Skills Development Providers (SDPs) & Training Providers

Using a scaffolding approach in distance learning

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 15 total)
  • Author
  • #28754
    Hannes Nel

     Emotions – how learners experience learning – can have a huge influence on their motivation and, therefore, learning performance. I intended referring you to some video clips on YouTube, but there are so many. Just Google it – there are some remarkable examples of success stories.

    It is typical of, though not exclusive to, a constructivist approach to learning to capitalise on the affective domain of learning, i.e. to consider the emotions of learners to help them perform in accordance with their potential.

    An effective affective (sorry) environment for learner support can be created by making use of a scaffolding approach. Scaffolding is used to:

    • reduce the scope for learner failure,

    • enable learners to accomplish tasks that they would not be able to achieve on their own,

    • move learners to a new and improved zone of understanding, and

    • encourage learners to work independently.

    The following forms of support (scaffolds) are often used:

    • Assisted modelling. Educators provide some coaching and models that enable the completion of a task.

    • Element identification. The educator identifies the elements of the desired approach or strategies to help learners complete a task.

    • Approach naming. The educator articulates a relevant approach and learners employ it on their own.

    • Offering explanations. Explicit statements are given by an expert to elaborate on learners’ emerging understandings.

    • Verification and clarification of learners’ understandings. If emerging understandings are reasonable, the educator verifies the learners’ responses. If the understandings are erroneous, the educator offers clarification.

    • Modelling of desired behaviours. Modelling of desired behaviours includes making thinking visible, as in think-aloud, showing what someone thinks about the learning process at a given moment. Learners are encouraged to air their views by means of online conferencing, e-mails or during study groups.

    • Generating questions and comments as in think-aloud. Generating questions and comments as in think-aloud occurs, for example, when and educator shows how to articulate a problem-solving process by talking through the steps. Educators generate questions and comments initially and learners then take over the questioning role.

    • Inviting learners to contribute actively. Learners are encouraged to contribute clues in order to complete a task and to articulate their understandings of task demands.

    A scaffolding approach to guidance and support is utilised by making provision for four-way communication (learner – learner, learner – educator, learner – learning materials, and learner – online service) by means of the internet as well as study schools. Learner – learner interaction is necessary for certain kinds of social skill learning such as communication or group process skills. Learner – educator interaction can be used for reinforcement, feedback, and for correcting misunderstandings. Learner – learning materials serve as the foundation for especially knowledge accumulation and learner – online service interaction allows learners to engage in knowledge construction and sharing ideas and perceptions.

    In summary, a scaffolding approach to distance learning rest on three salient pillars:

    1. Consider the emotions of the learners.

    2. Utilise tools that can be used as “scaffolds”.

    3. Regular and open communication.

    Lastly, let me be the first to admit that learners sometimes just don’t get what you are trying to do for them. For example, you would give them a structure for an assignment which, if they follow it, should lead to a good mark, and then they don’t even look at it, let alone use it. Why is this?


    McLoughlin, C. (2010). Learner Support in Distance and Networked Learning Environments: Ten Dimensions for Successful Design. Distance Education. Routledge.

    Smith, P.L., & Dillon, C.L. (2009). Lead Article: Comparing Distance Learning and Classroom Learning: Conceptual Considerations. American Journal of Distance Education. Routlege.

    Share on Social Media
    Louise Sterling

    Excellent overview – many thanks.

    Sandra De Leo

    Thank you Hannes, this is helpful in many ways.

    Lucky Sibanda

    Perfect – very helpful piece of writing

    Cas Olivier


    There are two angles to be distinguished.

    First the behaviouristic angle focuses on enabling the teacher to express him/herself beter, so that he or she are better understood, e.g. : Assisted modelling. Educators provide some coaching and models that enable the completion of a task. These I call teaching scaffolds.

    Secondly, learning scaffold when empower the learner to discover. E.g : Generating questions and comments as in think-aloud.

    The latter are closely linked to rubrication, whereas the first one has nothing to do with the knowledge status of the learner.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 15 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Share on Social Media