In 1957, Jerome Bruner introduced Scaffolding Theory as a term to describe language learning in young children. He was referring to a method or structure in which students are able to absorb language and progress to learning independently over a period of instruction.
Bruner described an interactive and collaborative method which focused on understanding the learner’s current ability (“Learner’s Zone of Proximal Development”) and setting up an environment where the teacher’s guidance could gradually be removed. In this way, he analogized the method with the idea of construction using a scaffold.
The Three Scaffolds
The theory, at its core, is held together by three principles: collaboration, the zone of proximal development, and the gradual removal of structure.
When implementing a collaborative learning style, the teacher is tasked with involving students in the process as much as possible. Taking contributions and praising them are a fundamental part of encouraging an active learning environment where students are engaged. Included in this is the teacher’s participation. Instructors should share their thought processes as much as possible. Initially, the learning task can be tackled wholly by the teacher who voices his method to the students and explains the logic behind it. As the lesson develops, students can model their contributions around this thought process and contribute to further group examples. Similar to teaching a child to ride a bike for the first time, the learner benefits greatly from seeing the process in action, understanding the mental mechanics of it and gradually taking on the process independently; first with training wheels and eventually without.
The Zone of Proximal Development underpins the entire process. This term was first described by Lev Vygotsky and describes the area of knowledge that a learner is familiar with and can realistically build toward. Since the end goal of the Scaffolding method is to have children working independently, it is important to understand their current level and set tasks in which they are capable of working independently. Mentors should be highly aware of the boundaries of their students and what they will be able to achieve over the long course. By keeping track of this, learners are constantly in an engaging environment where they feel challenged. As the scaffolding is removed and improvement is attained, the zone shifts upwards. This can happen continuously and marks the true potential of the method. The sky, in this case, is literally the limit.
The gradual removal of structure naturally pushes the student to work by themselves. After having clear instruction on how to obtain a solution, learners are able to model their thought processes to match this. They succeed, are praised and level up their Zone of Proximal Development.
How High Can We Build?
What the scaffolding theory does is allow students who were previously incapable of reaching a certain standard to gradually move up to it. Because it is, by natural, a system that relies on progression from a student’s individual point of competency, the learner is always able to improve. Some may move slowly, others more rapidly but the general direction, like a construction site, is upward. Over time, as the method is imbued into the learning process, students are able to work more quickly, absorb more ideas, contribute more effectively and, as a result, reach levels they previously thought they could not.
We can use a variety of methods to implement scaffolding in the classroom: Diagrams, rubrics, flow charts, modeling, worked examples, brainstorms. These are fundamental to providing familiarity, support and guidance where the content is pushing students beyond their comfort zones. Scaffolding ensures that improvement is consistent, personal and only as challenging as the work demands.
The onus lies with educators and parents. Scaffolding works best when it is applied individually to students and when there is a clear understanding between student and mentor. If we are able to properly gauge our learner’s zone of proximal development and actively encourage them to take steps of their own, we can get the best out of them. Equally, setting work at too easy or difficult a level without offering support can restrict potential. Bruner aptly named the theory: we, as the scaffold, should rise above the brick and mortar but stay within sight and always act as a safe and reliable platform for our students to build on their abilities.

1975年,美國著名教育心理學家Jerome Bruner,提出「鷹架理論」一詞,描述孩童的語言學習。在這個學習架構中,孩童能吸收語言,並在一段時間後可以獨立學習。Brunerb提出的方式,側重在理解孩童的現有能力(學習者的近側發展區),接著營造一個可以逐步減少教師對孩童引導的學習環境。Bruner認為這就像鷹架在建築時所發揮的作用。



近側發展區是整個鷹架理論的骨幹。這個詞最早由俄國心理學家Lev Vygotsky提出,用來描述對學習者而言感到熟悉、並能真實建立起來的知識領域。鷹架理論的最終目的在孩子能獨立作業,去了解孩子當前水平與設定他們有能力獨立完成的任務非常重要。導師必須高度了解孩子的極限與在長期課程中能獲得的成就。透過不間斷去追蹤孩子能力的進展,讓孩子能隨時感到充滿挑戰性。當孩子獲得進步,就可以拿掉鷹架,讓近側發展區更上一層樓。當樓層不斷向上構築,天空才是孩子的極限,這也是鷹架理論真正價所在。



鷹架理論中,相信教育有賴導師與父母扛起責任。當我們能為每位學生量身訂製,並對學生有清楚的認識時,鷹架才能提供最好的效果。假如能正確衡量學習者的近側發展區,並積極鼓勵他們自己去嘗試,我們就可以充分利用它們。同樣地,沒有協助,就將任務設置地過於簡單或困難,反而限制了孩子的潛力。就如Bruner貼切地為這個理論命名為鷹架一樣: 我們應該先為建築架構形體,但又不能超前太多,這樣才能提供一個安全可靠的平台,能讓孩子盡情建立自己的能力!