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Scaffolding: Who Should It Really Support? Children or Teachers?


Scaffolding: Who Should It Really Support? Children or Teachers? - Aidan Severs Consulting Ltd

When I was a kid I thought scaffolding was to hold up falling down buildings. I was scared to walk by it in case the scaffolding didn't hold it up and the building fell down.


Now I know scaffolding isn't to support the building, it's to support the builders.


What if we have made the same mistake in how we think of scaffolding for learning?


What if we thought of scaffolding as something that supported the teacher to teach, rather than the child to learn?


Perhaps scaffolding could be the things we do to get teachers to where they need to be to do the work that needs to be done?


A roofer needs the scaffold to reach the parts of the house they need to work on, what if it's the same for teachers?


Too often in teaching we think about what children need to be doing before turning the mirror on ourselves as teachers.


Usually, there is something we need to do before the child can do what they need to do.


For example, to be able improve a piece of writing using a grammar technique, we have to teach (or re-teach) them that grammar technique.


It's not good giving them feedback that says 'use this technique' if for whatever reason they don't know it.


We must act before they can act.


And so it could be for scaffolding.


Instead of thinking 'what can I provide that supports the child?', think 'what can I put in place for myself that supports me in teaching this child/these children?'


That switch in thought immediately brings things back into your control.


Classic scaffolding techniques can sometimes be a bit 'hit and hope' - 'if I give them this, then maybe it will help'.


Any scaffolding you prepare for yourself can be based on what you know you need.


What scaffolds can teachers prepare for themselves in order to 'reach' where children are at?


👉 Questions

👉 Prompts

👉 Models

👉 Examples/non-examples

👉 Additional practice tasks

👉 Success criteria

👉 Written instructions

👉 Writing frames

👉 Partially completed tasks


The list could go on: ANYTHING that helps you as a teacher to reach and work with children where they are in their need.


Of course, to prepare these scaffolds for yourself you have to have a good idea of exactly where children are at (see https://www.aidansevers.com/post/forensic-assessment for more)


So, instead of thinking of scaffolding as something that will support the child, it might help you to have more control if you think about scaffolding as a support for you as you work with children.


What do you think? Does it make sense or did I take an analogy too far?!

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