Scaffolding Types and What They Mean?

Scaffolding means ‘a temporary structure which supports a worker in construction’. 

In education, the same word refers to ‘a teacher or an adult who plays the role of a support structure for the student in learning’. 

Vygotsky put forth the terminology of ‘zone of proximal development’ as the distance between achieved and achievable.  This distance is measured through amount of scaffolding the individual receives.  The support and hint received towards problem solving will help the learner receive, understand and apply in its right sense.  He further says that the support structure can be withdrawn once the learner shows attributes of self-achieving.   The process of scaffolding also bridges the gap between ‘know’ and ‘want to know’.  In the process of education, teacher is seen as the person who can scaffold as per the learners needs.

The types of support an adult could provide to the learner is as follows:


In the classrooms today, a teacher handles a minimum of 30 – 45 students, depending on the type of school,  expecting the teacher to support this number of students individually in the allotted time of 40 - 45 minutes is humongous, along with the curriculum time frame.  The support framework of distributed scaffolding as put forth by Puntambekar and Kolodner (1998) helps ease the burden of individual scaffolding through new tools and devices. 

According to Iris Tabak: Distributed Scaffolding are of three types

  1.       Differentiated scaffolding
  2.       Redundant scaffolding
  3.       Synergetic scaffolding

Differentiated scaffolding – The basic type which can be most effectively used to recall the previously learnt or make connections between the previously learnt concepts.  This can be an activity designed which involves all the previously learned or picture based.  Some numeracy games or vocab games, poems or literary activities can also be used in this case.

Redundant scaffolding – The current learning topic or the learning outcome focus should be provided with a number of support work which may include document reference, research work, project work, assignments on the same topic of learning.

Synergetic scaffolding – A complete view of the topic to be provided can be given using different type of approach to the same problem.  Changing variables is one such approach.  Giving problems which may ultimately lead to same solution is also one approach.  For example – Increase in health issues during rain, Change in colour of marble wall, change in drinking water colour, skin burns during rain can all focus on one major issue of Pollution

In simple terms the three types of scaffolding can be represented as follows:


The right scaffolding gives the right learning experience.  This approach allows student act fearlessly, provides confidence and allows them to extend the learned beyond adult supervision.  Technology support or community support develops a reinforced learning which allows students to visualise beyond self. 

The requirement is for a ladder not a staircase, which should be kept in mind while scaffolding learners.  Adequate support in the learning process can be in multiple ways.  It is for the eyes of the ‘scaffolder’ to determine the scaffolding required in the ‘neophyte’.

About the Author
I work as Academic Coordinator at Nalanda Educational Institutions, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. Worked in implementing Technology supportive curriculum in our organisation. Trainer and Curriculum designer for technology based Curriculum.

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