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What is it?

A method of instructor-led teaching that begins with the instructor providing a lot of support (scaffolding) to the learner, then reducing that support as the learner gains proficiency, allowing the learner to become more and more independent.

Why is it important?

Scaffolding is important because it allows learners to build from their current knowledge and experiences through temporary, but supportive, learning interactions, which act as building blocks towards the acquisition of new knowledge and skills.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Business professionals who implement scaffolding in learning and development initiatives—​whether at the group, department, or enterprise level—​provide a critical, temporary support that not only enables their workforce to be supported and elevated in their learning acquisition but also provides a metric against which they can measure the effectiveness of those initiatives.

Consider the following:

  • Could a construction and facilities engineer build a multi-story building without building scaffolding to support the construction?
  • Could a project manager manage a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract, including the schedule and costs, without a work breakdown structure and a framework to support project planning and scheduling?

Not using scaffolding in these contexts can be compared to a learning-and-development professional not integrating scaffolding into learning activities. Without scaffolding, there would be no supports to guide the learner through the learning process.

Most of us need some type of support when learning something new or shoring up our current understanding. When we have learned what is needed, we move up to the next level and don’t need to rely on that support any longer.

Building scaffolding supports into learning and development creates a positive and empowering learning environment.


About Jennifer Staley

Photo of Jennifer Staley

Jennifer Staley is SVP of Operations of Shoulder2Shoulder, Inc. a Certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. Jennifer has been a talent and organizational development professional for over two decades across multiple industries and has an enthusiasm for continued education and lifelong learning experiences. Jennifer continues to shape her instructional design principles and strategies, her philosophy and vision for learning and performance in both her professional and personal lives.

Term: Scaffolding


Twitter: @jennystaley