4 Scaffolding strategies that lead to greater student independence

Scaffolding strategies

Every student has their own individual knowledge and experience, and your job as a teacher is to support each one of them in their educational goals by providing them with the tools and motivation they need to take an active role in their own learning process. Whether it’s teaching Shakespeare for the first time, multiplication, chemistry, calculus, or any other subject for that matter, you have to start somewhere.

Scaffolding strategies

Luckily, instructional scaffolding, a term first introduced into education theory by Jerome Bruner in the 1960s, is a great method to incorporate into your lessons to give students step-by-step goals that ultimately lead to students taking control of their own learning experience.

As a teacher, you do not wait for readiness to happen; you foster or “scaffold” it by deepening the child’s powers at the stage where you find him or her now.
— Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education

Rather than simply telling your students that the assignment is to read a Shakespeare play or complete the set of calculus equations after reading the chapter, using scaffolding strategies allows you to split the process of learning a large concept into tangible segments of information. You can then provide students with the tools and methodology they need to succeed in completing the assignment. We’ve put together a few scaffolding strategies that you can integrate into your classroom to move students towards a better understanding of the class material and greater independence in their learning process.

1. Demonstrate your unique process — Most people learn visually…and not just kids! So start off by showing your students how you would solve the problem at hand. If the goal is to write a persuasive essay, walk them through the steps you would take, or better yet, create a presentation to show them the method you would use to research, outline and write the essay. Giving students detailed, visual instructions will allow them to visualize how a process works from start to finish and they’ll be able to integrate some parts of your process into their own method.

2. Get to know your students’ previous knowledge and experiences — Kickstart your lessons by having your students share their experiences related to the material you’re teaching. If it’s an algebra class, start the discussion by asking students if they’ve ever built anything where they had to use angles and dimensions. Or (for American students) ask them if they’ve ever been confused by what a 5K or 10K is. Then you can explain how valuable the content they’ll be learning in your class is in everyday world. First of all, this strategy gets students actively interested in the lesson because they have something to add to the discussion. But more importantly, it gives you valuable feedback to build future lessons on. You can use this feedback to create lessons that will excite your students and you’ll find out how much the class does or doesn’t know about the content your class will be teaching them.

3. Provide effective feedback throughout the lesson — An important part of scaffolding is giving effective feedback not only at the end, but during the process of learning. To assess student understanding throughout the lesson, be sure to take pauses and ask them where they stand. You can take it in phases. Introduce a new concept through a reading or the lesson’s discussion, give them some time to think, and then ask strategic free-text questions to gain feedback on their understanding. Having all students answer the questions will give them the chance to take an active role in the learning process and will give you valuable feedback on where the class stands as a whole.

Quick Tip: A great way to assess each student’s’ understanding and provide them with valuable feedback is to integrate Go Pollock into your daily lesson plans. Create a free-text question set before the lesson and then share the session code with your students during class after you’ve gone over the material. That way each student has time to actively think about the material and assess their own understanding to provide a well-thought out free-text answer. Once the answers come in, the app will group identical answers and, with a single click, you can validate all corresponding student answers. Plus, all validations are saved in Go Pollock, so the next time you use free text questions, the answers that were previously validated will be automatically confirmed.

4. Design lessons that allow students to work together — Part of understanding the content of your lesson means that your students need time to process the new ideas and information as well as talk about it with other students to make sense of and articulate what they’ve learned. This fosters a community within the classroom, and it also allows your students to take control of their own learning process. A great way to implement group work into the classroom is by splitting the students up based on the feedback you gain from the free-text assessment. Once you have a grasp of how much the class as a whole understands about the content, you can decide whether you should incorporate differentiated instruction. This involves splitting your class into groups based on their understanding of the material and creating questions specific to their level of understanding.

Quick Tip: A great way to implement differentiated instruction into your classroom is by using Go Pollock for group work! Split the class into groups and then assign each group a different question set. You can have multiple live Go Pollock sessions at once and then you assess each group’s understanding of the material.

Above, we’ve shared some useful tips for implementing a scaffolding learning environment into your classroom in order to give students the ability to play an active role in their education and reach greater understanding of the material. What are some scaffolding techniques that you use in your classroom?

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