Boy sits in a classroom with his teacher helping him work.

What is scaffolded learning and how can it be used to optimise learning? 

Learning always develops from the known, into the new. High-quality teaching uses this as a structure to make learning efficient, with new skills and concepts being built upon existing knowledge. By using scaffolded learning, students are encouraged to take ownership for their learning and gain independence. Let us explore how you can use scaffolded learning in the upcoming September term. 


“A temporary framework to provide support until students can solve the problem themselves” 

Jamie McKenzie’s 8 Characteristics of Scaffolding 

In his 2000 book, McKenzie outlines 8 clear characteristics of scaffolded learning 

  1. Clear direction- offer step by step directions  
  1. Clarify of purpose- help keep the big picture 
  1. Keep students on task- the path is outlined clearly 
  1. Assessment to clarify expectations- scaffolded lessons regularly show examples of high quality 
  1. Students are pointed to worthy sources- students may have to use these sources as a starting point 
  1. Reduction of uncertainty, surprise and disappointment- lessons are designed and tested to see what might go wrong 
  1. Efficiency- still require hard work, but because of careful planning there is little waste 
  1. Scaffolding creates momentum- use of essential questions creates a drive towards meaning 

The advantages of scaffolded learning 

The challenges of scaffolded learning 

What are some examples of scaffolded learning? 

In order to reach certain learning objectives, a lesson could be broken up into key parts that progressively allow students to build their understanding. Let’s take a look at a mini maths lesson where students are asked to multiply double digit numbers: 

  1. The objectives for the lesson are made clear at the start, giving students a clear direction 
  1. This is a content scaffold, where teachers explain each step as students work through the problems 
  1. The lesson begins with a ‘warm-up’, where students are assured that if they are unsure, they can stop the video until they are up-to speed 
  1. The next slide works through multiplication problems with a double digit and a single digit 
  1. Finally, we move onto the double-digit multiplication, here 2 problems are worked through, each of varying difficulty 

During the video, between each step 3-5, the teacher checks to see if students have understood the concept shown, gives them time to practice, and then explains how the skills they are learning will help them solve the more challenging problems later to come. 


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