Scaffolding in PBL

According to John Larmer, editor in chief of BIE, scaffolding was defined as “a process in which teachers model or demonstrate the problem-solving process, then step back and offer support as needed”(2016).  This is essentially a differentiated learning process where teachers provide the students with “lessons, modeling, coaching, workshops, tools, or any other resources they might need” (2016).

In addition, McKenzie states that, There are 8 characteristics of scaffolding, including, (1) Clear directions (2) Clarity of purpose (3) Students staying on task (4) Assessments clarify expectations (5) Students pointed to good sources (6) Reduces uncertainty, surprise & disappointment (7) Efficient and (8) Creates momentum (1999).

Scaffolding in PBL is essential, because it allows the students to first learn about the problem/project or why it matters, and create questions like, “What can we do to fix it and how?”, supplemented with teacher insight or materials, and finally, leading to original and creative solution(s) by the students.

I plan to address scaffolding throughout my PBL, by:

  • ensuring students understand appropriate core skills & standards prior to the PBL, ensuring they are prepared
  • providing clear guidelines & an entry event that sparks motivation among the students
  • establishing a realistic timeline with the class & “checkpoints”
  • discussing & providing rubrics with the class, allowing for feedback and/or alterations
  • discussing & providing access to project examples, concept maps, applicable websites, writing, presentation & organization tools
  • regularly reviewing group work and individual student writing journals, providing constructive criticism
  • allowing feedback from each group to address questions or issues
  • providing a safe environment where students can collaborate w/o fear of reprisal or embarrassment



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