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Scaffolding in complex learning environments: What we have gained and what we have missed

Puntambekar, S., & Hubscher, R. (2002). Scaffolding in complex learning environments: What we have gained and what we have missed. Educational Psychologist.




author = {Puntambekar, Sadhana and Hubscher, R.},
booktitle = {Educational Psychologist},
date-added = {2011-06-04 11:52:29 +0800},
date-modified = {2012-04-09 01:02:05 +0000},
keywords = {scripting},
notes = {1},
organization = {Citeseer},
read = {1},
title = {Scaffolding in complex learning environments: What we have gained and what we have missed},
year = {2002},


Key ideas

Other terms

  • support
  • scaffolding
  • scripting
  • orchestration


Parent-child or teacher-sudent interactions. Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (but he never used the term scaffolding himself).


“adult controlling those elements of the task that are essentially beyond the learner’s capacity, thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence” (Wood, Bruner and Ross 1976)

Scaffold as building implement has five functions:

  • provides a support
  • functions as a tool
  • extends the range of the worker
  • allows a worker to accomplish a task not otherwise possible
  • is used to selectively aid the worker where needed (Greenfield 1999)

This implies that scaffold can be taken away when no longer needed, but also means that child is back on the bottom level again? Arch being supported by temporary structure while being built is a better metaphor.

Ways of scaffolding

  • paper-and-pencil tools
  • technology resources
  • peer-support
  • teacher-led discussions

Role of expert/adult

Wood documented six kinds of support:

  • recruiting the child’s interest
  • reducing the degrees of freedom by simplifying the task
  • maintaining direction
  • highlighting the critical task features
  • controlling frustration
  • demonstrating ideal solution paths

Domain expert and facilitator:

  • perceptual
  • cognitive
  • affective components (Stone 1998)


Shared understanding of the goal of the activity is central to successful scaffolding. This helps provide motivation for the child to complete the task.


Adult provides appropriate support based on ongoing diagnosis of child's current level of understanding. Needs:

  • thorough understanding of task and its components
  • knowledge of child's capabilities as they develop

thus the amount and type of strategies are not only different for different learners, but also for the same learner over time.

Dialogue is crucial for ongoing assessment of student, and allowing students to play a role in negotiating interactions.

Fading support, so learner is in control and taking responsibility for the learning.

What's important about transfer of responsibility: child has not only learnt to do a specific task, but has abstracted the process of completing activity, able to generalize to other similar tasks.

Facilitating group learning

Classroom situations don't allow for fine-tuned, sensitive, personalized exchange (Rogoff, 1990) - support moves to being provided by paper, software tool or classroom activities are redefined so peers can scaffold each other.

Loose the adaptability, and end up with “blanket scaffolding”, which is never faded.

One possibility is fading by a “stop reminding me button” (Jackson et all 1998). Also possible to use learner model (Ecolab - Luckin 1998).

Kinds of scaffolding in group settings

  • procedural (provided by tool?)
  • conceptual (provided by teacher?)
  • reflective
  • intrinsic
  • supportive (specific help to complete a task)
  • task-focused (Jackson et all 1998)

How is procedural scaffolding different from scripting? Or isn't it?


domain expert / facilitator, domain-dependent/independent paper tools

comparison of peer-scaffolding and expert-scaffolding (Rogoff 1990)

To what extent is this idealized notion of scaffolding, helping learners reach their ZPD etc, based on an “encyclopedic” epistemology? Seems to fit well in science, but what about social science and humanities? I guess it is possible to scaffold a certain way of interacting with ideas, rather than exactly what those ideas will be - a skill/appreciation, rather than understanding/knowledge? p. 28

“Bubbling up” great ideas from small groups to the whole group - or in our case, to the larger community/network. This is the kind of stuff that could be done automatically with Web 2.0 tools. In general, interesting to see relationship between small groups and whole group. p. 29 sponges

link to Skinner Interesting point about scaffolds in KB, does this mean that they should eventually be removed? And does it mean that for example experts would _not_ be served well by these kinds of scaffolds? p. 10

KB scaffolds actually serve as a second purpose, apart from cognitive “nudges” - they are semantic markers, enabling future analyses, and something that in fact we would like scientists to use in their papers, to enable richer computer analysis, visualizations etc p. 10

Links here


In recent years, there has been an upsurge of approaches based on a socio-constructivist framework to help students learn science and math. As such, the notion of scaffolding is now increasingly being used to describe the support provided to students to learn successfully in such environments. In the past two decades, varied approaches to scaffolding student learning have been put forth. Scaffolding has been provided in the form of paper-and-pencil tools, technology resources, peer support or teacher-led discussions. The original notion of scaffolding, as used in the initial studies of parent-child interactions or in teacher-student interactions, seems somewhat narrow to explain the multifaceted nature of learning in complex learning environments, especially when it involves helping an entire class of students learn successfully. However, by broadening the scope of scaffolding, we seem to have missed some of the key features that are p. 2

crucial to successful scaffolding. While acknowledging that the original notion of scaffolding that described the one-on-one interactions between an adult and child is not adequate for describing the complex nature of learning in a classroom, we emphasize that some of the critical elements of scaffolding are missing in the evolved notion. We discuss the key aspects of scaffolding and how we can design and implement these features in the changed context of scaffolding classroom communities. p. 3

Few years back, Addison Stone (Stone, 1998) provided an insightful critique of the ‘metaphor of scaffolding’ and called for enriching the scaffolding metaphor, especially as it applied to the field of learning disabilities. As a response to his article, Palincsar (1998) pointed out that it is the “atheoretical use of scaffolding that has become problematic” and seems to have occurred “as we have become increasingly comfortable using scaffold as a verb.” She urged researchers in the field to consider “repositioning the metaphor in its theoretical framework, consider ways in which contexts and activities scaffold learning, and research the relationship between scaffolding and good teaching”. p. 3

scaffolding is no longer restricted to interactions between individuals – artifacts, resources and environments themselves are also being used as scaffolds. p. 4

In the past two decades, varied approaches to scaffolding student learning have been put forth. Scaffolding has been provided in the form of paper-and-pencil tools, technology resources, peer support or teacher-led discussions. Scaffolding in the form of prompts to help students reflect and articulate have been developed (Bell & Davis, 1996; Jackson, Krajcik, & Soloway, 1998; Puntambekar & Kolodner, 2002). Different types of scaffolding, either by varying the activities according to their difficulty or content of the task (Luckin, 1998) have also been designed. For scaffolding to be effective in a complex environment, the complementary roles that tools, resources, teachers and peers play in providing a range of support have been explored (Puntambekar, Nagel, Hübscher, Guzdial, & Kolodner, 1997; Tabak & Reiser, 1997). p. 4

Where should we draw the line between ‘support’ and ‘scaffolding’? Is all support scaffolding? p. 4

Scaffolding has been defined by Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976) as an “adult controlling those elements of the task that are essentially beyond the learner’s capacity, thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence.” p. 5

The notion of scaffolding has been linked to the work of soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. However, Vygotsky never used the term scaffolding, but believed that learning first occurs at the social or interindividual level and emphasized the role of social interactions as being crucial to cognitive development. Thus, according to Vygotsky (Vygotsky, 1978), a child (or a novice) learns with an adult or a more capable peer, and learning occurs within the child’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). ZPD is defined as the “distance between the child’s actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the higher level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance and in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotksy, 1978). p. 5

As Stone (1998) has pointed out, the original description of scaffolding by Wood et al. was largely pragmatic, and it was later (Bruner, 1985; Cazden , 1979, cited in Stone, 1998), that the notion of scaffolding was linked with ZPD. Instruction in the ZPD then came to be viewed as taking the form of providing assistance or scaffolding, enabling a child or a novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal that she would not be able to achieve on her own. p. 6

According to Greenfield (1999), The scaffold, as it is known in building construction, has five characteristics: it provides a support; it functions as a tool; it extends the range of the worker; it allows a worker to accomplish a task not otherwise possible; and it is used to selectively aid the worker where needed. p. 6

This analogy embodies two important elements of instructional scaffolding. Instructional scaffolding enables a child or a novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal “which would be beyond his unassisted efforts” (Wood et al. 1976), and describes a support that “can be easily disassembled when no longer needed.” But an important difference, as Lepper, Drake, & O’Donnell-Johnson (1997) have pointed out is that, this analogy also “carries an inappropriate connotation” that the student, much like the worker or the painter will return to ground zero when scaffolding is removed. Lepper et al. pointed out that a more suitable analogy is that of a tunnel or an arch being supported by a temporary structure while it is under construction. p. 6

One of the most critical aspects of scaffolding is the role of the adult or the expert. Wood et al. documented six types of support that an adult can provide: recruiting the child’s interest, reducing the degrees of freedom by simplifying the task, maintaining direction, highlighting the critical task features, controlling frustration and demonstrating ideal solution paths. In this description, the expert is the domain expert as well as a facilitator who is knowledgeable of the skills, strategies and processes required for effective learning. The expert not only helps motivate the learner by providing just enough support to enable her to accomplish the goal, but also provides support in the form of modeling, highlighting the critical features of the task, and providing hints and questions that might p. 7

help the learner to reflect (Wood et al. 1976). In this conception then, the adult’s role has perceptual, cognitive as well as affective components (Stone, 1998). p. 8

Central to successful scaffolding is the notion of a shared understanding of the goal of the activity. Although some elements of the activity may be beyond what the child could accomplish by herself, intersubjectivity (Rogoff, 1990; Wertsch, 1985) or a shared understanding of the activity is of critical importance. Intersubjectivity is attained when the adult and child collaboratively redefine the task so that there is combined ownership of the task and the child shares an understanding of the goal that she needs to accomplish. This helps provide motivation for the child to complete the task. The adult/expert has to ascertain that the learner is invested in the task as well as to help sustain this motivation, “making it worthwhile for the learner to risk the next step” (Wood et al. 1976). p. 8

A key element of scaffolding is that the adult provides appropriate support based on an ongoing diagnosis of the child’s current level of understanding. This requires that the adult should not only have a thorough knowledge of the task and its components, the subgoals that need to be accomplished, but should also have knowledge of the child’s capabilities that change as the instruction progresses. p. 8

The effective tutor must have at least two theoretical models to which he must attend. One is a theory of the task or problem and how it may be completed. The other is a theory of performance characteristics of the tutee. Without both of these, he can neither generate feedback nor devise situations in which his feedback will be more appropriate for this tutee, in this task at this point in task mastering. The actual pattern of effective instruction then, will be both task and p. 8

tutee dependent, the requirements of the tutorial being generated by the interaction of the tutor’s two theories (Wood et al. 1976, p. 97). p. 9

The ongoing diagnosis leads to a “careful calibration of support” (Stone, 1998) so that the adult is able to provide “graduated assistance” (Stone, 1998) of different types. The adult draws from a repertoire of methods and strategies, constantly fine-tuning the support based on the child’s changing knowledge and skills, i.e., following a “moving zone of proximal development” (Greenfield, 1999). Thus, the amount and types of strategies are different not only for different learners with different levels of expertise, but also for the same learner over a period of time. The adult may model the ideal solutions (Wood et al. 1976), or the appropriate strategies (Palincsar & Brown, 1984), or provide several types of support such as offering explanations, inviting participation, modeling desired behavior and providing clarifications (Roehler & Cantlon, 1997). p. 9

The ongoing assessment and adaptation of support is attained through the dialogic and interactive nature of scaffolded instruction. The dialogic interactions (Reid, 1998), so beautifully embodied in the reciprocal teaching studies (Brown & Palincsar, 1987; Palincsar & Brown, 1984), enable the teacher an ongoing assessment of the student’s understanding as well as allowing students to play a role in negotiating the interactions. The dialogue between the student and the adult/expert is extremely important because it allows students to “exercise some control over the dynamics of the situation, and to negotiate the instructional interaction” (Reid, 1998) based on their evolving understanding. It also enables the adult to monitor progress, provide appropriate support and eventually fade the support so that the learner is now able to function on her own. p. 9

The final feature of scaffolding is fading the support provided to the learner so that the learner is now in control and is taking responsibility for her learning. Vygotsky believed that the cognitive processes that first occur on an interpsychological plane move on to an intrapsychological plane, a process that he called internalization. There is a transfer of responsibility from the teacher to the learner and the scaffolding can be removed, as the learner moves towards independent activity. According to Vygotsky, internalization is “far from being a mechanical operation”. In Wood et al.’s original description, what is important about the transfer of responsibility is that the child has not only learned how to complete a specific task, but successful scaffolding entails that the child has also abstracted the process of completing the particular activity and is able to generalize this understanding to other similar tasks. p. 10

Interesting point about scaffolds in KB, does this mean that they should eventually be removed? And does it mean that for example experts would _not_ be served well by these kinds of scaffolds? p. 10

KB scaffolds actually serve as a second purpose, apart from cognitive "nudges" - they are semantic markers, enabling future analyses, and something that in fact we would like scientists to use in their papers, to enable richer computer analysis, visualizations etc p. 10

the original notion of scaffolding in which a single more knowledgeable person helps an individual learner, providing him or her with exactly the help he/she needs to move forward, is not adequate to explain the scaffolding in a complex, interactive classroom. Classroom situations involving many students do not allow for the fine-tuned, sensitive, personalized exchange that occurs in a one-on-one situation (Rogoff, 1990). Therefore, instead of one teacher working with each student, support is now being provided in a paper or software tool that individuals interact with, or classroom activities are being redefined so that peers can scaffold each other. p. 11

the notion of scaffolding has therefore evolved to describe the support provided in multiple modes and tools with different affordances. p. 12

instead of a single knowledgeable person proving support, we now have distributed expertise in which peers scaffold each other, and resources as well as the learning environment itself is redesigned to provide motivation as well as support. Second, because some of the support is being provided through tools, computer-based or otherwise, the dynamic assessment that is so important to scaffolding as described in the original notion, is no longer possible. Third, in many instances, the current notion of scaffolding, especially in classrooms, focuses on providing “blanket scaffolding” – i.e., the amount and type of support is same for everyone. p. 12

Blanket scaffolding is definitively the case with KB. p. 12

An important feature of scaffolding is the shared understanding of a common goal that provides motivation to students to engage in the task. While this shared understanding of the goal was achieved between the adult and the child in the original notion of scaffolding, it is now important for the whole class or a group of learners to share the goal and have ownership of the task so that they are motivated to learn. Enabling contexts (Hannafin, Land, & Oliver, 1999), such as those provided by the anchors in the form of p. 13

video vignettes in the Jasper series (CTGV., 1990), or an authentic task (Palincsar, 1998), or by incorporating staging activities as in the BGuILE curriculum (Reiser, 2001), not only provide students with the motivation for engaging in the activities but also create a shared knowledge of the task or problem that they are required to solve. Another interesting way to attain shared understanding is in the Learning by DesignTM (LBD) curriculum, in which students work through an entire unit, the launcher unit (Holbrook & Kolodner, 2000), that creates enthusiasm and engagement and also scaffolds the building of skills such as collaboration, articulation, critiquing, etc. that students will be required to use in other LBD units. p. 14

Expertise is therefore distributed amongst all participants, who serve as cognitive apprentices (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989) supporting and critiquing each other, justifying views and opinions, and offering suggestions and explanations. p. 14

This shared understanding occurs in a classroom as the tools, agents (teachers, peers) and resources in the environment support multiple zones of proximal development. Students learn at their own pace and scaffolding is provided not only by the teacher, but also by peers as well as artifacts and resources (Brown et al., 1993). To support the occurrence of discourse among students in a classroom, several computer-based discussion tools are now being used. Tools such as CSILE (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1994), WebSMILE (Guzdial, 1997), and Speakeasy (Hoadley & Linn, 2000) provide opportunities for asynchronous discussions. These tools have been found to help students to delve deeper into important scientific issues (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1994), to provide more scientific justifications for their designs (Puntambekar, Nagel & Kolodner, 1997), and to generate conceptually richer elaborations (Hsi & Hoadley, 1997). In addition, tools have also been used to foster synchronous collaboration as students engage in design or inquiry. Tools such as Progress Portfolio (Loh et al., 1998), Sensemaker (Bell & Davis, 1996) and the Group Design Diaries (Puntambekar et al., 1997) support student learning by providing prompts that enable them to think about the processes and reflect on their learning, while at the same time they encourage dialogue among groups of students interacting with the tools. The Collaboratory Notebook used in the CoVis project p. 15

(Edelson, Gomez, Polman, Gordin, & Fishman, 1994) provides students with a collaborative environment and supports scientific reasoning and inquiry skills. Classroom events such as “Pin-up sessions” and design discussions (Kolodner et al., 2002) enable students to share, review and critique design ideas. As students engage in dialogue and negotiation in a knowledge building discourse (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994), the more knowledgeable peers contribute by raising important issues, pointing to resources and by providing clarifications. Less knowledgeable members play an important role by bringing up questions and asking for clarifications. p. 16

Tools and resources are not only useful for promoting dialogue and interactions, but for demonstrating “relevant aspects of the task or strategies and making covert processes visible (Collins, Brown & Newman, 1989; Linn, 1998). p. 16

Similar challenges are present in a project-based or a problem-based classroom. In such environments, software or paper tools are increasingly being used to provide procedural scaffolding so that the teacher is free to provide conceptual scaffolding (Bell & Davis, 1996). p. 17

Difference between procedural scaffolding and conceptual scaffolding. Is procedural scaffolding like scripting? p. 17

For example, based on the scaffolded knowledge integration framework, the Knowledge Integration Environment, KIE, (Linn, 1998), consists of a suite of tools to help foster knowledge integration by developing skills such as reflection, critiquing and using evidence to develop an argument. KIE supports the scientific inquiry process by making thinking visible (Linn, 1998). One of the tools from KIE, the Sensemaker, helps students to develop scientific arguments by scaffolding the process of constructing an argument. Sensemaker makes the process visible and encourages students to reflect on the process. In addition, it also allows for peer-to-peer scaffolding as “students working on the joint construction of a Sensemaker argument often engage in productive discussion”(Bell, 1997). Another component of KIE is the scaffolding provided by the online guidance system, Mildred. This tool provides students with scaffolding at four levels – the big picture, what to do, how to do it and things to think about. Prompts in KIE include activity hints (specific prompts to help students in making decisions), evidence hints as p. 17

well as metacognitive/self monitoring hints. Such hints and questions are important as students reflect on their own or to promote dialogue when students work in small groups. p. 18

Another tool, the Design Diary (Puntambekar & Kolodner, 1998; 2002), is a paper-and pencil tool that has been used in the Learning by design (Kolodner et al., 2002) classrooms. The Design Diary has pages associated with the major activities and products of the design process. Each page in the Design Diary has prompts to help students carry out its associated design step and write down important information. For example, during problem understanding, students are asked to restate the problem in their own words. Prompts for choosing between alternative solutions ask them to identify the criteria against which they would evaluate possible solutions and to state why they thought these criteria were important. The diaries also have, on some pages, examples of good and not- so-good responses as models of what students are to think about and articulate. Prompts in the diaries help students to reflect on their design activities and articulate their thought and ideas. p. 18

Nice to finally see a paper-based tool for CSCL. Again, sounds a lot like scripting. p. 18

Opportunities for feedback and reflection are also provided in the SMART environment (Vye et al., 1998). STAR LEGACY (Schwartz, Lin, Brophy, & Bransford, 1999) provides a visual representation of the learning cycle to help students with the steps involved. This representation, according to Schwartz et al., is designed to help both students and teachers understand where they are in the learning cycle. After reviewing the initial challenge in video format, this cycle leads students through the processes of generating ideas, considering multiple perspectives, researching and revising, testing their p. 18

knowledge as they learn, and finally going public. In addition, the look ahead and reflect back option allows students to revisit the learning context and learning goals. p. 19

A slightly more interactive approach can be found in tools such as Model-It based on the ‘learner-centered design’ (LCD) approach (Jackson et al., 1998). In this environment, three types of scaffolding are provided – reflective scaffolding, intrinsic scaffolding and supportive scaffolding. Reflective scaffolding promotes reflection on the task by providing prompts. The last category, task- focused scaffolding, supports the learner by changing the task itself, by making the advanced features of the task unavailable. Supportive scaffolding refers to specific help that the students are provided to complete the task – examples, what to do next hints, etc. Fading of scaffolding is accomplished by a simple mechanism – a ‘stop reminding me’ button that the student can choose when she does not need the hints, i.e., fading is not automatic but has to be explicitly initiated by the student. Fading is achieved in Ecolab (Luckin, 1998) by using a learner model and varying the amount of control based on the system’s beliefs about the child’s learning. However, in most other environments described in this paper, the scaffolds are permanent and unchanging. p. 19

First mention of a learner model. I wonder if there is any work on collaborative/group learner models... or individual learner models within group learning. p. 19

Tools have also been designed to scaffold the task itself. In her Eco-Lab2 environment, Luckin (1998) has implemented task-focused scaffolding by varying the difficulty of the activities and by varying the complexity of the environment itself. Jackson et al.’s (1998) intrinsic scaffolding also provides scaffolding for the task, by making the complex aspects of the task unavailable to novice learners. Burton, Brown & Fischer (1999) discuss a paradigm that they call “Increasingly Complex Microworlds,” in which a student is exposed to a sequence of environments (microworlds) in which the tasks become increasingly complex. While it may be argued that task-focused scaffolding is in some ways similar to the Skinnerian concept of shaping – the major difference is that within each task, a learner may be scaffolded within his or her ZPD – so that the learner is provided with support as well as the challenge to complete the task (Roehler & Cantlon, 1997). p. 20

Interesting link to behaviourism and Skinner - nice way of being critical of scripts and scaffolds. p. 20

However, many current tools built for scaffolding focus on helping students move forward with their projects and activities, by providing them with options about what to do next, providing hints relating to those options and by helping them reflect on their learning. One of the exceptions to this approach is the BGuILE environment that provides domain-based scaffolding to help students investigate the different aspects of a complex phenomenon. As described by Reiser et al. (2001), BGuILE’s software tools explicitly represent domain specific theories and strategies in ways that guide students’ inquiry processes and emphasize general, epistemological goals for their inquiry products. p. 21

Link to the idea of domain-specific of domain-independent pedagogical approaches. p. 21

Recent approaches have also examined the role of the teacher as a facilitator of small groups as well as the whole class, as critical to successful learning in complex environments. A teacher leading a whole class discussion has to take into consideration “a whole group of students who are at varying places in their learning” (Hogan, 1997). These whole-class discussions might happen during several key stages throughout the course of a unit (Puntambekar & Kolodner, 2002). Very often, the kinds of experiences that students have in small groups are very different for each group, depending on their investigation paths and the specific stage at which the teacher interacts with them (Tabak and Reiser, 1997). This means orchestrating the classroom in ways that ensures that individual or small-group work that students might do be formally used in whole-class discussions, and that there be more opportunities for small groups to share with the class the ideas they are formulating or testing. p. 21

Interesting, links to papers on the role of the teacher etc. Link to earlier paper on role of facilitators in synchronous discussions - although this is more focused on longer-term projects I think. Also this term "orchestration", what does it mean? Where does it fit in? p. 21

Roehler and Cantlon (1997) have described the types of scaffolding that teachers provide during “learning conversations.” They found that teachers offer explanations, invite student participation, verify and clarify student understandings, model desired behaviors and invite students to contribute clues about how to complete the task. Hogan & Pressley (1997) described the teacher’s role “within a community of inquiry” as being “ not so much to execute a set of specific strategies, but rather to organize the learning environment to establish an underlying culture that centers around thinking together with students.” They have summarized ten types of teacher statements that can prompt student thinking: Framing a problem or articulating a goal, encouraging attention to conflicts and differences of opinion, refocusing the discussion, inviting interaction of ideas, prompting refinement of language, turning question back to its owner, communicating standards for explanations, asking for elaborations, clarifications and finally restating or summarizing student statements. The teacher therefore plays a crucial role in making students’ private learning opportunities public and in moving them from “local” to “global” understanding (Tabak and Reiser, 1997). p. 22

Puntambekar & Kolodner (2002) have discussed the notion of distributed scaffolding, to describe the support that is provided in multiple forms by many tools and agents that play a role in learning (for example - the teacher, peers, software and paper and pencil tools). To help students learn successfully in a classroom, a system of scaffolding is required that integrates the activities that students have to carry out. p. 22

However, not all the support provided by a tool or resource can be called scaffolding. If we do that, then we have overlooked some of the key elements of scaffolding. p. 23

Tools and environments that provide domain specific, procedural, metacognitive as well as reflective scaffolding have been designed, providing an array of methods for helping students learn in a socio-constructivist classroom. Software tools that force “students to encounter important ideas” (Reiser, 2002) have helped externalize processes and representations that would otherwise be tacit. p. 24

Scaffolding has also evolved to include a careful orchestration of the environment – both software environments as well as the classroom environment. In the traditional use of the metaphor, there was an emphasis on scaffolding the learner. However, as the learning sciences community designs complex environments to help students learn, there has been a realization of the need to provide not only learner-focused scaffolding but also task- focused scaffolding (Luckin, 1998), where the task or the activity itself is varied based on the current state of the learner. p. 24

if the tools that we have built are permanent and unchanging, they can be described as “permanent supports” (Roehler and Cantlon, 1997) – tools that help provide structure and consistency, by highlighting the aspects of the tasks that students should focus on. While this is by no means trivial, we would like to emphasize that a ‘support’ becomes a ‘scaffold’ only when it is adaptive, based on an ongoing diagnosis of student learning and helps students to eventually internalize the knowledge and skills and gain control of their learning. p. 25

Second, as we move the notion of scaffolding into the classroom, the dynamic and adaptive support provided to an individual learner by a more capable adult is no longer available. Although peers may scaffold each other to some degree, they do not necessarily think about “intentionally” attuning their support to the changing level of understanding of their partners or other members of the group. One of the most important characteristics of scaffolding is the bi-directional, dialogic nature. Although dialogue is a critical part of peer interactions, the dialogue may not be focused on adjusting the support that one student might provide to another. Rogoff (1990) pointed out some interesting shortcomings in the sensitivity and effectiveness of the scaffolding provided by peers as opposed to adults. She maintains that peer interactions may encourage exploration, performance and can provide motivation; in a classroom environment, peers can be critical of each other and force each other to think. Expert-novice interactions on the other hand, are marked by an assessment of the partner’s level of competence so that support can be tailored to her specific needs, which is not possible in peer interactions. It is therefore difficult to provide the adaptive and dynamic support that is tailored to every individual in a classroom situation. Tools can help to some extent; however, software support with the exception of some tools is not necessarily adaptive. p. 26

Very interesting to see comparison of peer-scaffolding and expert-scaffolding. Relevant to peer-learning? p. 26

Third, good scaffolding implies that the student is now able to perform the tasks on her own, and there is a transfer of responsibility from the “scaffolder” to the “scaffoldee.” This aspect of scaffolding has perhaps been overlooked in the many environments that we discussed in the earlier section. p. 26

Brown et al. (1993), based on Rogoff (1990) prefer to use the term ‘mutual appropriation’ instead of internalization to emphasize the multidimensional nature of the interactions in a classroom embodying the communities of learners approach. In such an environment, there is collaboration, interaction and negotiation, and students learn from each other. Brown et al. argue that the “appropriation” of ideas in such an environment is multidirectional and there are multiple zones of proximal development in which students learn at different rates and appropriate ideas and skills based on their current zones of proximal development at any given time. The notion of mutual appropriation suggests that students will appropriate ideas based on their ZPDs, but for scaffolding to be successful, we argue that it is important to understand the extent of such appropriation. p. 27

To what extent is this idealized notion of scaffolding, helping learners reach their ZPD etc, based on an "encyclopedic" epistemology? Seems to fit well in science, but what about social science and humanities? I guess it is possible to scaffold a certain way of interacting with ideas, rather than exactly what those ideas will be - a skill/appreciation, rather than understanding/knowledge? p. 28

Shifting the focus of ongoing diagnosis to the group as a unit: p. 29

One of the examples that come to mind in monitoring the progress of the groups is the case of the ‘sponges’ described by Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994). While students were engaged in online discussions, one student posted a response about the three ways of reproduction in sponges, and a discussion about deeper issues of evolution followed, with an insight into the structural simplicity of sponges and its relationship to the reproductive processes. Although this is a great example of peers learning from each other, a teacher monitoring this discussion can bring it to the notice of the whole class. p. 29

"Bubbling up" great ideas from small groups to the whole group - or in our case, to the larger community/network. This is the kind of stuff that could be done automatically with Web 2.0 tools. In general, interesting to see relationship between small groups and whole group. p. 29

Another way in which we are trying to help understand where the groups are in terms of their understanding is by using computer generated log files of students’ navigation paths (Kulikowich & Young, 2001). By analyzing the navigation paths as students traverse through an online resource designed to help students understand the relationships among concepts (Puntambekar, Stylianou and Jin, 2001), and looking for patterns, a teacher can be alerted to unique aspects that stand out. We are working on a system where the teacher can be alerted to the most frequently visited concepts, most frequent transitions, unusually long or short amounts of time spent on concepts, etc. The teacher can then integrate these observations with the progress of groups in the classroom and she can then use all of the observations to guide whole class discussions or small group facilitation. Ways to keep track of the dialogue among groups, such as using an online discussion tool, or capturing group conversations, can help a teacher as well as a researcher examine a group’s progress over time and analyze whether students’ dialogue shows an increasing depth of knowledge. p. 30

Building Redundancy and Fading: According to Rogoff, (1999), one way to provide scaffolding is to make the messages sufficiently redundant so that if a child does not understand one aspect of the communication, other forms are available to make the meaning clear. p. 30

It is not possible for one person to provide support for the multiple students learning at different rates within their ZPDs. Building redundancy can therefore make up for the lack of graduated assistance if multiple ways and multiple levels of scaffolding are tailored to the multiple ZPDs that are found in any classroom. When scaffolding is provided in multiple formats, there are more chances for students to notice and take advantages of the environment’s affordances. For example, recognizing the need to reflect is particularly difficult when students are working hard on a hands-on activity (indeed, taking time to reflect is hard for anybody in the flow of working on an exciting hands-on activity). Paper-and-pencil and electronic scaffolding cannot help students recognize that need; rather, they seem to need to be interrupted from their activities to think about what they are doing. When scaffolding is distributed across tools and agents in the environment in a systematic way, such difficulties can be dealt with from a variety of perspectives (Puntambekar & Kolodner, 2002). Multiple opportunities are important too. Students who fail to understand a prompt in a paper or software tool may need another opportunity to be scaffolded during a small group session when a peer asks the same question that is in a prompt but uses different words or during a whole-class discussion when another student explains how he/she accomplished some task. p. 31

An issue to consider while building redundancy is to build tools that not only provide support for the process, but also provide scaffolding for a specific domain. Tools and resources (e.g. Digital library, CoMPASS) may be integrated into the environment that can help students with their domain related questions. CoMPASS (Puntambekar, 2000) p. 31

provides conceptual support by using dynamic concept maps that show the relationships among concepts. It enables students to see a particular concept or principle through many different ‘views’, enabling them to understand the multiple relationships among concepts. p. 32

the system MIST (Puntambekar & du Boulay, 1997) in which the system keeps track of the learning paths of pairs of learners and advises one to support the other based on these paths. p. 32

We would like to go back to Wood et al.’s original description of a ‘theory of the task’ and ‘a theory of the tutee’, as crucial to building effective scaffolding. In order to build tools based on multiple ZPDs (theories of the multiple tutees), we need to conduct extensive studies of the difficulties that students have in a particular situation and revise that knowledge as we move forward. If different types of scaffolds are built based on the multiple ZPDs that are found in a classroom, then as students make progress, some of the scaffolds may be removed, thereby achieving fading. p. 33

Brown and Campione (1994) and Brown et al. (1993) discuss the role of the teacher in a classroom that is functioning as a community of learners and is engaged in “guided discovery” as consisting of a delicate balance between guidance and discovery, where the teacher has to constantly make judgments about when to intervene. The successful teacher must continually engage in on-line diagnosis of student understanding. She must be sensitive to current overlapping zones of proximal development, where certain students are ripe for new learning. She must renegotiate zones of proximal development so that still other students might be ready for conceptual growth….If students are apprentice learners, the teacher is the master craftsperson of learning whom they must emulate. In this mode, the teacher models …through thought and real experimentation (Brown et al. 1993, p. 189). p. 34

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