Holding On to Hope

Teachers just need a little hope. After I wrote last week’s post Not Enough Scaffolding in the Lesson on Scaffolding, I felt hope slipping away. I wasn’t sure if the participants would be able to — or even willing to — finish their scaffolding posters. I had this nagging voice of disdain in my head clearly whispering:

“Give it up. You’re goal is lost. Let it go. They don’t want to do the posters, and they also don’t understand why you’re asking them to make them. Wouldn’t a lecture have been more useful? Just tell them they won’t have to finish the posters and give them a lecture on scaffolding instead.”

I’m glad I fought that voice.

 Although I still had doubts as I watched them complete their posters, all that dissipated as soon as they started explaining their posters. Instead of simply copying information from the handout I had given them, most groups added information gleaned from their own understanding of the concept of scaffolded instruction.

One team explained that by providing appropriate scaffolds, the teacher can diminish the learner’s affective filter and therefore increase the student’s ability to learn. Many in the classroom had never heard the term affective filter before, so we had a spontaneous discussion about the term and its value in language learning. Similar discussions happened at each poster. The concept was getting through to them.

Another group brought up the point that scaffolding will be different for each student, so teachers have to be aware of what individual students may need for support. They also brought up the fact that a teacher will not know how to provide better scaffolds or improve on her/his instruction without reflective inquiry. One poster displayed reflection as the final destination (at the top of a metaphorical ladder) for a teacher who is aware of the value of scaffolding. This made me smile with relief :)

“They got it!”

The voice of hope rang through. Deep down I knew that those posters would uncover more than any lecture could have.  Hope won again.

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7 thoughts on “Holding On to Hope

  1. Scaffolding. Another great topic. I once questioneded the use of scaffolding though. Do learners learn best when things are scaffolded? Do I overuse it and do not provide enough challenge or time to think about it on their own? I am for scaffolding in general but these thoughts visit me from time to time.

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    1. I think it’s important to question the way we approach scaffolding. I actually had the same thought as you recently in relation to my writing course here: am I providing too much scaffolding? Are they challenged enough? Such questions are valuable because it means we recognize there are multiple facets to learning.

      I think there is a strong belief here in Korea that the teacher has all the knowledge, and that it’s his/her job to give it to the students. It’s my understanding that the concept of taking steps to facilitate learning is often overlooked. I think it is overlooked because teachers haven’t really taken a look at how learning is enhanced, and maybe they haven’t had the chance to look at this. I think scaffoldiong is part of the enhancement. This doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes I wonder if scaffolding is left in the dark because of a false sense of efficiency. “It’s just more efficient to give them the information.” It’s faster, but are they learning?

      The scaffolding tug of war: seems to be the perfect learning/teaching metaphor.

      Thanks for sharing your questions Bora. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

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