What is Scaffolding?

Scaffolding is a strategy used in education to help students reach their learning goals. Through peer collaboration and instructor support, students move from their current skill set to building an understanding of course content. Ideally, engagement with peers and the instructor helps the student develop skills he/she would not be able to acquire on their own. You should be intentional as you design your course with scaffolding strategies in mind. Here are a few suggestions:

Discussion Forums

  • When using discussions, provide specific rules for interaction. Students should be required to read and respond to each other. After an initial post, set a minimum number of required responses to peers. Discussions allow students to share knowledge and build additional insight.
  • Provide students with examples of excellent discussion postings. Also, consider modeling appropriate interactions. Students will observe how you interact and learn from it.

Projects/Research Papers

  • Sometimes, students complete activities and you realize it wasn’t at all what you expected. This can happen in any course. To avoid these issues, large projects or papers should be broken into smaller pieces with due dates throughout the semester. This allows students to receive feedback and make adjustments as needed. It also encourages proper pacing of projects. Remember, exemplar work samples also scaffold learning.

Supplemental Resources

  • Background knowledge varies from student to student. Some have taken related courses and gained valuable experience and knowledge. Others, especially in introductory level courses, may lack prior knowledge. As you design your course, keep in mind that all learners may benefit from a separate listing of supplemental resources. These resources provide additional insight for novice learners and enhance the learning experience for advanced learners.