|Teaching and Learning Forum 2004 [ Proceedings Contents ]|
Australian Catholic University, National
How do teachers best support learning and ensure that students become self directed learners? Traditionally, the most common form of supported learning has been an apprenticeship, where a novice learns through active participation in a task, initially only peripherally and then assuming more control and ownership. Originating in socio-cultural theory and developed by later theorists, the concept of scaffolding has been extended by practical applications and research in technology based environments. As the World Wide Web becomes increasingly integrated into the delivery of learning experiences at tertiary levels, the concept of scaffolding needs to be redefined because it is not readily translated into contexts where the teacher is not present, as in online environments. The aim of this paper is to provide practical dimensions and examples how scaffolding can be implemented, to provide examples of how learners can be supported in the processes of constructivist inquiry, and to a categorisation of learning supports that tertiary educators can apply across a range of instructional settings.
Research on scaffolding has had profound and far reaching influences on how current practitioners design learning environments (eg., Jarvela, 1995; Roschelle & Teasley, 1995). Cognitive change can occur through processes of social interaction in which ideas are articulated, shared, revised, modified and adopted because of their relevance to the task or context (Rosenshine & Meister, 1992). Learners progress through developmental changes by attempting successive approximations of the learning task, assisted by peers, more able others or by a tutor. Support offered in the form of dialogue, collaborative tasks, structured questioning and demonstration of skills has been found to be effective in enabling cognitive change and self regulated learning (Hmelo & Day, 1999; Palincsar, 1986).
An explanation of scaffolding, or support for learning in the practice of face to face teaching is given in Tharp & Gallimore (1997) and other authors. Levels of support may vary in form, substance and context. Support is given when the teacher models the targeted performance of a task, giving verbal explanations that identify the elements of the task and strategy. Limited support would be the provision of cues to some aspects of the task to complement what students have already mastered. In a similar vein, Beed, Hawkins and Roller (1991) have described levels of support that lie between these two extremes:
One form of scaffolding that is extremely appropriate to online and flexible learning programs is the support provided among peers. In most online environments, learners are connected through a variety of means and through strategic planning and design of the learning activities, can act in support of the learning of their peers by collaborating, giving comments and feedback on drafts, and by offering alternative perspectives. Designing learner centred scaffolding features for online and Web based courses can provide an effective means of supporting student learning that is both a cost effective and efficient way to manage learning at a distance (Wiley, South, Bassett et al., 1999). Online practitioners are expected to demonstrate a range of skills in the effective use of email, online bulletin boards, and virtual teaching: These skills include: engaging the learner, managing learner expectations, using strategic questioning skills, listening and providing feedback, giving direction and support, managing discussions, team and relationship building, motivating learners, planning, reviewing and monitoring performance (Kemshal-Bell, 2001).
|Orientation: Communication of expectation||Students are provided with a clear description of what they should achieve, and what the target performance is.|
|Coaching||The learner receives support via software to help performance of a task eg. presentation and demonstration are contextualised via computer application eg audio file.|
|Eliciting articulation||Articulation is encouraged in order to express current understanding and reflection. Fading takes place on the basis of articulated conceptions of knowledge.|
|Task support||Providing support so the learner is able to perform the task.|
|Expert regulation||Support is based on provision of expertise by an expert, showing examples and desired learning outcomes|
|Conceptual scaffolding||Help provided when the problem or task is delineated, contextualised and defined so as to focus the learner towards central issues and concepts where there may be multiple interpretations. This may be achieved through the presentation of parallel scenarios and problems that enable the learner to practice the skills.|
|Metacognitive scaffolding||This supports the underlying processes associated with learning management and reflection. It provides support for thinking through an enabling tool (eg, an electronic notepad) to enable students to record their thinking while engaging with an actual problem.|
|Procedural scaffolding||Procedural scaffolding supports learners in using available tools and resources. In Web based teaching, this may be in the form of access to databases, support for collaborative learning and resource sharing.|
|Strategic scaffolding||Strategic scaffolding is afforded by emphasising alternative courses of actions and events that might be applied in classroom contexts. The presentation of multiple scenarios, events and perspectives enables students to engage in planning and decision making.|
For designers and teachers in higher education it is imperative to ensure quality learning outcomes for our students and to establish benchmarks against which we can measure good practice. Designing scaffolds for learning involves deliberate roles for both designers and teachers. In a sustainable online environment, learning supports must be designed in a principled way in order to ensure that learners progress from teacher directed activity to self regulated activity. The principles of scaffolding discussed here are based upon research in self regulated learning, instructional technology and learner centred psychological principles. Nevertheless, it is recognised that scaffolding must be context sensitive and responsive to learner needs, and that it may take different forms according to the environment the learner is situated in.
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|Author: Catherine McLoughlin
Head, School of Education, ACT, Australian Catholic University National
Phone: +61 2 62091132 Fax +61 2 6209 1112 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: McLouhglin, C. (2004). Achieving excellence in teaching through scaffolding learner competence. In Seeking Educational Excellence. Proceedings of the 13th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 9-10 February 2004. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2004/mcloughlin.html