognitive development which allows a person to become an effective teacher.
- What are the cognitive skills involved in scaffolding?