Throughout our entire stage or academic life, the role of educators is essential in promoting the acquisition of knowledge. A good educational work aims to enhance the capabilities and skills of students.

One of the theories or concepts that try to explain this process is scaffolding . Throughout this article we will explain what this term used in educational psychology consists of, as well as how it can be carried out and what the collective scaffolding consists of.

What is scaffolding?

The scaffolding process finds its theoretical basis in the theory of scaffolding elaborated by psychologists and researchers David Wood and Jerome Bruner , who in turn started from the assumption, developed by the well-known psychologist Lev Vygotsky, known as “zone of proximal development”.

In order to better understand these concepts, we will first review what the “zone of proximate development” consists of . This idea, developed by the Russian-born psychologist, attempts to explain how certain characteristics of learning can facilitate the intellectual development of people and enhance their maturation.

Specifically, the “zone of proximate development” is that strip of knowledge or learning that needs to be enhanced by the help of another person. That is to say, the distance that exists between those skills or knowledge that the child can acquire on his own, and those others for which he needs the help of another person.

On the basis of this theory, Wood and Bruner elaborate their theory of scaffolding, which hypothesizes that at the moment in which the teaching/learning link or interaction is developed, the resources of the one who teaches are inversely related to the level of competencies of the one who learns.

This means that the fewer skills or abilities the child has, the more resources the educator will need . Therefore, a correct adjustment between educator and student is essential for the correct acquisition and assimilation of information.

Where does this concept of educational psychology come from?

The concept of scaffolding turns out to be a metaphor that the authors use to explain the phenomenon by which the educator serves as a support for the student to acquire and develop a series of strategies that enable him/her to acquire certain knowledge. Therefore, thanks to this function of “scaffolding” or support by the educator, the child is able to acquire knowledge, carry out a task or achieve academic objectives, which he would not be able to do without.

However, this scaffolding process is not only carried out in schools or academic environments, but can also take place at home, with the parents being the support or base that promotes the child’s learning, or even at a social level or among peers, which is known as collective scaffolding .

The authors emphasize the idea that scaffolding is not about solving the problems or performing the tasks of the child, but about increasing the resources that the child has. We could say that it is a transfer of learning strategies, which facilitates the development of more complex knowledge structures.

Thanks to this theory, we can understand how important the role of the educator is, and how the active participation, adjusted to the specific needs of the child , serves to consolidate the construction of knowledge.

How is it done?

In order to carry out a learning process based on the theory of scaffolding, educators must take into account a series of key factors or conditions to ensure that the learning process is carried out in the best possible way.

1. Preparation of information

The knowledge or information to be explained by the educator or to the student must be prepared in advance, so that it can be presented when the student needs it.

2. Education as a challenge

Similarly, the level of difficulty of the information should be high enough to pose a small challenge to the child. This means that it must be a little bit above the child’s abilities, but not too much, since otherwise it can generate a feeling of frustration in the child.

3. Evaluating the student

In order to carry out a correct scaffolding process, the information must be adjusted to the specific needs of the child; therefore, it will be necessary to carry out an assessment or evaluation of the child’s abilities, in order to maximize their learning capacity.

4. The educator’s efforts are inversely proportional to the child’s capacities

As mentioned above, scaffolding is characterized by the fact that as the child possesses fewer skills or learning abilities, the educator will have to make a much more intense and in-depth intervention.

This means that in those areas where the student experiences difficulties , the educator must show greater support which will progressively decrease as the child’s skills increase.

What is collective scaffolding?

At the beginning of the article it is specified that this learning process or method does not have to take place only in the school or academic context . The interaction between educator and learner can also take place within the home or even between peer groups. These cases are what we would consider as collective scaffolding.

Some studies that aim to evaluate the effectiveness of this method, reveal that when this process occurs among groups of equals; that is, among groups of students with quantitatively and qualitatively similar abilities, a reinforcing effect of the learning process is exercised, since a mutual consolidation of learning takes place.