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Rethinking Scaffolding For Learner Development

The terms “scaffolding” and “zone of proximal development” have been widely used in recent years and become an integral part of CLIL learning and teaching methodology.

However, for most people scaffolding simply means providing students with enough supporting materials to help them complete a given task.

It is important to understand that scaffolding is much more than that: following Lantolf we believe that scaffolding is about optimizing learner development through appropriate forms of mediation.

Just like a gardener who needs to attend both the flowers that have already blossomed and the ones that are only budding today, it is not enough for us teachers to be only concerned with functions that have already fully formed; we must pay equal attention to functions that are still developing and which might be amenable to teacher intervention.

We must therefore focus our teaching as much on products of past development AS WELL AS on emerging abilities that may become manifest in learner participation in joint activity with others: “what a learner can do today in  a cooperative activity, s/he can do tomorrow independently” (Lantolf 2014: 149).

PTL is oriented towards learner development by scaffolding deep learning (defined as the internalization of conceptual knowledge and increasing mastery/automatization of the skills and strategies needed to construct and communicate that knowledge).

In PTL, scaffolding becomes multi-dimensional, it is both pro-active and responsive, differentiated and individualized, it ranges from short-term lesson planning to long-term learning trajectories. Scaffolding for deep learning is about providing materials and tasks for knowledge construction and meaning making as well as practice opportunities and feedback (by peers and teachers) designed to help learners master relevant skills and strategies (via automatization) and internalize conceptual knowledge.

 In PTL scaffolding is:

  • pro-active because it anticipates students’ prior knowledge and skill level and it focuses on learning progressions;
  • responsive & process-oriented because it contains feedback and reflection activities;
  • performance-oriented by increasing our students’ subject specific performance through carefully balanced practice activities (controlled practice, communicative practice, awareness-raising activities as well as opportunities to reflect on learning experiences);
  • continuous because it constantly provides feedback and practice loops;
  • contingent because it is only put in place for as long as the learner needs it.

Putting pluriliteracies into practice
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