In spite of having many different definitions, there is one definition of learning that most academics agree upon. And that is that ‘Learning is a relatively permanent change in a person’s behavior as a result of experience.’ ‘Experience’ is the keyword here. What causes this ‘experience’ to occur and what might be the efficient way to do so is where most seem to disagree. While few academics like Peter Geary think that Playful learning is the best way to go about acquiring this ‘experience’ , more balanced academics think that Play in itself can not take one too far. Sure, play has always been a quintessential tool in learning. What makes it so is the discovery that takes place as part of play which rewards the student with autonomy and mastery; two main ingredients of intrinsic motivation. But play only takes us so far. It limits learning to a need-to-know paradigm. Without necessity you cannot find much to learn. It sure comes in handy when you have the resources at your disposal to play with and experiment on but to quote Wittgenstein here, ‘The limits of my language are the limits of my world’ which is where the need of a direction, or a guide comes into picture. A quick look at Vygotsky’s idea of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) tells you how this ‘direction’ can be made possible by a ‘mentor’ or in pure Vygotskian terms, ‘the more knowledgeable other’. Vygotsky, a Russian Psychologist proposed this idea wherein ZPD is the distance between what children can do by themselves and the next learning that they can be helped to achieve with competent assistance. This is where the idea of scaffolding comes into picture. It is the assistance provided by the teacher to the student to achieve new knowledge. This article is going to talk about some of the effective scaffolding strategies
- Understand your student’s ZPD – To know where a student needs help, it is imperative for the teacher to know his students’ level of knowledge. It gives the teacher an edge to make his teaching more relatable for the students.
- Encourage Reflective Thinking – Encouraging students to indulge in reflective thinking helps them to connect dots between what they know and what they are being taught. It also serves as a refresher of existing knowledge and strengthens it at the root level. The connect-extend- challenge model is one of the ways you can encourage reflective thinking in students
- Concept-Specific Vocabulary – One big hurdle which is not always immediately apparent in acquiring knowledge is the vocabulary aspect of education. Not being familiar with terminologies goes a long way in scaring students away from the subject. Introducing concept specific vocabulary beforehand is always a good idea which makes the transition from one concept to another a lot smoother.
- Scaffolding through Story and Drama – The American polymath Benjamin Franklin once said ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ Role playing can be a very handy tool especially for teaching language. Drama has the potential to engage students and help them understand information in a more coherent manner and aids in efficient semantic processing of information.
- Use Realia – Realia refers to authentic objects from real life which can be used to teach a specific concept. Realia can be physical or virtual. It serves as a good tool for kinesthetic experience. For instance, holding a brain model and pointing at the different regions on the model has a deeper effect on semantic processing than just plainly explaining.
- Open-ended Questioning – Ask students open-ended questions and encourage them to think aloud while they answer. This makes them retrieve all the relevant information and form a coherent structure accommodating space for all the new relevant information.
- Learning Stations – Breaking down a concept into small chunks and teaching students is always a good idea. What is even better is, assigning the responsibility of learning the broken down sub concepts to each student and then explaining the same to their peers. It can be a fun filled activity as the students as a group- each would learn one specific piece of information and teach it to the other students while they themselves building upon the existing knowledge by being taught other sub concepts from their peers thus the classroom as a whole not only learns a new concept but also has a good co operative learning experience.