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Scaffolding

In this article, a new way of looking at 'scaffolding' learning is discussed. Article by Xerri, Minardi, Sylven, Simovski, Sproge and Stotz.
Criss crossing scaffolding in a building
© University of Glasgow; Xerri et al.

Read this article from the European Centre for Modern Languages.

The pluriliteracies approach toward teaching and learning entails a rethinking of the principle of scaffolding. For most teachers scaffolding means providing learners with enough supporting materials to help them complete a given task. However, in order to facilitate deep learning, teachers need to position themselves differently and maximise opportunities for learner development.

In this new model of scaffolding the emphasis is not on the product but on the processes that teachers and learners need to engage in in order to promote deep learning. Rather than focusing on feedback there needs to be the provision of feedforward. If learning is about knowledge, skills and strategies, deep learning is about the internalisation of knowledge, automatization of skills and strategies, as well as the development of those beliefs and attitudes that enable learners to develop autonomy. Teachers need to shift their perspective to that of professional learners and hence come to see themselves as practitioners who are not merely responsible for transmitting knowledge and skills but co-constructing meaning in the learning environment. In this sense, teachers engage in reflective activities together with their learners, partly by promoting critical thinking and research engagement.

Mediation plays a major role in this new model of scaffolding. This can come from outside sources (e.g. subject specific support or general fostering of strategic competence). However, learners themselves should be enabled to construct their own scaffolding (e.g. learning in chunks and mind-mapping). As they work on tasks they are immersed in mediation by transferring content into understandable and age-adapted forms, thus relying on peer learning.

In this new model, learning is no longer merely about enabling learners to acquire content and linguistic knowledge and skills but learning through the use of a variety of tasks that tap learners’ pluriliteracies, including digital literacy. Teachers capitalise on inclusive practices so that all learners’ needs are addressed not only in a group manner but also individually. Every single learner is given the opportunity to foreground their specific strengths. This dovetails with the idea that teachers have to break the mould of conventional tasks (e.g. when asking learners to present a poster teachers need to reflect on what form of engagement the other students are involved in). Task outcomes should become new resources for peer learning. Developing conceptual understanding also depends on the relations of the learners amongst themselves and between them and the teacher. Adaptive teaching does not just mean considering the heterogeneity in a class, but creating a learning rich climate.

Lastly, this new model of scaffolding reconceptualises teacher education and development by promoting the idea that teachers can perform scaffolding in class only if they learn how to scaffold learning in their own professional development. The teacher’s role is reconceived as that of someone who fosters deep learning together with a group of partners, i.e. fellow learners. The use of this new model of scaffolding enables the creation of climates for learning or a supportive environment in which deep learning can truly flourish.

Article by Daniel Xerri, Silvia Minardi, L.K. Sylven, Stefan Simovski, Ieva Sproge, Daniel Stotz.

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© University of Glasgow; Xerri et al.
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