Review of Scaffolding

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Wan-chen Lee

Indiana University in Bloomington

Brief Summary

Scaffolding is used to bridge the zone of proximal development (i.e., ZPD) by more knowledgeable others (i.e. MKO) to help the students master a task that they are initially unable to grasp independently. Even though limitations to scaffolding exist, its features of intentionality, appropriateness, structure, collaboration, and internalization benefit students by providing individualized instruction and by engaging them to be active learners. Methods, points to consider, and examples of scaffolding application can also be drawn from this chapter. Hence, it provides the reader with a sense of both what scaffolding is and how to use it in instruction.


As noted below, there are a plethora of strengths for this chapter. To start with, this chapter is moderately-organized, easy to understand, and fairly comprehensive or extensive.

  • Divided into ten topics, main ideas are presented in a systematic way: from definition and characteristics to applications and challenges/ benefits analysis.
  • Main ideas are supported with plenty of straight-forward examples so that readers can relate easily to their own personal experiences.
  • The scenario in the beginning serves as an excellent medium to interrelate the whole chapter. Throughout the chapter, the scenario is mentioned and analyzed to make scaffolding principles highly explicit and clear.
  • Moreover, various related sources are integrated in expanding on the idea of scaffolding so that readers can acquire an overview of the instructional strategy.
  • Most of the quotes are adequate in supplementing the preceding/following claim, such as the view that scaffolding is a temporary support system. This notion, in fact, is back up by quote from Benson’s bridge metaphor in part two of this chapter as well as the quotes from Ellis to emphasize the feature that scaffolding should be gradually removed so that students become a self-regulated, independent learner.


  • The scenario is a great agent interweaving the topics. However, it may be considered purposeful or too contrived in attempting to fit all the features of scaffolding; especially in part four: characteristics and critical features of scaffolding instruction.In effect, it becomes too detailed to be practical. If it can be condensed, especially the first paragraph, or be substitute by two scenarios, part one would serve as great context to involve readers. Also, the final paragraph should be moved to part three to exemplify “fading,” instead of being analyzed right after the scenario.
  • The animation is appropriate. A connection to chapter five: Vygotsky’s Constructivism, where there is a related animation of ZPD (, might also help to comprehend.
  • Part two: What Is Scaffolding: The definition and metaphor is focused on in the first paragraph. However, in addition to the repeated third and fifth sentences, it is difficult to tell the authors’ subjective claim from paraphrasing other researchers’ ideas. For example, who should be attributed to the ideas of facilitative tools? Since authors are synthesizing the ideas, instead of conducting any experiment, assertions that are based on personal experiences should be weighed; otherwise, reference should be documented and objective claims based on fact or evidence should be presented. Also, these different facilitative tools and the following two paragraphs may not be mentioned until they can be integrated with part six: “Methods of Instructional Scaffolding.” Finally, after analyzing the scenario using the tools mentioned above, a conclusion may be added to the end: It is a successful example that Mrs. Maddox gradually removes her scaffolding, shifting the responsibility to Patrick, who is now mastering the task that he is initially unable to grasp on his own.
  • The strategy of scaffolding can never be completed without mentioning Vygotsky’s ZPD, which is properly addressed in Part Three of this chapter. Nevertheless, the quote “Scaffolding is …of instructional process which works in a task-sharing situation between the teacher and the student.” in the last paragraph doesn’t seem to fit in with the preceding fading concept and the following two key aspects. I believe the quote is better interpreted to supplement the feature of collaboration. Also, I think the diagram (Figure 1) would well correlate ZPD with scaffolding.
Figure 1. Scaffolding and ZPD
  • Part Four: It is valueless to address Lange’s two major steps of developing and executing the plan involved in instructional scaffolding here. I think all strategies involve the two steps. The five features are worth mentioning, even though the scenario analysis is awkward when it seems designed to fit the features. The paragraph beginning with Larkin’s quote about meeting individual’s needs, which is another important feature of scaffolding, should be presented lastly or first in this part, instead of inserting between five features and scenario analysis.
  • Part six, except for Lange’s fifth method which is not mentioned, the rest is clearly explained with examples. This part can be expanded by adding in the facilitative tools from part one.
  • The authors arrange Part eight with educational situations ranging from preschool to adult education and non-traditional settings. This part should be condensed and presented as a “review of scaffolding studies.” There is no need to state all these settings chronologically; especially elementary and business for which the author fails to list pertinent studies. Furthermore, it would be better if the application in adult and higher education can be depicted under multimedia circumstance. The “Decision Point” software is trendy and it would be fascinating to know exactly how the three types of hard scaffolds work to realize the software. As the author notes, this type of software “is portable, could be used asynchronously, and allows the learners more independence.” Thus, it should be useful to everyone, not limited to higher and adult learning. Finally, Reciprocal Teaching is one of the most common applications of scaffolding. “Brown and Palincsar (1989) have noted that reciprocal teaching is explained by three related theories of guided learning: Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978), proleptic teaching (Wertsch & Stone, 1979; Rogoff & Gardner, 1984), and expert scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976).” (Rosenshine & Meister, 1994). Therefore, a discussion on reciprocal teaching should be integrated to make this part complete.
  • The challenges and benefits of scaffolding in Part Nine, which should be revised, are incomplete without further explaining and the sources are not cited. For example, the first challenge mentioned can be explained: As Van Der Stuyf pointed out, “However, this is also the biggest disadvantage for the teacher since developing the supports and scaffolded lessons to meet the needs of each individual would be extremely time-consuming.”(2002). And the rest of the claims should be done in a similar way.
  • Ten principles of effective teaching in Part Ten can be integrated into elaborating the benefits of scaffolding. Otherwise, exactly how scaffolding supports the ten principles of effective teaching is not accounted for.
  • Adding Conclusion to the end can make the whole chapter more complete.


Rosenshine, Barak & Meister, Carla. Reciprocal Teaching: A Review of the Research. Retrieved September 17, 2007, from

Van Der Stuyf, R. Rachel. (2002).Scaffolding as a Teaching Strategy. Retrieved September 17, 2007, from,+benefits.