This thesis would not have been possible without the support and help of numerous people. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Zohrabi, my thesis supervisor. I am grateful to him for being an unflagging source of information, inspiration, and encouragement, for providing me with careful guidance and support at every step of the process.
I am also indebted to Dr. Saboori, the advisor of thesis, whose thoughtful comments have been especially crucial in shaping the current thesis. I am also thankful to my other M.A. professor and instructors at the Department of English, University of Tabriz, in particular to the head of the English department, Dr. Ansarin, who has always been more than generous to me with his time and advice during my years at English department.
I would also like to thank all my BA instructors at Tabriz University.
My special thanks are to the founder of Pardis English School, Mr. Safaei for both his heartedly support and encouragement to continue my education his allowance to use his classes and equipment.
Last but not least, my deepest gratitude goes to my patient mother and father, and spouse. Because without their support, love, and encouragement, the completion of this thesis would not have been possible.
Surname: Mohammadi Rafatpanah Name: HamidehThesis Title: Exploring the impact of Pair Work on Writing Performance of Iranian EFL LearnersSupervisor: Dr. Mohammad Zohrabi Advisor: Dr. Hosein Saboori Degree: Master of Arts (M.A.) Major: Teaching English
Field: Teaching English University: Aras International Campus
Faculty: Persian Literature and Foreign Languages Graduation date: 2015/ 1/ 31
Pages:82Key words: EFL learners, grammatical accuracy, pair work , writing performance Abstract
Collaborative writing has been used in composition research and pedagogy in U.S. educational institutes since the 1970s. Collaborative writing motivates social interaction among writers and their peers via activities such as peer response. Researchers of second language (L2) writing have asserted that pairing students up in writing can promote learning effectiveness in writing field. This paper explored the effects of pair work on improving writings of Iranian EFL learners. This study had a quasi-experimental setting. The participants consisted of 28 EFL students in a language school of Marand at intermediate level, divided into one control and one experimental group. The experimental group was divided into high proficiency and low proficiency groups, the former was called helper and the latter was named writer, making a pair to complement each other. Both had a pretest writing at the first session. The papers were scored manually and were compared with posttest scores which was conducted at the last session in the Excel sheets and figures. To test the variables, descriptive statistics like mean, standard deviation, and significance value were used. To compare mean scores of both groups, independent t-test was used. Then, the data were analyzed by SPSS software. The results showed that writing performance of the experimental group who practiced pair work has a significant difference with the writing ability of the control group who wrote individually. By pair work, the students in the experimental group produced more accurate sentences than the subjects of control group.
TABLE of CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSiABSTRACTiiTABLE of CONTENTSiiiCHAPTER I INTRODUCTION1.1. Introduction21.2. Statement of the Problem21.3. Purpose of the Study31.4. Research Questions 31.5. Significance of the Study 41.6. Organization of the Study51.7. Definition of the Terms61.8. Summary6CHAPTER II REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE2.1. Introduction82. 2. The philosophy behind this study: Sociocultural perspective82.2.1. Writing in Vygotsky’s school of thought126.96.36.199. More Knowledgeable Other or MKO188.8.131.52. Elaboration of ZPD112.3. Scaffolding in classroom situations122.3.1. Facilitative methods in scaffolding132.3.2. Characteristics and Critical Features of Scaffolded Instruction142.3.3. Challenges and Benefits of Scaffolding184.108.40.206. Challenges152.3.3. 2. Benefits162.3.4. Peer interaction: a good illustration and system of scaffolding172.4. Mediation and Writing172.5. Accuracy192.6. Writing English and pair work an important issue in Iranian context192.7. Arguments for and against pair work in writing: To use it or not to?212.8. Small groups or large ones? Which yields better results?232.9. Advantages of pair work242.10. A Large Number of Literature Supporting Pair Work262.11. Summary33CHAPTER III DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY3.1. Introduction353.2. Design of the Study353.2.1.Procedure373.3. Site of the Study423.4. Participants of the Study423.5. Research Instruments423.6. Data Collection433.7. Data Analysis433.7.1. Accuracy Measurement433.8. Summary44CHAPTER IV FINDINGS4.1. Introduction464.2. Background Information464.2.1. Students’ Background Information464.2.3. Language Instructor’s Background Information474.3. Research Question474.5. Summary54CHAPTER V DISCUSSION and CONCLUSION5.1. Introduction565.2. Summary of the Study565.3. Discussion575.4. Pedagogical Implications595.5. Recommendations for Future Research615.6. Limitations of the Study625.8. Conclusion62REFERENCES64APPENDICES75
Writing is a difficult task to perform. This problem is more evident in Iranian private institutes which are based on communication-focused instruction, providing little opportunity for learners to focus on writing skills in the limited class time. This is while demands for professional writing are increasing in academic settings. One way of overcoming this problem is exercising pair work. Pair work is great for practicing various language skills, vocabulary checks, and completing worksheets. Working in pairs gives individual students a lot of practice time. Groups give students the opportunity to create more complex texts, explore relationships between characters, pool knowledge together, and have a more social learning environment. Additionally, there is a better chance for self-correction or peer correction and for a discussion on a wider range of thoughts and opinions in a large size. This social interaction and dialogue with others are considered crucial for learning by social interactionist’ theorists, such as Vygotsky (2000), who stated that learning involves the internalization of social interaction processes, which helps the learner progress from complex to conceptual thinking. Generally speaking, the smaller the group, the more each member acts and the less chance there is that someone will be left out.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
Writing in English has gained a significant eminence in recent years in Iran. The reason behind it can be that in universities of Iran writing articles and dissertations, at different educational levels (BA, MA and PhD) by the students of all majors, accompanies various privileges for their writers as well as academic achievements. For the growing body of academia, even board members of scientific faculties are required to submit at least two papers in English at international journals to retain their positions or promote. This has created a flood of writing demands who yearn to acquire writing skills for fulfilling their above-mentioned academic tasks towards language institutes. This challenges the teachers to explore new ways for improving this skill which is the most difficult one (among 4 skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing) for L2 learners to master. The difficulty lies not only in generating and organizing ideas, but also in translating them into readable and recognizable text. The skills involved in writing are highly complex. L2 learners have to pay attention to higher level skills of planning and organizing as well as lower level skills of spelling, punctuation, word choice, and so on (Poynton ,1996). The difficulty becomes even more highlighted if their language proficiency is weak (Richards, 2002). According to a broad literature review by the author of this paper, one important strategy for improving EFL writers can be using the techniques of pair work with their related strategies in classroom contexts. By working in pairs, you gain experience and understanding about how tasks are often undertaken in the workshops. The successful completion of a group assignment usually means that you have acquired many very important skills, particularly communication, analytical and interpersonal skills, which are highly valued by the instructors. The capacity to listen, question, persuade, respect the opinions of others, help, share and participate is of lifelong value. Working with others also allows for the assignments to be broken into smaller tasks and the workload to be distributed evenly. By working together, students are able to bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other as well. Members can contribute different skills and thus the group can achieve more than individual members could on their own. As a result, this study will endeavor to explore some strategies of pair work and their effects on the writing skills of the learners.
1.3. Purpose of the Study
Students usually want more correction and less pair work while teachers want the opposite. There are arguments on both sides, but most teaching experts agree that pair work is a good thing if used at the right time in the right way. While the use of pair or small group work in the second language classroom in relation to oral work has been extensively studied, and its benefits are well documented, there are only few studies which have documented the advantages of collaboration in written work and in dealing with written feedback, specifically in Iran. Regarding the mentioned points about the advantages of pair work and scarcity of literature in this field in Iranian context especially in the writing field, this study will aim to investigate the effects of pair work on the writing skills of Iranian EFL learners.
RQ. Does instructing pair work strategies affect writing performance of Iranian EFL learners?
Null hypothesis: Instructing pair work strategies does not affect writing performance of Iranian EFL learners.
Alternative hypothesis: Instructing pair work strategies affects writing performance of Iranian EFL learners.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The two biggest disagreements between teachers and students on how it is best to study English in class are about the amount of error correction and the amount of pair work in writing. Some of the good reasons for using pair work in class are given below. Not all teachers use pair work in the right way all the time, though, and it might be that your doubts about pair work were prompted by a teacher who was not using pair work in the right way and for the right reasons. Pair work has some considerable advantages some of which are as follows:
1. More acting time-If students work in pairs for the whole class, they can theoretically act more and certainly no one could remain passive or negligent.
2. Cutting down on embarrassment-In a whole class activity, not only you have the stress of everyone listening to you but there is also usually silence while you are thinking of what you are going to say. In pair work, the background noise of other pairs speaking to each other can make you much less embarrassed about speaking out.
3. Fun-Working in pairs allows the teacher to use more games, and therefore increases the students’ motivation and concentration.
4. Individual attention-Although some students think that being asked to work in pairs is a sign of the teacher being lazy or of avoiding talking to the students, in fact the teacher can sometimes ask the whole class to work in pairs so he or she can work on one student at a time without everyone else noticing.
5. Error correction-If one person is doing a task in front of the whole class and the teacher writes something in a notebook, everyone will know that the person speaking has made a mistake and will know whose mistake it is in the following error correction stage. People working in pairs means that the teacher can more easily find people’s mistakes and correct them later without embarrassing anyone.
6. Exam practice–One student can ask the other side to obey the rules and put them into practice while the other can take the orders and do what the instructor member asks. This is usually done with one student pretending to be the examiner.
7. Classroom dynamics-Speaking to your classmates individually will help you to get to know them better-and so make the atmosphere in class nicer and the communication between you in all classroom activities more natural.
Finally, pair work gives students a degree of privacy and allows them to try things out that they might not attempt in the more public forum of a class discussion or a teacher-fronted activity. Regarding numerous benefits of pair work, there are only few studies on pair work and its numerous benefits in Iran (Jafari et al., 2012; Meihami et al., 2013; Keshavarz et al., 2014). They mostly have used vague and unclear strategies of pair work. To fill these gaps, this study examines the effect of practicing pair work on writing performance of EFL learners to see if the teachers can utilize them in a useful manner to improve their own teachings. It also offers a unique technique for pair work that has not been practiced before not in Iran and not in other countries’ researches which is easy to complement in English classes.
1.6Organization of the Study
In addition to this chapter, the one which is the whole study in miniature and covers the background of the study, the significance of the study, research questions & hypotheses, and definition of key terms, this study has been organized into four other chapters:
Chapter Two, review of the related literature, presents a thorough review of the related literature inside Iran and overseas; it begins with a review of theoretical approaches and major developments which led to the emergence of sociocultural perspective, writing in Vygotsky’s school of thought, MKO, ZPD, scaffolding in classroom situations, peer interaction, its advantages and disadvantages.
Chapter Three, Methodology, which begins with the research design that elaborates on the detailed technique and steps of pair work, explains about the site of the study; then, elaborates on the participants of the study, research instruments, data collection, data analysis, and finally offers a summary of the study.
Chapter Four, findings, which presents the students and teachers’ background information and restates and tests research questions by making use of descriptive statistics.
Chapter Five, Discussion and Conclusion, discusses the main findings and compares and contrasts them with the findings of other related studies. In addition, in this chapter suggestions, the pedagogical implications, some recommendations for the future researches, and limitations of the study, are presented. At the end, the results are concluded.
1.7 Definition of Key Terms
Two students work together to complete writing steps and tasks required in the study.
Accuracy concerns the extent to which the language produced conforms to target language norms.
The T-unit is defined as consisting of a main clause plus all subordinate clauses and non-clausal structures that are attached to or embedded in it. It is a measure for grammatical accuracy.
In this chapter, in order to present a general view of the study, a brief background concerning the importance of planned focus on form and corrective feedback was presented. Then, the importance of conducting this study and the gap in the literature that it attempted to fill is mentioned. After that, the four research questions, null and alternative hypotheses which are the bases of every study were presented in separate sections. In addition, the key words which are used very frequently in this study were very briefly described and at the end of this chapter the overall organization of different parts and sections of the study were pointed out.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
The purpose of this chapter is to provide theoretical background and rationale for the present study. It begins with a review of the philosophy behind this study; then, theoretical approaches, writing in Vygotsky’s school of thought, and the concepts of MKO, ZPD, scaffolding, its challenges and benefits, peer interaction, mediation and writing, accuracy definition, and pair work ’s advantages and disadvantages are examined in detail.
2.2. The philosophy behind this study: Sociocultural perspective
The use of small group and pair work is supported by two major theories of language learning: The psycholinguistic theory of interaction, based largely on the work introduced by Long (1996), and the sociocultural theory of mind suggested by Vygotsky (1978). Both theories emphasize the importance of interaction for learning. However, whereas the psycholinguistic theory focuses on interaction, the sociocultural theory emphasizes the importance of a particular kind of interaction, that of “collaboration” (Donato, 2004).
From a theoretical perspective, the use of pair and group work in the L2 classroom is supported by the social constructivist perspective of learning. Converging research from anthropology, applied linguistics, psychology, and education has taken up the term sociocultural, often using it with slightly different meanings and sometimes with very different applications. At its core, however, the epistemological stance of a sociocultural perspective defines human learning as a dynamic social activity that is situated in physical and social contexts and is distributed across persons, instruments, and activities (Rogoff, 2003; Salomon, 1993; Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1985). This is significant because, unlike behavioral or cognitive theories of human learning, a sociocultural perspective argues that higher level human cognition in the individual has its origins in social life. That is, instead of assuming that there are universal features of human cognition that can be separated from the social, cultural, and historical contexts in which they emerged and are used, a sociocultural perspective focuses on sociocultural activities as the essential processes through which human cognition is formed. Ultimately, a sociocultural perspective seeks to explicate the relationship between human mental functioning, on the one hand, and the cultural, institutional, and historical situations in which this functioning occurs, on the other hand (Wertsch, 1980).
The epistemological tenets of a sociocultural perspective are drawn largely from the seminal work of Lev Vygotsky (1978, 1986), the Russian psychologist and educator as well as his followers Leontev (1981) and Luria (1976), and more recently those who have extended his theories, including Cole (1996), John-Steiner (1997), Kozulin (1999), Lantolf (2000, 2006), Wells (1999), and Wertsch (1991). A sociocultural perspective suggests that human cognition is formed through engagement in social activities and that it is the social relationships and the culturally and mutually constructed materials, signs, and symbols, referred to as semiotic artifacts that mediate those relationships that create uniquely human forms of higher-level thinking. Consequently, cognitive development is an interactive process, mediated by context, language, culture, and social interaction. Knowledge of the world is mediated by the virtue of being situated in a cultural environment and it is from this cultural environment that humans acquire the representational systems that ultimately become the medium, mediator, and tools of the thoughts. This indicates that meaning does not rest in language itself, but rather in the social group’s use of language; therefore, cognitive development is specified as the acquisition and manipulation of cultural tools and knowledge, the most powerful of which is language. According to Wertsch (1991), “individuals have access to psychological tools and practices by the virtue of being part of a sociocultural milieu in which those tools and practices have been and continue to be culturally transmitted”.
Wells (1991) argues that in tackling a difficult task as a group, although no member has expertise beyond his or her peers, the group as a whole, by working at the problem together, is able to construct a solution that none could have achieved alone. Thus, differences in peers’ abilities are not fixed but fluid, dynamic, and contingent on how and what is being accomplished in and through the group’s activities.
Likewise, Ohta (2001) demonstrated that L2 learners of Japanese were able to provide developmentally appropriate assistance to one another, in a sense “creating a greater expertise for the group than of any of the individuals involved”.
The following quote from Gee (1999, p. 49) sums this up nicely:
“Thinking and using language is an active matter of assembling the situated meanings that you need for action in the world. This assembly is always relative to your socioculturally defined experiences in the world and, more or less, routinized (normalized) through cultural models and various social practices of the sociocultural groups to which you belong “.
Accordingly, previous research from the perspective of the sociocultural theory of mind suggests that writing tasks completed in pairs offer learners an opportunity to collaborate in the solution of their language-related problems, co-construct new language knowledge, and produce linguistically more accurate written texts. Building on this research, the texts written by the groups were more accurate than those written individually.
2.2.1. Writing in Vygotsky’s school of thought
The premise for this dissertation is that writing is a complex form of social and cultural activity which involves a “high level of abstraction” as pupils attempt to communicate meaning (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 181). Vygotsky (1986) argues that the process of composition involves social and cultural interaction leading to the translation from inner speech, or internalized thought, to outer speech in the form of writing. This change involves “deliberate semantics—deliberate structuring of the web of meaning” that is unique to writing (Vygotsky 1986, p. 182).
Vygotsky’s (1978) “Social Constructivism Theory” postulated that all learning stems from social interaction and meaning is socially constructed through communication, activity and interaction with others. In the theory, Vygotsky brings up two important concepts which is the “More Knowledgeable Other” (MKO) and the “Zone of Proximal Development” (ZPD) that will be explained in detail in the following sections.
220.127.116.11. More Knowledgeable Other or MKO
The MKO refers to a person with more competence and understanding of the subject. The MKO shares knowledge with the student to bridge the gap between what is known and what is not known. The MKO may be a teacher, an older adult or even a peer who is more experienced and advanced in the area of writing. In collaborative writing, the MKO refers to the “expert writer” of the group, a person who is more proficient in the English language and even a person who has more ideas and experiences about the subject matter. By engaging with the MKO through social learning in class, the learner will learn faster. Until students can demonstrate task mastery of new or difficult tasks, they are given more assistance or support from a teacher or a MKO. As the learner moves towards mastery, the assistance or support is gradually decreased in order to shift the responsibility for learning from the MKO to the learner (Larkin, 2002). This brings us to Vygotsky’s second concept, which is the ZPD.
18.104.22.168. Elaboration of ZPD
Vygotsky (1978) claimed that learning will only take place in the “Zone of Proximal Development”. It was Vygotsky’s belief that “good learning” occurs in the child’s zone of proximal development. Important to teaching in the ZPD is the determination of what the student can manage on his own and to allow the student to do as much as possible without any assistance. “Fading” is the process of gradually removing the scaffolding that was put into place for the child until it is completely gone. Eventually, the child internalizes the information and becomes a self-regulated, independent learner. This zone bridges the gap between what is known and what can be known through the help of expert-novice peer collaboration. A mixture of “expert” writers and “novice” writers in a team creates scaffolding that will be discussed in detail in the next section. These two groups get to learn from each other the various writing strategies employed. Britton, Burgess, Martin, Mc Leod, and Rosen (1975, p. 39) describe this transformational process as “the dialectical interrelationship of thought and language”. Writing therefore represents both a complex activity and a developmental mode of learning.
A central theme in this paper will be the argument that the most powerful forms of learning take place when students are working within a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), defined by Vygotsky (1978) as the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (p. 86). Vygotsky goes on to describe the ZPD as a tool through which the internal course of development can be understood (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 87) and argues that “the only good kind of instruction is the one which marches ahead of development and leads it; it must be aimed not so much at the ripe as at the ripening functions” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 188). The ZPD is always changing as the student expands and gains knowledge. Yet, Vygotsky never specified the forms of social assistance to learners that constitute a ZPD beyond generalized comments about “collaboration and direction. This study examines both the mediating role of teachers in the development of a particular pupil’s writing abilities and the consequent appropriation and internalization of the cultural tools required for writing. Through an analysis of the production of a text co-constructed between a student and teacher, an argument is developed that the recursive nature of writing development is an essential element for the learner’s own agency in the creation of a social environment for development. We put forward an argument that the key to understanding development of an individual’s psychological and mental functions lies in analyzing the social interaction that the individual is involved in during the learning process: that is, “the immediate culture of teaching and learning”.
2.3. Scaffolding in classroom situations
With the development of software tools and classrooms interactions as forms of scaffolds, the notion of scaffolding has evolved since its original conception and has changed considerably from the 1990s into the early 21st century. While later approaches have helped researchers understand the kinds of support that are needed to help classroom communities learn successfully, there have also been some aspects of scaffolding that have been difficult to achieve because of the reality of scaffolding in a classroom. Thus, although the notion of scaffolding has evolved, and understanding of providing support in multiple formats has been enriched, it is necessary to think about the critical elements that are missing, such as the ongoing diagnosis of student learning, the careful calibration of support, and fading, the transfer of responsibility to the student. First, we shed some light on this concept and then elaborate it much more.
The term ‘scaffolding’ comes from the works of Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976). The term ‘scaffolding’ was developed as a metaphor to describe the type of assistance offered by a teacher or peer to support learning.
The notion of scaffolding is increasingly being used to describe the support provided for students to learn successfully in classrooms, especially the use of project or design-based activities to teach math and science (e.g., Kafai, 1994; Kolodner et al., 2003; Krajcik et al., 1998). Many of these approaches are based on a socio-constructivist model (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, Mcnamee, Mc Lare, & Budwig, 1980) emphasizing that learning occurs in a rich social context, marked by interaction, negotiation, articulation, and collaboration. The original notion of scaffolding, as used in the initial studies of parent-child interactions (Bruner, 1975) or in teacher-student interactions, focused on situations that allowed for one-on-one interactions between the adult or the expert and the learner. The one-on-one nature of the tutoring allowed the adult/teacher to provide “titrated support” (Stone, 1998) that changed based on the progress made by the learner. However, classroom situations involving many students do not allow for the fine-tuned, sensitive, personalized exchange that occurs in one-on-one or small-group scaffolding. Therefore, instead of one teacher working with each student, support is provided in a paper or software tool that individuals interact with, or classroom activities are redefined so that peers can help each other (e.g., Bell & Davis, 2000; Jackson, Krajcik, & Soloway, 1998; Pun-Tambekar & Kolodner, 2002; Reiser et al., 2001).
Of great importance is allowing the student to complete unassisted tasks as much as possible. The teacher only attempts to help the student with tasks that are just beyond his current capability. Student errors are expected and likely; but, with teacher feedback and prompting, the student is able to achieve the task or goal. When the student takes the responsibility for or masters the task, the teacher begins the process of “fading”, or simply put, the gradual removal of the scaffolding, which allows the student to work independently. Scaffolding is actually a bridge used to build upon what students already know to arrive at something they do not know. If scaffolding is properly administered, it will act as an enabler, not as a disabler (Benson, 1997).
Zhao and Orey (1999, p. 6) summarize this concept in the following order: “Scaffolding is a metaphor to characterize a special type of instructional process which works in a task-sharing situation between the teacher and the learner.” The authors further delineate this basic idea into two key aspects (or rules): “(a) help the learner with those aspects of the task that the learner cannot manage yet; and (b) allow the learner to do as much as he or she can, without help of others”.
2.3.1. Facilitative methods in scaffolding
Many different facilitative tools can be utilized in scaffolding student learning. Among them are: breaking the task into smaller more, manageable parts; using ‘think aloud’, or verbalizing thinking processes when completing a task; cooperative learning, which promotes teamwork and dialogue among peers; concrete prompts, questioning; coaching; cue cards or modeling. Others might include the activation of background knowledge, giving tips, strategies, cues and procedures. Teachers have to be mindful of keeping the learner in pursuit of the task while minimizing the learner’s stress level. Skills or tasks too far out of reach can lead a student to his frustration level, and tasks that are too simple can cause much the same effect.
Each facilitative method used is chosen as an individually tailored instructional tool. Teachers have to have open dialogue with the students to determine what and how they are thinking in order to clear up misconceptions and to individualize instruction. Crucial to successful scaffolding is an understanding of the student’s prior knowledge and abilities. The teacher must ascertain what the student already knows so that it can be “hooked”, or connected to the new knowledge and made relevant to the learner’s life, thus increasing the motivation to learn.
2.3.2. Characteristics and Critical Features of Scaffolded Instruction
Lange (2002) believes that there are two major steps involved in instructional scaffolding:
(1) development of instructional plans to lead the students from what they already know to a deep understanding of new material,” and (2) “execution of the plans, wherein the instructor provides support to the students at every step of the learning process.
In an appropriate scaffolding process, there will be specific identifiable features that are in place to allow facilitation of assisting the learner in internalizing the knowledge until mastery occurs. Applebee and Langer (1983), as cited by Zhao and Orey (1999, p. 6), identify these five features as:
• Intentionality: The task has a clear overall purpose driving any separate activity that may contribute to the whole.
• Appropriateness: Instructional tasks pose problems that can be solved with help but which students could not successfully complete on their own.
• Structure: Modeling and questioning activities are structured around a model of appropriate approaches to the task and lead to a natural sequence of thought and language.
• Collaboration: The teacher’s response to student work recasts and expands upon the students’ efforts without rejecting what they have accomplished on their own. The teacher’s primary role is collaborative rather than evaluative.
• Internalization: External scaffolding for the activity is gradually withdrawn as the patterns are internalized by the students.
Larkin (2002) suggests that scaffolding is one of the principles of effective instruction that enables teachers to accommodate individual student needs. In keeping with this theory, it can be seen that instruction must also be tailored around “contingent instruction”, which is a term identified by Reichgerlt, Shadbolt, Paskiewica, Wood and Wood (1993) as cited by Zhao and Orey (1999). The teacher or MKO realizes that the amount of instructional support given is dependent upon the outcome of the previous assistance. If a learner is unable to complete a task after an intervention by the MKO, then he or she is immediately given a more specific directive. Equally, if the learner is successful with an intervention, then he or she is given a less explicit directive the next time he or she needs assistance. Next, the instructor or MKO must recognize that the instructional intervention must be specific to the task the learner is currently attempting to complete. Finally, the teacher must keep in the forefront of the process that the student must be given ample time to apply the directive or to try a new move him/herself before additional intervention is supplied.
2.3.3. Challenges and Benefits of Scaffolding
As with any other learning theory or strategy, there are challenges and benefits to scaffolding. Understanding and comparing both will assist the educational professional or trainer in their assessment of the usefulness of the strategies and techniques as well as allow for comprehensive planning before implementation. The challenges are real but can be overcome with careful planning and preparation.
• Very time consuming
• Lack of sufficient personnel
• Potential for misjudging the zone of proximal development; success hinges on identifying the area that is just beyond but not too far beyond students’ abilities
• Inadequately modeling the desired behaviors, strategies or activities because the teacher has not fully considered the individual student’s needs, predilections, interests, and abilities (such as not showing a student how to “double click” on an icon when using a computer)
• Full benefits not seen unless the instructors are properly trained
• Requires the teacher to give up control as fading occurs
• Lack of specific examples and tips in teacher’s editions of textbooks
When assessing the benefits of scaffolding, it is necessary to consider the context in which you wish to implement the strategies and techniques. Additionally, you must know the learners and evaluate their particular needs first.
• Possible early identifier of giftedness
• Provides individualized instruction
• Greater assurance of the learner acquiring the desired skill, knowledge or ability
• Provides differentiated instruction
• Delivers efficiency – Since the work is structured, focused, and problems have been reduced or eliminated prior to initiation, time on task is increased and efficiency in completing the activity is increased.
• Creates momentum – Through the structure provided by scaffolding, students spend less time searching and more time on learning and discovering, resulting in quicker learning.
• Engages the learner.
• Motivates the learner to learn.
• Minimizes the level of frustration for the learner.
Current instantiations of the scaffolding construct have addressed a key aspect of scaffolding, i.e., that scaffolding is based on knowledge of the task and the difficulties that students have. However, the tools are permanent and unchanging; they provide structure and consistency by highlighting the aspects of the tasks that students should focus on. While this is by no means trivial, support becomes scaffolding only when it is adaptive, based on an ongoing diagnosis of student learning, and helps students to eventually internalize the knowledge and skills when the scaffolds are removed. More research is needed into how a system of scaffolding can be built, so that ongoing diagnosis and fading can be achieved in classroom situations.
2.3.4. Peer interaction: a good illustration and system of scaffolding
In addition to software tools, peer interactions have also been considered important for scaffolding in classrooms. In contrast to the adult being the expert in the traditional notion of scaffolding, in peer interactions students support one another through their interactions. Brown and colleagues (1993) emphasized the multidimensional nature of the interactions in a classroom, embodying the communities of learners’ approach. In this environment, the researchers note:
Learners of all ages and levels of expertise and interests seed the environment with ideas and knowledge that are appropriated by different learners at different rates, according to their needs and to the current states of the zones of proximal development in which they are engaged.
2.4. Mediation and Writing
In the context of academic learning, Vygotsky states that a student’s development within a ZPD