Using Scaffolding Effectively in your Teaching

As I read chapter 6 of the Student Engagement Techniques book I came across the concept/technique of scaffolding. While I had an idea of what this meant mostly just by thinking about the image of an actual scaffold and how this might relate to assignments I didn’t truly understand it fully. It’s a concept I’ve encountered a fair bit and finally in this blog post I want to explore it a little further.


Image retrieved from

According to Skene and Fedko (n.d.) scaffoldingis “the structuring of assignments and course material in a systematic way to support your learning objectives and make the goals and process transparent to students ” (p.1). This process makes sense to me as it gives the students building blocks with a general idea of what the end product of those blocks all stacked together will look like. I think this is imperative, that students know where they are going.

As experts in a discipline or particular topic, as teachers we can often lose sight about where we ourselves started on our journey of learning to get where we are today. It takes some finesse, imagination, patience and humility to think back to when we first learned how to write an academic paper or learned how to give our first injection or first learned how the kidneys worked. If we can reflect back on what that learning was like and what helped or could have supported us along the way we can provide that same support for our students.

We need to look at the final tower and rewind to when that first block was layed down and ask: how did we know which block to choose? Did the size or colour matter? How did we know where to place it? And how did we know what came next?

We can certainly use teaching psychology and theories to guide us but I think some personal reflection on our own learning of the skills and knowledge that we are trying to teach is helpful to guide us as well.

Below is a link to a great succinct resource written by the Teaching and Learning Centre in Toronto on how to use scaffolding effectively to maximize student learning.

Some of the things I liked about this resource are that:

-It highlights the importance of having clear learning outcomes for course and each section of the scaffolding

-It has some great revision assignment strategies to further promote learning after an assignment

-It included a great user-friendly table that troubleshoots through some of the common complaints or pitfalls of scaffolding (for example the common complaint and a concern I myself had was that it created additional time and marking)


Fedko, A., & Skene, A. (n.d.). Assignment Scaffolding. Centre for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

About turnera2014

I am a Nursing (RN) Instructor taking the Professional Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College in hopes to challenge my current teaching modalities and inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.
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