Edublogger Debate: Scaffolding vs. Struggling – Can You Be Too Helpful?

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.
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65 thoughts on “Edublogger Debate: Scaffolding vs. Struggling – Can You Be Too Helpful?

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

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

  6. i think students need to learn at there own pace

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  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

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