Brian J. Reiser, Iris Tabak

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

111 Scopus citations


A classroom of 7th grade students is developing a scientific model of the factors influencing water quality in their local stream. They run a dynamic simulation of the model to test it, yet they are able to do so without having to produce sophisticated mathematical representations for these relationships. In another classroom, 11th graders are reading primary historical texts and engaging in argumentation to develop a coherent explanation of events, despite lacking the extensive disciplinary knowledge and experience historians use to analyze primary documents. How can these learners participate in activities that share elements of expert practices, but that call on knowledge and skills that they do not yet possess? These feats are possible in the same way that young children can ride two-wheelers using training wheels before they have mastered balancing, or that construction workers can use scaffolding to work on the penthouse before the lower floors have been fully constructed. The Historical Roots of Scaffolding Drawing on the metaphor of scaffolding in building construction, Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) proposed the concept of scaffolding to describe how children, with the help of someone more knowledgeable to share and support their problem solving, can perform more complex tasks than they would otherwise be capable of performing on their own (Palincsar, 1998; Rogoff, 1990). Scaffolding may be provided by a variety of different mechanisms. In the example cited earlier, in the history classroom, scaffolding is provided by interaction with guidance from the teacher and curriculum materials (Reisman, 2012), while in the water quality model, part of the assistance is provided by a supportive software environment (Fretz et al., 2002).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, Second Edition
EditorsR. Keith Sawyer
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781139519526
ISBN (Print)9781107033252
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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