27 Scaffolding

Now that we have established and refined the skills and attributes that students will develop in your course, we need to start creating the support structure to help nurture these qualities. We will need to think about the ways in which students need to practice using skills and activating these attributes in order to move toward mastery. So, our next step is to identify the various supports you might put in place to help students to grow. 

In order to promote student agency, instructors sometimes need to progressively increase their students’ independence. In educational theory, this is called scaffolding.

Photo by AhmadArdity, via Pixabay

We use scaffolding to provide students with differing levels of support based on where they are at in their learning journey. For example, a first-year student requires more support to succeed with self-directed learning and time management than a graduate student, who has had more time to practice those skills. However, it is also the case that a student requires more support in the first two weeks of the term than they do later on in the course.

One of the best ways to scaffold is to give students opportunities for routine. When the students learn the flow of the class, they can better predict what they need to do, and when they need to do it.



Read this short article about Scaffolding Student Learning from Faculty Focus. Use it to help visualize the order and relationships of the activities in your course.

Guiding Questions

  • What activities can you place in your course to advance your students toward your course goals?
  • What are the areas of overlap between the goals you identify?
  • What qualities or abilities do students need to develop first in order to be prepared to advance toward your course goals?



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