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My partner in crime here on The Edublogger, Sue Waters, and I have regular debates and conversations around a wide range of topics.

Recently, we were talking about best practices of professional development and writing support documents. We then moved on to a related discussion on best instructional strategies in the classroom when working with students.

One of us believes (and much research will show), that students will remember more and understand better when they struggle with concepts and new ideas. Learning experiences that provide students an opportunity to play with concepts and figure out on their own are best.

The other (with good reasoning and research to back it up too), believes that students that struggle will shut down. A better approach is to provide as much scaffolding as possible – activities that walk through information in a step-by-step manner.

No doubt that to some extent this will depend on the learner, content, environment, and more. But there is a general philosophy at play.

What Say You?

We think many of our readers will have great insight into helping us continue this debate.

Let’s turn this into a blogging discussion!

Here’s what we’d like to try and do:

  1. Write a post on your own blog about this topic. Share your thoughts, examples, research – or whatever you’d like
  2. Leave a comment below with a link to your post
  3. We’ll compile a list of all submissions at the end of the week on a post here on The Edublogger
If this works well, we hope to regularly ask questions like these to help provide everyone with topics to blog about and find new blogs to read.

65 Comments

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  1. I think it would be better to be scaffolding because if you’re struggling than you might feel bad about not understanding…and it goes up to feeling so bad that you just want to quit. But if you go by a step-by-step manner than you will learn how to understand it sooner or later.

    • Angelika Duran
  2. i dont agree if they dont know it they wont do it or learn any thing..

  3. i disagree because if they dont know then they wont do the work

    • esteban garduno
  4. Well anyway I do agree because if it is too easy you will not get the idea of what is being taught. If it is hard enough to where you need help you can be taught things that you did not even think you could know. In this case you will learn something new that will help you in the future.

    • Lorenzo Romero
  5. I agree. Let kids learn on their own speed, so they aren’t confused by the teacher’s way of teaching the subject. I also think that the way teachers teach is absolutely lazy. That is why I agree with what I agree with. Now this typing session is officially over with.

    • Maxwell Patterson
  6. I personally think that struggling is better in the long run because you learn from struggling and it will teach you that making mistakes are ok sometimes and you have to learn to do things by yourself. They can expand their minds and learn for themselves that it is ok to struggle

  7. I would like to struggle than have someone help me. First, because when people help me they have their own way of learning and they try to help me and they don’t make it clear enough . There is my comment for people to read. 😀

  8. I would struggle because a lot of people learn from their mistakes. I think I believe the student should starting be strudeling because they will understand more what they have to learn and what had had learn. And they can understand better. That is why I think struggling is better.

  9. Manuel Pacheco
    5-7-12
    Rot.4
    50 -100

    I think struggling is better for everyone for multiple reasons. It can help anyone in the long run. It could help you figure out your problems in the future when you have no one to help you or lend a helping hand. So therefore we should let students figure and help them selves to expand there minds and need to learn by them selfs.

    • Manuel Pacheco
  10. Ms. Shanks,
    I do not agree with your opinion because I hate it when teachers are always helping me with everything. Like Mr. Neminech said, “In college, you have to do everything on your own.” If the teacher’s baby us like were in elementary, we will never learn to do anything on our own. When I go to college, i want to be successful, and not need to ask for help. In college, the teachers probably do not want to help you, because they would expect you to know the stuff you need to know. That’s why we go to Elementary, Middle, and High school. To learn everything we need and to be prepared for college. So, concluding my statement, I strongly disagree with your opinion.
    Shannon.

  11. I do agree with this stamen b/c some people do not how to do certain stuff. With the teachers help people can get to do stuff easier with a teacher your side

    • makaila peters
  12. I would rather struggle because then you learn from your mistakes. But this article has showed me different ways or way to learn so I understand now that people can learn by step by step teaching. Step by step may be easier for a lot of people because if they did it on their own they can go back to see what they did wrong but still I agree with struggling man! t(-__-)t

  13. Well , I do not agree with this article because I think its easier to learn step-by-step instead of suffering , because I think its easier to learn from watching an example , so you can get better. For example , in volleyball (basketball, soccer, ect.) most of the coaches help you learn step-by-step so you can at least have an idea on what you’re doing. But in some other cases , suffering is helpful also. I taught myself how to play guitar and when I did that I had to teach myself and work harder to perfect that.
    – Linda . (:

    • Lindaa Alvarado
  14. Thats what im sayin , Domi . (:
    Amen to that !

    • Lindaa Alvarado
  15. i agree with struggling

    • Maxwell Patterson
  16. Well , since my other comment got deleted , im going shorten it up because that made me really dejected . So i dont agree with this and its easier to learn step-by-step…. :I
    – Lindaaa .c[:

    • Lindaa Alvarado
  17. I would strugle because a liot of people learn from their mistakes.

  18. i would rather struggle because then you learn from your mistakes. But this article has showed me different ways or way to learn so i understand now

  19. i agree with the students becusae techers should go step by step

    • makaila peters
  20. We should work on our own and struggle by ourselves.

  21. i agree but i also think that no one learns the same

  22. I agree with him.

  23. I think i belive the student should starting be strudeling because they will understand more what they have to learn and what had had learn.and they can undestand more better.

    • kamal adhikari
  24. i think we should be able to work at our own pace

  25. I agree to yours to DOMI. 🙂

  26. i agree on step by step because it would b way easer than doing it by telling you go somewere and makeing sure on the right place

    • quintin morgan
  27. the way I learn is by step by step because it is harder for me when teachers throught every thing out on me it is harder for me to understand everything better thank just learning stuff step by step.

  28. i think it is better learning step by step because i learned it that way and it is easy

  29. I Agree 😀 XD

  30. the way I learn is by step by step because it is harder for me when teachers throught every thing out on me it is harder for me to understand everything better thank just learning stuff step by step.

  31. Mrs, Shanks,
    sadly, i do not agree with this “statement.” Since ima former student of yours i can relate this this opinion very well. I do not agree with this becasue when teachers do this i tend ( i know im not the only student) to get very frusterated and tend to tune the teacher out. I know this is not rthe best, but thats just me. I agree that if you help the student in a easier process (way) by step by step than can process the information better. thanks!
    -domi 🙂

  32. agreee;)

    • priscilla mosqueda
  33. i agree let kids learn on thier own speed, so they will not be confused on the teachers way of learning the subject.:)

    • jacqueline zepeda
  34. hi amaya yes step by step is better like back off till we need the teachers

  35. i agree 🙂

    • i tink of kittehs
  36. i think students need to learn at there own pace

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    • i tink of kittehs
  37. i think it is good to let kids/people learn there own way, because they will not be confused on other peoples methods of learning.

    • jacqueline zepeda
  38. I agree. 🙂

  39. i agree

    • priscilla mosqueda
  40. thay should work onthere own becuse thay work beter with less help then with more help

  41. i think teachers should teach step by step because student get frusterad

    • priscilla mosqueda
  42. THIS MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT BE TRUE.I MAEN I GET STUFF BUT SOMETIME I DONT I NEED THE TEACHER.THEY CAN HELP.MY MATH TEACHER EXPLAIES BUT IT HARD I DONT GET I ASK HIM AND HE GETS MAD.FINLLY HE EXPLAINES IT WITH SMALLER AND I GET. SOMETIMES THE TEACHER MAKE IT DIFFICULT,SOMETIME THEY MAKE IT EZEY.SO IM IN THE MIDDDLE. THIS ACTICAL MADE ME THINK.MAYBE TEACHERS ARE HELPFUL OR NOT.

  43. I think we should be able to learn at our own pace and should always have a little help.

  44. I think that students should get help with things that they are struggling with,especially with acedemics because otherwise that puts alot of stress on the students,and they might get frusturated.

  45. I think it would be step by step. When doing something step by step helps you learn what to do.

  46. I think that students need to learn at our own pace.

  47. Pingback: The Scaffolding vs. Struggling Debate | Mr. Gonzalez's Classroom

  48. Thanks for making me give some thought to this!

    Scaffolding or Struggling, Sinking vs Thinking http://wp.me/1jac9

  49. Your post reminded me of Goldilocks tasting the porridge that was too hot or too cold, but quickly pushed away from the table. She eagerly ate the porridge that was “just right”. I suppose therein lies the answer to help our students understand concepts. Didn’t Vygotsky address some of these same concerns with the concept of Zone of Proximal Development? The right amount of scaffolding does not remove all the struggle. It makes the struggle manageable so that it doesn’t complete frustrate the learner. I really wonder if “learning” even occurs if there’s no struggle. I think the challenge keeps many engaged, but if the challenge is stifling then, much like Goldilocks, it’s too HOT and the student will quickly back away from the table. Who’s doing the actual learning if there’s too much scaffolding? Certainly not the student. Timothy Shanahan wrote an article about kids reading on independent reading levels and lowering our expectations. He asked, “Should we lower the fences, or teach kids to climb?” That certainly gave me pause.