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Unit & Lesson Planning Skills


Scaffolding, according to Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976), as cited by Fisher & Frey

(2010), is a process that enables a child to achieve a goal or solve a task beyond his unassisted

efforts. Benson (1997), as cited by Fisher & Frey (2010), goes on to identify that this process

acts a bridge, which allows students to arrive at a point they may have previously not known by

building on what is already known. The idea of scaffolding is closely related to Lev Vygostskys

(1978) theory of the zone of proximal development. The zone of proximal development refers

to a learners potential developmental level, which is the learners ability to solve problems

under the guidance of more knowledgeable peers or mentors (Fisher & Frey, 2010). Therefore, in

order to stimulate knowledge or expand learning within the zone of proximal development,

scaffolding is an essential tool.

Instructional scaffolding is essential when learners are working with previously

unassociated or new information; and it serves to reduce the demand on working memory (Fisher

& Frey, 2010). Maloch (2002) identified that effective scaffolding tools include direct and

indirect explanations, modeling, highlighting of strategies and reconstructive caps (Fisher &

Frey, 2010). In addition, Rodgers (2004/05) highlighted that effective scaffolding should also

allow students to make errors, as these errors provide an opportunity for teachers to provide

relevant explanations; and for teachers and students to work together to understand concepts. The

errors guide the type of scaffolding that is required (Fisher & Frey, 2010).

Fisher & Frey (2010) highlights the findings of Hogan and Pressley (1997) who

identified eight key components of instructional scaffolding:


1. Pre-engage the students and the curriculum this involves the selection of tasks that are

related to curriculum goals, course objectives and students needs.

2. Establish a shared goal when students are directly involved in creating instructional

goals, this motivates them, as well as increases their commitment to learning.

3. Actively diagnose students needs and understandings this is an important step as

students prior knowledge, background, and misconceptions can act as precursors for

assessing progress.

4. Provide tailored assistance this involves the use of a variety of support techniques such

as diagrams, visual information, prompts, models, etc.; which all contribute to meeting

the needs of students.

5. Maintain pursuit of the goal this is achieved by allowing students to explain their

progress during a task, while the teacher provides praise and encouragement.

6. Give feedback both the students and teacher must provide feedback of any progress

during a task, as this highlights what was done and what is yet to be accomplished.

7. Control for frustration and risk this is accomplished when the teacher is able to provide

a supportive learning environment that is both welcoming and safe; while encouraging

students to try alternatives and take risks.

8. Assist in internalization, independence, and generalization to other contexts this is a

key step as it assists students in becoming less dependent on instructional support from

the teacher; while encouraging students to practice tasks in different contexts.

The following flow chart demonstrates how a specific set of instructional scaffolds can be

used to teach a major concept (Diffusion): (Teachers are represented by T)


T states the topic for the session is Diffusion

T informs students
T informs students that diffusion is a process concerning matter All matter is made that our goal/aim
up of particles is to identify the
movement of
T asks students to recall what they know of matter Particles move particles in the
freely in liquids & process of
gases diffusion

T asks students to gather as closely as they can in a corner of the

classroom & states that each person represents a particle

They want to move from T states the

T asks students if they prefer staying there or if where there are many to same occurs in
they want to move. And if yes to moving, why? where there are few diffusion

T tells students to move to where they are comfortable.

T states the
T asks students if movement was organized or random Random same occurs in

T sets up a marble-pitch ring and asks students to T states the

observe what occurs when a marble is pitched into the Marbles hit each other same occurs in
ring. T states that marbles represent particles causing them to move diffusion

T sprays perfume in the air T adds Kool Aid to water

Students are to identify the states of matter involved in each, and explain
how the movement of particles occurs using key principles identified

T asks students if they can explain why everyone smelt Perfume and water T states the
the perfume and if the water became entirely red with particles were same occurs in
Kool Aid distributed throughout diffusion

To end the session, T asks students to summarize the 4 principles learnt about
the movement of particles in diffusion

The instructional scaffolds used in the flow chart above include: role-play, questioning,

examples, and visual scaffolds. These were all used to identify and establish relationships with

respect to the process of diffusion.

The flow chart attempted to include all key components of scaffolding. The selected topic

and the stated aim/goal are in accordance with tasks that match curriculum goals. The exercise

required students recall prior knowledge of matter and particles, helping to establish a point from

which progress can be made; and for the introduction of new tasks that can build on that prior

knowledge. A variety of instructional scaffolding supports were used, as stated above; in order to

assist in progressing the students through the task. Throughout the flow chart, the questions and

activities served to keep the students focused on the goal, as well as to demonstrate their progress

in conducting the tasks. In addition, fun and interactive activities were selected to create a

supportive learning environment where the students would be comfortable in expressing their

ideas and opinions. The final task, whereby students were to explain the processes occurring

when perfume was sprayed and Kool Aid added to the water, offered a task associated with

diffusion, but which was presented in a different context. The aim of this task was to promote

student reasoning and analysis of two different situations associated with diffusion; but without

instructional supports.

An important aspect of the scaffolding process illustrated in the flow chart is that once

the instructional scaffolds are removed, with respect to diffusion, students can now apply the

new principles and concepts learnt to everyday situations; and provide reasonable explanations

for phenomena with respect to the movement of particles.



Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2010). Guided Instruction: How to Develop Confident and Successful

Learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Retrieved from



The flow chart and the accompanying explanation did a good job of applying the theory to

practice. A very in-depth explanation using citations. When you are citing a secondary author, it

should read.. X as cited in Y stated., rather than you did above in your first two lines.

Note: Amendments were made to the citations in Paragraph 1. D. Narine-Gadar