2 August, 2021

What is Scaffolding Thinking to Promote Learning?

Scaffolding thinking to promote learning is an approach designed to help children think about developing strategies of their own for learning.

Scaffolding thinking to promote learning versus conventional approaches

For most people over the age of say 25-30, the chances are that their experience in school was largely conventional.

Broadly speaking, teachers showed how to do something and then the children were asked to demonstrate that they were able to replicate it in a ‘test understanding’ way through questions and exercises etc.

For some children, there may be certain advantages to such an approach but for many more, it runs the risk that their own natural problem-solving abilities are suppressed. For example, if a teacher states there is a given way to do something and you’ll get praise if you can do the same, then children will be inclined to learn by imitation.

That might not enhance their own free-thinking capabilities.

By contrast, scaffolding is a technique that provides children with intellectual and experiential ‘building blocks” of knowledge and techniques. They then use those and bring them together as tools they can deploy to solve a problem or identify an opportunity.


This can be a tricky concept to grasp and is perhaps better illustrated with an, admittedly simplified example.

Consider a conventional approach whereby a teacher would put up on the desk a model of, say, a duck. They might show the children a quick sketch of the duck they had completed, perhaps commenting on how to do a beak and feet, then inviting the children to do a drawing.

Scaffolding thinking to promote learning might suggest that the children were allowed to feel inside a box where the model duck was hidden. The teacher might already have shown how wood and metal feel different to each other.

The children would be invited to think about what the item might be and then asked to go away and draw it. Afterwards, all the drawings would be looked at collectively and the children would be able to explain what they thought the object was and why – and how that is reflected in their drawing.

This is allowing children to use a very different set of cognitive processes to a conventional ‘copy me’ type approach.

Advantages – and some criticisms

Scaffolding thinking to promote learning is typically described by most professionals in education as being very useful in order to diversify the experience of children. It encourages them to add parts of their knowledge base together in order to form a greater problem-solving or discovery whole.

However, some have also stated that it can be overused and should probably not form an exclusive methodological basis of a child’s education. That’s largely due to the variation between children and the fact that some may be frustrated and unable to participate in an activity if they have failed to assimilate an earlier component of the scaffolding they were given. For some kids, they simply may learn better by specific demonstration and example.

Scaffolding thinking to promote learning in pre-school children

In our view, this is an exciting and potentially very useful technique when considered as part of the overall toolkit for preparing children for school.

It is though only one small technique used as part of our overall programme.

Why not contact us to find out more?


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