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close this bookTeaching (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 34 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Bureau of Education - IBE
View the documentSeries preface
View the documentOfficers of the International Academy of Education
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. A supportive classroom climate
View the document2. Opportunity to learn
View the document3. Curricular alignment
View the document4. Establishing learning orientations
View the document5. Coherent content
View the document6. Thoughtful discourse
View the document7. Practice and application activities
View the document8. Scaffolding students’ task engagement
View the document9. Strategy teaching
View the document10. Co-operative learning
View the document11. Goal-oriented assessment
View the document12. Achievement expectations
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences
View the documentThe International Academy of Education

8. Scaffolding students’ task engagement

The teacher provides whatever assistance students need to enable them to engage in learning activities productively.

Research findings

Research on learning tasks suggests that activities and assignments should be sufficiently varied and interesting to motivate student engagement, sufficiently new or challenging to constitute meaningful learning experiences rather than needless repetition, and yet sufficiently easy to allow students to achieve high rates of success if they invest reasonable time and effort. The effectiveness of assignments is enhanced when teachers first explain the work and go over practice examples with students before releasing them to work independently, and then circulate to monitor progress and provide help when needed. The principle of teaching within the students’ zones of proximal development implies that students will need explanation, modelling, coaching and other forms of assistance from their teachers, but also that this teacher structuring and scaffolding will be faded as the students’ expertise develops. Eventually, students should become able to use what they are learning autonomously and to regulate their own productive task engagement.

In the classroom

Besides being well chosen, activities need to be effectively presented, monitored and followed up if they are to have their full impact. This means preparing students for an activity in advance, providing guidance and feedback during the activity, and leading the class in post-activity reflection afterwards. In introducing activities, teachers should stress their purposes in ways that will help students to engage in them with clear ideas about the goals to be accomplished. Then they might call students’ attention to relevant background knowledge, model strategies for responding to the task or scaffold by providing information about task requirements. If reading is involved, for example, teachers might summarize the main ideas, remind students about strategies for developing and monitoring their comprehension as they read (paraphrasing, summarizing, taking notes, asking themselves questions to check understanding), distribute study guides that call attention to key ideas and structural elements, or provide task organizers that help students to keep track of the steps involved and the strategies that they are using.

Once students begin working on activities or assignments, teachers should circulate to monitor their progress and provide assistance if necessary. Assuming that students have a general understanding of what to do and how to do it, these interventions can be kept brief and confined to minimal and indirect forms of help. If teacher assistance is too direct or extensive, teachers will end up carrying out tasks for students instead of helping them learn to carry out the tasks themselves.

Teachers also need to assess performance for completion and accuracy. When performance is poor, they will need to provide re-teaching and follow-up assignments designed to ensure that content is understood and skills are mastered.

Most assignments will not have their full effects unless they are followed by reflection or debriefing activities in which the teacher reviews the task with the students, provides general feedback about performance, and reinforces main ideas as they relate to overall goals. Reflection activities should also include opportunities for students to ask follow-up questions, share task-related observations or experiences, compare opinions, or in other ways deepen their appreciation of what they have learned and how it relates to their lives outside school.

References: Brophy & Alleman (1991); Rosenshine & Meister (1992); Shuell (1996); Tharp & Gallimore (1988).