Scaffolding In Education

Scaffolding in education is a concept to help a child learn and master new information and skills. This helps in complete intellectual development of children. This article will tell you how the integration of this technique is useful in education.

Scaffolding is a concept based on the theory proposed by Lev Vygotsky, known as, ‘Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)’. It is one of the most popular teaching methods. In this mode of instruction, a teacher helps the student initially, to learn a new concept and offers maximum assistance. Gradually, the teacher sets up newer tasks for the students to perform and apply their knowledge independently. The zone of proximal development literally means the distance between what children can do on their own and what they can do when assisted by an adult. Scaffolding in education is a strategy in which a knowledgeable person equips the student and provides him with all the information and support to acquire or learn a particular thing.


Teachers use this strategy regularly in classrooms. A teacher demonstrates a particular skill to students and then provides them with assistance, while students attempt to master the skill. It literally is transferring the responsibility from the teacher to the student in order to teach the student to work independently. The assistance is not taken away immediately, rather it is a gradual transformation. One of the examples of scaffolding would be when a teacher teaches students how to solve a sum in maths using given properties. The teacher then asks students to solve the sum on their own and come up with the answer and corrects them if they have made mistakes. Teaching itself is a skill, therefore before using this strategy, a tutor has to be skilled with his teaching skills. This strategy helps students learn from their mistakes and clears all doubts about certain concepts while mastering a skill.


Jamie McKenzie, the editor of an online education journal has pointed out the eight characteristics of the scaffolding strategy that a teacher must follow in order to teach a student. They are as follows.

  • A step by step instruction procedure helps in reducing confusion over concepts of acquiring skills.
  • Explain the importance of learning or mastering a particular skill.
  • The students must be able to analyze the instructions and come up with their ways to tackle the matter.
  • Offering assessment of the work students have done helps them learn and understand what is expected of them.
  • A teacher must point out other resources where students can refer for help to learn more about the skill or information being taught to them
  • The activity must be well planned and keep students interested and should not be posed as a fear in any which way, due to which they will lose interest in understanding the concept of the task.
  • Efficient delivery of the instruction will save time and is a quick and interesting way of educating students.
  • The basic aim of this strategy is to provide knowledge to students and help them overcome their fear of performing and making decisions.


The earliest application of the study was done with toddlers of ages 3, 4, and 5. They were given the task of making a pyramid with a set of blocks. The tutor was asked to help the child only as much it would for him to understand what was to be done. This study was done by Wood, Ross, and Bruner in 1986. From this study they came up with 6 forms of support that a child could be provided with.
Another example was of reciprocal teaching, a study carried out by Palinscar and Brown in 1985. Here students were provided with reading strategies by a tutor. These strategies were:

  • Self-Directed Summarizing
  • Questioning
  • Clarifying
  • Predicting

The tutor helped the students with each of these strategies till they could understand the importance of each and its application.


The main advantage of this strategy is that it helps the learners associate acquired knowledge with new concepts. It also helps in building a sort of self-confidence in students. It also helps reduce fear and anxiety about a certain concept, which if not taken away, leads to frustration. Another advantage is that it is tailored according to the individual requirement of the learner.


As mentioned in the advantages section, that it is tailored for individual learners, application of this strategy in a classroom gets quite tedious. The strength of a class is often large and applying the strategy to each student may become quite time-consuming.

Software Applications

To overcome the disadvantage of individual attention, there are various software applications available for scaffolding, which a teacher can offer students as a learning resource. This proves the importance of technology in education. There are certain software tools, such as Thinker Tools, Knowledge Integration Environment, and Progress Portfolio, which help learners master the skills he wishes to acquire.

Thus, scaffolding has its own benefits in the field of education, when applied strategically. Application of this instruction in classroom is not impossible, certain modifications would help. It is definitely advantageous for learners.