Reflect on the key ideas
What is scaffolding? How is scaffolding applied in the teaching of language of schooling?
The term “scaffolding” refers to the support that enhances learners’ ability to develop new knowledge and skills that are transferable to new contexts.
Scaffolding is by definition temporary help that assists students to become more independent and capable of handling learning more on their own. What a student can with support today, (s)he will be able to do alone tomorrow. Scaffolding makes the students aware of how to do the learning tasks and how to learn new content, so that they will be better able to complete tasks on their own.
According to van Lier (2004: 158), scaffolding learning is not limited to teacher–student interactions. Other types of interactional dimensions can be identified in scaffolding:
- Assistance from more capable peers or adults: a learner teaching another learner
- Interaction with equal peers: collaborative problem solving for gaining new knowledge
- Interaction with less capable peers: learning by teaching, opportunity to verbalise, clarify and extend one’s own knowledge of the subject matter
- Working alone and using one’s inner resources: learning strategies, resources in the environment, inner speech, knowledge, experience, memory, strength
Overall, the ability to self-regulate governs all learning. Learning presupposes initiative and agency on the part of the learner.
1) Reflect on these definitions of scaffolding compared to language of schooling teaching practices in your country:
- How is scaffolding applied?
- What types of scaffolding are usually adopted in the most target-oriented way?
- What types of scaffolding have a minor role in current teaching practices? Why?
2) Look at the basic tasks taken from language of schooling textbooks.
- Keeping the three learner profiles in mind, consider what types of scaffolding can be linked to these tasks.
- How would you develop the activity to provide further possibilities for scaffolding for all learners?
Scaffolding on macro and micro levels
Scaffolding ranges from macro-level (e.g.planned curriculum progression over time) to micro-level (the pedagogical procedures used in a particular classroom activity). Micro-level scaffolding is often improvised, as the need for it arises spontaneously during ongoing classroom interaction between students or between the teacher and the students.
Below is a list of characteristics related to macro and micro-level scaffolding and to how content-based language learning is made effective.
- Do you consider these characteristics typical to teaching the language of schooling? What characteristics are better represented and which ones less?
| Macro-level, planned scaffolding
- Weave new information into existing mental structures by building on students’ existing knowledge and current language skills in their mother tongue and second language.
- Sequence the tasks so that each task serves as a building block in relation to the subsequent one.
- Develop students’ metacognition by setting explicit learning goals and sharing and assessing them with them.
- Provide effective participation for all students (work in pairs, groups, individually and with the whole class under teacher-direction).
- Support effective student interaction in groups by providing a thinking sheet or set of instructions to help them stay focused.
- Reintroduce concepts cyclically at higher levels of complexity and inter-relatedness and allow students time to develop their understanding of ideas and to self-correct their misunderstandings.
- Do not simplify the curriculum but rather amplify and enrich the linguistic and extralinguistic context, so that students get many opportunities to come to terms with the information involved and may construct their understanding on the basis of multiple clues and perspectives encountered in a variety of class activities.
- Model tasks, activities and anticipated language use. Provide clear examples of what a developing product looks like. Walk students through an interaction or first do the activity together as a class activity. Give examples of appropriate use of language in different genres but also of language functions, such as describing, comparing, summarising, evaluating and so on.
- Accustom your students to analyse and talk about language use. Draw their attention to differences and similarities between written and spoken genres, varieties and languages. Build on their metalinguistic awareness and help them develop it further.
- Listen to students’ intended meanings, not for an expected (right) answer. Try to reach their way of thinking.
- Tap into students’ prior experiences.
- Use think alouds, which model your thought process to students as you read a text or solve a problem.
- Remind students of the key points by repeating regularly what has been said.
- Re-word students’ responses in more academic or technical terms in order to highlight the key concepts and expressions to be learnt.
- Provide opportunities for students to say more and rethink and modify their expressions.
- Allow learners time to think and respond. Help them to extend their responses by asking further questions.
- Use visual aids (e.g. graphic organizers, pictures, and charts) to represent ideas and organise information.
- Repeat key information in many ways (orally, visually, in writing).
- Check students’ understanding frequently and in multiple ways.
- In your opinion, what characteristics should be better represented in language of schooling teaching practices?
- Can you think of other ways of scaffolding learning, especially any relevant to the language of schooling classroom?
Walqui 2006. Scaffolding Instruction for English Language Learners: A Conceptual Framework. The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism Vol. 9, No. 2, 2006.
Walqui & van Lier 2010. Scaffolding the academic success of adolescent English language learners: A pedagogy of Promise. WestEd.