Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Meyer, D. K. (1993). What is scaffolded instruction? Definitions, distinguishing features, and misnomers. In D. J. Leu & C. K. Kinzer (Eds.), Examining central issues in literacy research, theory, and practice: Forty-second yearbook of The National Reading Conference (pp. 41-53). Washington, DC: National Reading Conference, Inc.

Meyer maintains that we should not separate the implications of scaffolded instruction for practice and research from their theoretical foundations, but rather should strive to understand how theory, research, and practice contribute collectively to our understandings of the basic principles of effective teaching and learning. Three theoretical tenets serve as the foundation for defining scaffolding: (1) knowledge is a constructive process for giving personal meaning to experience; (2) our interactions within a particular context influence our construction of knowledge; and (3) neither knowledge nor context remains stable, but co-evolve as a natural part of human interaction and development. The construct of scaffolding evolved from a Vygotskian perspective that described how a more knowledgeable "other" plays a necessary role in supporting learning. Vygotsky defined an essential feature of learning as the zone of proximal development (ZPD), the distance between the competencies the child has and those that could be developed under adult guidance or in collaboration with capable peers. The metaphor of scaffolding is used to describe the adult's necessary but temporary support of the child through the ZPD. Meyer describes scaffolding as a pedagogical approach involving: teacher support, transfer of responsibility, dialogue, non-evaluative collaboration, appropriateness of the instructional level, and co-participation. Meyer says, "the teacher and student jointly place the scaffold and construct an outer structure of shared meaning. The scaffolding is removed gradually, and the student completes the constructive process."

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