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"Scaffolding" was first coined by David Wood, Jerome Bruner & Gail Ross, where the researchers were exploring the dyadic relationship between a learner and a tutor in problem solving.[1] In Wood et al.'s initial formulation, scaffolding consisted of various instructional behaviors, such as[2] :

  1. Recruitment of leaner's interest and concentration 
  2. Reducing degrees of freedom in a task (the number of acts needed to reach a solution), to the level that the learner can manage.
  3. Keeping the learner's attention and motivation on the task and ultimite goal (each task may have several steps and goals which the learner gets stuck on), which is called direction maintaince.
  4. Marking critical features of a task and discrepencies between what the learner produces and what is correct.
  5. Fustration control of the learner, Wood et al. said that "problem solving should be less dangerous or stressful with a tutor than without".
  6. Demonstration or "modelling" of solutions of the task of a solution which has been partially solved by the learner. 

The level of difficulty to which an tutor should pitch their instuction as spawned various overlapping concepts such as the zone of proximal development, associated with Vygotsky's sociocultural theory of development.  

Zone of Proximal Development and related concepts

Vygtosky's zone of proximal development (ZPD)describes the difference between what a learner can do alone and with the help of a more able individual, although he did not go into as much depth into the didactic process, which scaffolding describes. Confusingly, David Wood also has a term called the "region of sensitivity to instruction", which is circularly defined as the most effective level of instruction which "required the child to do more than he is immediately capable of...[not] too much...ideally the child should be asked to add one extra operation or decision to those which he is presently performing"[3]. Critics have noted its similarity to the Vygotsky's ZPD and in later papers David Wood refers more to that.[4][5]

Wood & Middleton's also termed the concept of the "recognition-production gap", although it defined slightly differently as the difference between what a child can recognise and what a child can produce.[6] This was based on the observation that a child could often recognise a solution before producing it, and the researchers hypothesised that it was here where teaching would be most beneficial. 

For Vygotsky, the developmental process is more than about learning about basic concepts such as object permenance, but children need to acquire the "cultural tools" of a society, such as scientific or mathematical concepts, which can in turn effect behavior and cognition. These concepts are learnt from more able peers or tutors, and thus Vygotsky needed to explain how these "higher psychological processes" are taught. [7]

See also


  1. Wood, D., Bruner, J. & Ross, G. The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 17, 89-100.
  2. Wood, D., Bruner, J. & Ross, G. The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 17, 89-100. 
  3. Wood, D. & Middleton, D. (1975) A study of assisted problem-solving. British Journal of Psychology, 66,2, p.182
  4. Wood, D. & Wood, H. (1996) Vygotsky, Tutoring and Learning. Oxford Review of Education, 22, 1, 5-16
  5. Meins, E. (1997) Security of attachment and maternal tutoring strategies: Interaction within the zone of proximal development. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 15, 129-144.
  6. Wood, D. & Middleton, D. (1975) A study of assisted problem-solving. British Journal of Psychology, 66,2, 181-191.
  7. Vygotsky, L.S, (1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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