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Abstract

Instructional scaffolding or simply known as scaffolding in education is defined as a guidance or support from teachers, instructors or other knowledgeable persons that facilitate students to achieve their goals in learning. Conceptually, scaffolding means providing students with instructions during the early stage of learning before slowly shifting the responsibility to them as they develop their own understanding and skills. As technology extends learning from classroom to learning communities, same goes to the concept of scaffolding. The scaffolding is no longer implemented via face to-face instruction that literally exists between a teacher and students in a classroom. Currently, the form of instructions that emerges between teachers and students is mediated through technology and the learning communities exist in the online settings. Thus, it is important to acknowledge the suitable form of support required for the students, especially in an online learning environment. The aim of this meta-analysis is to investigate the types of scaffolding that could be implemented in an online learning environment together with its potential in validating students' success in an online learning setting.
Instructional Scaffolding in Online Learning Environment: A Meta-Analysis
Nurul Farhana Jumaat
Department of Educational Sciences, Mathematics and
Creative Multimedia,
Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,
81310, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia.
farhanautm@gmail.com
Zaidatun Tasir
Department of Educational Sciences, Mathematics and
Creative Multimedia,
Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,
81310, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia.
zaidatun@gmail.com
AbstractInstructional scaffolding or simply known as
scaffolding in education is defined as a guidance or support
from teachers, instructors or other knowledgeable persons that
facilitate students to achieve their goals in learning.
Conceptually, scaffolding means providing students with
instructions during the early stage of learning before slowly
shifting the responsibility to them as they develop their own
understanding and skills. As technology extends learning from
classroom to learning communities, same goes to the concept of
scaffolding. The scaffolding is no longer implemented via face-
to-face instruction that literally exists between a teacher and
students in a classroom. Currently, the form of instructions
that emerges between teachers and students is mediated
through technology and the learning communities exist in the
online settings. Thus, it is important to acknowledge the
suitable form of support required for the students, especially in
an online learning environment. The aim of this meta-analysis
is to investigate the types of scaffolding that could be
implemented in an online learning environment together w ith
its potential in validating students’ success in an online
learning setting.
Keywords—Instructional scaffolding; Online learning
environment; Meta-analysis;
I. INTRODUCTION
Scaffolding or instructional scaffolding has been widely
studied in the past [1]. The term is better known as a critical
component that facilitates students in learning [2]. However,
as technology extends learning beyond a classroom setting,
the concept of scaffolding becomes diverse. No longer is the
method confined to face-to-face interaction, it even implies
students thousands of kilometers away from their colleges.
Granted, scaffolding can now be mediated by technology,
and the interest for such integration has been increasing [3].
The meta-analysis of this study aims to investigate the types
of scaffolding feasible for an online learning environment.
The concept of scaffolding originates from the work of
Wood, Bruner and Ross in 1976 [4]. It relates to Social
Constructivism Theory pioneered by Lev Vygotsky and his
popular concept known as the Zone of Proximal
Development (ZPD). Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism
suggests that social interactions among teachers, peers,
tutors, parents or instructors contribute to the development
of an individual learning process [5, 6]. In other words, the
theory professes that such interactions enable students to
learn a new concept effectively [7].
The term ‘scaffolding’ was borrowed from construction
field (scaffold is a temporary structure that supports
building) [8]. In education, scaffolding has teachers
instructing students in the early stages of learning, and
gradually lessening their supports as the students gain
mastery [9]. This reduces difficulty of complex learning and
at the same time, let the students focus on constructing
knowledge and higher-order demands like thinking critically
[10].
Traditionally, scaffolded instructions were imparted
face-to-face by teachers but as the World Wide Web makes
its way into education, the concept applies to the technology
environment as well [11]. As McLoughlin emphasized, “the
concept of scaffolding needs to be redefined into the context
where the teacher is not present, as in the online
environment” [11].
II. SCAFFOLDING IN ONLINE LEARNING
ENVIRONMENT
Scaffolding in an online learning environment refers to
the supports provided by teachers or instructors via
technology. These teachers will use various technological
tools and resources that could assist them in teaching.
Students gain equal benefits too: they could capitalize the
virtual learning environment to communicate with peers,
while having their progress monitored regularly by their
teachers. Nevertheless, such method requires a structured
guideline in order to avoid students’ frustration should they
fail to learn. This necessitates online educators to conduct
scaffolding properly in line with students’ needs.
The present study refers to an online learning
environment as the one that allows students to assess
educational resources via technological means. This study
also considers the form of support that can adequately
enhance the teaching and learning process. This support
could be in a form of software or web-based tools or virtual
learning objects. Software-based tool is the developed
standalone software built into the scaffolded tools, tasks and
interfaces [12]. The software provides appropriate
2014 International Conference on Teaching and Learning in Computing and Engineering
978-1-4799-3592-5/14 $31.00 © 2014 IEEE
DOI 10.1109/LaTiCE.2014.22
74
scaffolding strategies that can engage students in their tasks.
Web-based tool on the other hand, is an internet-based
applications or websites used by teachers as a platform to
support students in learning; they include for example, wikis,
blogs and social networking sites. Virtual learning objects
include 3D-animation cartoon or avatar which is used not
only to assist, but to engage students in learning.
III. METHODOLOGY
This study aims to identify types of scaffolding in online
learning, its form of supports and its potential in validating
students’ success. The following key words were used to
search for related publications: scaffolding & online
learning, instructor support & online learning and scaffolded
instruction & online learners. Conducted via IEEExplore
Digital Library, Science Direct, Web of Science and
ProQuest, the search has produced 51 hits, but only 10 were
deemed relevant to the study following these criteria: (1) the
studies concern specific scaffolding types that assist students
in learning, (2) the studies must be published between 2008
and the present, and (3) the studies must mention the support
forms used by the teachers or instructors to support students
in learning. After being analyzed qualitatively, the meta-
analysis of studies of scaffolding in an online learning
environment were summarized, as presented in Table I.
TABLE I. STUDIES OF SCAFFOLDING IN ONLINE LEARNING
Study Research Purpose(s) Support Form Scaffolding
Type
Tiantong
and
Teemungsai
[13]
To develop four
scaffolding modules for
collaborative problem
based learning through
Moodle LMS for a
computer programming
course
Virtual Object
(3D animation
expert cartoon)
Metacognitive
scaffolding,
Conceptual
scaffolding,
Strategic
scaffolding,
Procedural
scaffolding
Zhang and
Quintana
[14]
To support middle
school students in
online inquiry
processes` in learning
science subject.
Software-based
tool.
Metacognitive
scaffolding.
Huang, Wu
and Chen
[15]
To evaluate the
effectiveness of using
procedural scaffolding
in fostering students’
discourse levels and
learning outcomes.
Web-based tool Procedural
scaffolding
Carr,
Luckin,
Avrami des
and Yuill
[16]
An empirical study
which investigates
learners respond to
metacognitive
assistance.
Software-based
tool (Ecolab)
Metacognitive
scaffolding.
Molenaar et
al.
[17]
To investigate
metacognitive activities
among scaffolded
students in a
collaborative sett ing with
the existence of avatars.
Virtual learning
object (an avatar)
Metacognitive
scaffolding
Study Research Purpose(s) Support Form Scaffolding
Type
Teo and
Chai
[18]
To scaffold novice
students in
collaborating critiquing
educational video
production.
Web-based tool
(Knowledge
Community)
Metacognitive
scaffolding,
Strategic
scaffolding
James and
Okpala
[19]
To analyze the impact
of the use of
metacognitive
scaffolding used to
enhanced literacy skills
among college
students.
Software-based
tool (PLATO)
Question
prompt,
Metacognitive
scaffolding
An
[20]
To scaffold students’
wiki based, Ill
structured problem
solving in an online
environment.
Web-based Tool
(Wikis)
Conceptual
scaffolding,
Procedural
scaffolding,
Metacognitive
scaffolding,
Strategic
scaffolding
Reingold,
Rimor and
Kalay
[21]
To determine and
characterize students
reflective thought
process in an online
forum.
Web-based tool
(Online Forum)
Technical
support,
Content
support,
Procedural
support,
Metacognitive
support.
Li and Lim
[22]
To examine the
different dimensions of
scaffolding for online
historical inquiry
Web-based tool Written
prompts,
Argumentation
template,
Questioning
and Modeling.
As shown in Table I, most studies involved
students in higher education and middle school.
Instructional scaffolding implemented in these studies vary
across disciplines (science, history, literacy skills and
programming language). Despite having involved various
forms of support (virtual learning objects, software-based
tool and web-based tool), these studies have generally
compared the effects of various types of scaffolding on
students’ success, particularly in online learning. The
following section elaborates the results.
IV. RESULTS
A. Types of Scaffolding in Online Learning Environment
Based on the meta-analysis, four main types of online
scaffolding were identified: procedural scaffolding,
conceptual scaffolding, strategic scaffolding and
metacognitive scaffolding. These four types, according to
Hannafin, Land and Oliver [23], are structures that
appropriately support students’ learning. They are preferred
among researchers to study an online learning environment.
Conceptual scaffolding helps students to decide what to
consider in learning [24]. It particularly guides them to
75
prioritize fundamental concepts. Procedural scaffolding, in
addition, assists students in using available tools and
resources while strategic scaffolding suggests alternative
ways to tackle problems in learning. Finally, metacognitive
scaffolding guides students on what to think during learning
[23].
Among the four types, metacognitive scaffolding were
the most explored by researchers. It promotes higher order
thinking [10] for it assists students to reflect on what they
have learnt (self-assess), and assesses their progress [18]. As
a result, it allows students to plan ahead.
Other types of scaffolding addressed by researchers
include technical support, content support, argumentation
template, questioning and modeling. However, these terms
were rarely used, probably because they were inadequately
justified. None of them provides a clear structure of
sentences or prompts that can be used to guide students,
especially in an online learning setting.
Technology changes rapidly, so does the form of support
provided to online learners. Instructors have been using
web-based tools such as wikis and blogs as platforms to
support and discuss with students. Software-based tools
particularly, have been used in many studies as a form of
support. The developed software is like an automated
assistance agent that can assist learners by engaging them
with strategies and structures. To point out, researchers are
now using virtual learning objects such as 3D-animation
cartoon expert and avatars to study online scaffolding.
B. Potential of Scaffolding in Online Learning Environment
The meta-analysis has revealed the importance of
scaffolding particularly in online settings. Reingold, Rimor
and Kalay [21] recommended supporting students to
experience a reflective learning process as this contributes
to their experience as a community of learners with a
common task. Additionally, Tiantong and Teemuangsai [13]
found that scaffolding is suitable for active learning. All
these findings are consistent with the results reported by
Huang, Wu and Chen [15], who found more active
participation and meaningful negotiations in the scaffolded
group than in the non-scaffolded group discussion.
Previous studies have reported that metacognitive
scaffolding could encourage students in reflecting their tasks
and at the same time, contribute to their experience as a
community of learners with a common task [21]. In their
study, Reingold, Rimor and Kalay [21] have listed seven
mechanisms of metacognitive scaffolding that encourage
students’ metacognition in learning.
Conclusively, it has become a trend among researchers
to prefer metacognitive scaffolding because this method is
the most effective in an online learning environment.
Metacognitive scaffolding supports learners by assisting
individual learning management and by guiding appropriate
thinking during learning (25).
V. FUTURE SUGGESTIONS
There is a growing interest in integrating scaffolded
instructions in online teaching. As described earlier,
scaffolding online learners are devoid of the physical
presence of teachers. Thus, prior to supporting students in an
online learning environment, researchers are encouraged to
map out well-structured instructional components such as (1)
student’s need, (2) learning objectives, (3) support forms and
(4) types of scaffolding appropriate to student’s needs.
Moreover, we suggest that questions and prompt
messages from an instructor be carefully designed so that the
scaffolds can be delivered effectively. These questions and
prompts need to be evaluated by researchers in terms of their
suitability, particularly in reflecting and defining each type
of scaffolding. This study also prefers to have an inter-rater
reliability coded to validate instructors’ questions and
prompted messages. Moreover, the technology has changed
the way support forms or tools are used to facilitate students
in learning, and they have also shifted towards being web-
and software-based, and being virtual learning objects.
Hence, applying the latest technology is necessary to attract
students’ interest, especially when learning tough courses.
To demonstrate, Tiantong & Teemuangsai [13] have used a
3D animation expert cartoon to scaffold students in learning
a computer programming course. Regardless, the uses of
web-based and software-based tools are still relevant as long
as they could facilitate students’ performances in learning.
VI. CONCLUSION
In conclusion, four types of scaffolding are typical in an
online learning: conceptual scaffolding, procedural
scaffolding, strategic scaffolding and metacognitive
scaffolding, with the last being the most mentioned in
previous studies. Technology also plays an important role:
teachers could make full use of technological tools to support
their teaching as well as their students in learning. In
addition, instructional designs are undeniably important to
ensure the effectiveness of scaffolding in online learning.
These proper instructional supports can influence the success
of online learning.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The authors would like to thank the Universiti Teknologi
Malaysia (UTM) and Ministry of Education (MoE)
Malaysia for their support in making this project possible.
This work was supported by the Research University Grant
[Q.J130000.2531.03H03] initiated by MoE.
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