Scaffolding with PBL

When you look up the word “scaffolding” in the dictionary, the definition does not include any aspects of education.  Jamie McKenzie explains it well by stating that just as scaffolding in the construction world is designed to help workers build higher off the ground and reach what is beyond their current grasp, scaffolding in the classroom is designed to support students so that they may learn and accomplish more than what is possible on their own (2000).

In an inclusion setting, scaffolding allows special education students to function in a general education classroom.  The teacher created scaffolding can be applied to all students who may need some assistance in order to better understand difficult concepts, help decrease frustration, and develop soft skills which may be applied to future learning situations.

According to the Glossary of Education Reform, scaffolding “refers to a variety of instructional techniques used to move students progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process” (2015).   Another definition of scaffolding by Alber describes the process as “breaking up the learning into chunks and then providing a tool, or structure, with each chunk” (2014).  The chunking of information in PBL is essential for success, especially in the first few attempts, as students may find the idea of learning through a project to be overwhelming without extra support and benchmarks.

The beginning of my PBL project about hybrid cars includes direct instruction as students are introduced to the topic along with opportunities for teacher modeling.  Prior knowledge is activated by connecting the topic to real life.  As the project moves on, the amount of direct instruction decreases so that students can explore the mathematics on their own.  The project has a checklist to help organize group members and track progress and deadlines along with a rubric so that students know the expectations from the beginning.  Since this project has not yet been executed, I do not have any examples of quality student work or work that falls below expectations.  I know those will be beneficial to the students as a form of scaffolding so that they have an idea of what to work towards.

In general, I believe that the amount and type of support that I use in the classroom changes from year to year and even class period to class period.   Since different learners require different types of scaffolds, that seems to be fitting.  Each class dynamic has its own strengths and weaknesses, so I would want to be sure that I use scaffolding to support the needs of each class, and hopefully for each student, whether it is for a direct instruction lesson, a guided exploration, a personalized learning experience, or a project based learning setting.



Alber, R. (2014, Janary 24). 6 scaffolding strategies to use with your students. Retrieved from

McKenzie, J.  (2000).  Scaffolding for success. In Beyond technology: Questioning, research, and the information literate school.   FNO Press.

Scaffolding (2015, April 6). In S. Abbott (Ed.), The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from




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