Introduction to Scaffolding and the Lessons of Life
In the paradigm shift of education and learning, one of the best concepts I have learned in my second master’s program in education at the University of Missouri, Kansas City is about scaffolding. Scaffolding is the concept that the teacher should ask the right questions during the lesson to help encourage discussion among the participants in partner and group work in which each student must attach some life experience or idea to the class subject. This cementing personal experience to current knowledge helps learners to create their own learning versus the traditional method as the teacher as the sole dispenser of knowledge. While the Asian learning model is still traditional, in my private practice, I use both traditional and contemporary theories in my classrooms and coaching practice.
Scaffolding stands as an excellent teaching tool in any learning environment. First, it allows personal experience to be a foundational basis for individual learning, which both includes the learner in the educational process and also validates the personal experience as being valid and noteworthy. I recall my first semester back to grad school after a twenty-year absence from the first graduate degree. I felt like a fish out of water. The first thing I noticed was how my prior fifteen years of teaching experience seemed to be of little relevance to the new educational theories I was learning. However, by the second semester, I found my coursework requiring me to draw from my personal experience to demonstrate the given theory we were studying in practice. This soon became my favorite part of any theory paper or classroom discussion as I had almost a generation of experiences from my ESL teaching years at Durham Technical Community College, my international internship in Thailand, and 18 years of private educational practice as a tutor and consultant. Scaffolding made my new learning environment come alive.
This concept is transferable to any learning environment including business, personal, and spiritual situations.
In business, we often coach trying to cram new concepts into a client’s mind. The fail rate of this way is extremely high because the client has nothing to relate it to or to scaffold it to because he/she has not been asked the questions that trigger the cognitive processes that must be undertaken to relate the new concepts to prior knowledge. It does not happen automatically but must be implemented through a strategic brain storming session in the form of questions posed and reflective time to think/medicate about the topic. It is best to write down what was discovered in the reflective brainstorming and the final step would be to share it with others present (the coach or co-workers).
In the personal learning realm, one of the biggest errors people make when they attempt to do self help books is they just read them and then stop. The correct way to learn any concept, improve any behavior, or overcome any issue is to follow these steps: 1) Read/skim a chapter at a time. 2) Go back and highlight the parts that grab your attention or that you feel are important and write them down in a journal or notebook hence called your reflective journal. 3) After the highlighting/note taking, write the words: personal reflection below your notes in your journal. Think about the concept(s) you just read about. Can you think of an experience you have had that relates to this principle? Can you remember a lesson learned before related to this? How can you incorporate these ideas into your life? Why is this concept important, in your opinion?
There is no limit as to how much you can write. This is all about you, your experiences, and taking new knowledge and applying it to your life. Through this process, you will experience a new deep structure kind of learning that will actually help you to incorporate the new knowledge into your life, change your thinking or behavior, and prepare you for more insightful learning.
Lastly, in spiritual learning centers regardless of the kind (church, assembly, synagogue or otherwise), scaffolding can be a game changer. How many times have you sat through a sermon and almost fell a sleep? How many times has your mind wondered and you caught yourself daydreaming or staring off into space? If so, this spiritual experience is nothing but a charade. Scaffolding can be also be implemented either personally or by the spiritual leader to improve the learning. “The dialectical themes of spiritual dwelling and spiritual seeking are used in the relational spirituality model to reference ways that others may engage their spirituality for (a) a sense of grounding, community, commitment, and/or affect regulation (dwelling) or (b) a sense of exploration of meaning (particularly of suffering), appreciation for diversity, ways of holding ambiguity and complexity, and constructing/ reconstructing one’s worldview (seeking). Some individuals find ways to integrate spiritual dwelling and seeking, whereas others may be oriented to one of those themes or neither” (Correa & Sandage, 2018, p. 55). Scaffolding in the spiritual learning environment connects the individual to the concept, his/her role in spiritual experience, and the personal greater connection to fellow believers. Remember, this is cross applicable regardless of the context of the religious belief.
To do it as an individual, try to write down a sentence every few minutes about what the speaker has said and how it applies to you or what does it make you think about? Continue doing this until the end of the session and then spend a few minutes collecting your thoughts about the overall subject and what it means to you. You can also introduce a friend to this idea that is there with you and you can do this process together. Remember, both writing down your thoughts and then sharing them verbally bring the process of scaffolding to its most effective application.
The spiritual teacher can best incorporate scaffolding into making the session in which he or she is speaking into a group workshop structure with attendees facing each other in small groups around tables. The traditional format with everyone facing forward is archaic for group learning, sharing, and scaffolding. The concept here is taking the spiritual lesson to a deeper level so that it can be a) personalized by the receiver, b) applied by the receiver, c) remembered by the receiver for future application and further scaffolding as the lesson come to remembrance as he or she goes about living their daily life. And isn’t that the main reason for spiritual learning?
Scaffolding is an extremely valuable tool. If you are interested in ways this can be grafted into your classrooms, business, or spiritual environments, feel free to write me. I would be glad to help you to design a workshop model and written materials that can be used for any kind of future learning situation.
Bernier, A., Carlson, S. M., & Whipple, N. (2010). From external regulation to self-regulation: Early parenting precursors of young children’s executive functioning. Child Development, 81, 326 –339.
Conner, D. B., & Cross, D. R. (2003). Longitudinal analysis of the presence, efficacy and stability of maternal scaffolding during informal problem-solving interactions. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21, 315–334.
Correa, J., & Sandage, J. Relational spirituality as scaffolding for cognitive-behavioral therapy. (2018). Spirituality in Clinical Practice. 5 (1), 54 – 63.
Mulvaney, M. K., McCartney, K., Bub, K. L., & Marshall, N. L. (2006). Determinants of dyadic scaffolding and cognitive outcomes in first graders. Parenting: Science and Practice, 6, 297–320.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.