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Stone () discussed several studies on scaffolding on teacher–child interactions in which scaffolding was found to be effective. However, these studies were largely observational (e.g., Cazden ; Langer and Applebee ; Englert ; Fleer ). Virtually no (quasi-) experimental studies were found, and different definitions of scaffolding were used across the several studies. An exception is the work of Palincsar and Brown () and Palincsar (, ) in which scaffolding is systematically examined via both single-subject and comparative group designs and found to be effective in the context of Reciprocal Teaching. Although scaffolding has continued to be a frequently studied concept since 1998, no systematic review of the literature on scaffolding in teacher–student interaction has been performed since then. The goal of this review is therefore to provide an overview of research on scaffolding in the classroom of the last decade, particularly with regard to its conceptualization, appearances, and effectiveness.
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After characterizing the concept of scaffolding and its appearances, a guiding framework will be presented that serves the purpose of analyzing scaffolding but is also an organizing device for the remainder of the review. Thereafter, the descriptive studies are described, since this constituted the majority of the encountered studies. Next, studies on the effectiveness of scaffolding are examined. Finally, the major problem related to scaffolding research—its measurement—is explored and suggestions are made for future scaffolding research.
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More recently, some authors have argued that the concept of scaffolding has been applied too broadly in educational and psychological research. Pea () even claimed that “the concept of scaffolding has become so broad in its meanings in the field of educational research and the learning sciences that it has become unclear in its significance.” Puntambekar and Hübscher () similarly contend that “the scaffolding construct is increasingly being used synonymously with support.” (p. 1). In the frequently cited work of Stone (, ), the utility of the scaffolding metaphor is critically considered. Stone concludes that, in many studies, the metaphor has been removed from its original theoretical context and that this has led to the use of scaffolding as a teacher-initiated, directive instructional strategy that is actually in conflict with the more responsive socio-historical background for the metaphor. Nevertheless, Stone argues in favor of salvaging the scaffolding metaphor without losing sight of its theoretical background in which the student is seen as an active participant. To stay close to this idea of scaffolding, the focus of this review lies on scaffolding in face-to-face interactions (and in particular teacher–student interactions).
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I hesitate for two connected reasons. One is that most of the "composing" that most of these students will do in later classes and on the job, at least in the near future, will be print-based (although see Alex Reid for an ). Yes, they may use data-related visuals later on, but most of the writing in freshman composition is not data driven.
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No consensus exists with respect to the definition of scaffolding, and some authors even criticize the metaphor of scaffolding as a whole (e.g., Aukerman ; Butler ; Donahue and Lopez-Reyna ; Scruggs and Mastropieri ). These authors contend that the metaphor implies a predefined building and a more student-centered perspective on learning was then pleaded for: Each student’s “building” is different. Following Stone (, ), scaffolding is viewed in this review as an interactive process that occurs between teacher and student who must both participate actively in the process.