Scaffolding the Learning Process

We are continuing my blog series on developing effective curriculum after a hiatus of travel and illness, so it’s good to be “back in the saddle” again! This post assumes you have already created excellent outcomes or objectives and have selected appropriate activities to ensure that your outcomes will be fulfilled. At this point in the course development process, any expert could facilitate your workshop or course. However, let’s make sure you have created options for yourself and your learners.

Whenever we work to ensure there is space to scaffold the learning process within a course or workshop, we are creating options for ourselves that benefit your learners.

On a technical level, you may have found yourself frustrated in creating outcomes because you want your learner to experience the first three levels of the cognitive taxonomy on the same subject. Let’s take the example of teaching Scrum.

The first cognitive level may be something like: The learner should be able to identify the Scrum roles.

The second cognitive level may be something like: The learner should be able to interpret the process of Scrum to the team.

The third cognitive level may be something like: The learner should be able to discover constraints unique to his or her team.

Let’s assume you are teaching a course to learners who are expected to have no experience with Scrum at all. If that is the case, you would want to be sure that you have activities that clearly demonstrate that the learners understand each cognitive level.

However, if you are teaching a course to individuals who are clear on Scrum, fold the first two outcomes into the third one, and have only one assessment that fulfills the third outcome. Why? Because you don’t want to torture people with the first two outcomes that they already apply in their daily lives. However, that does not mean you should presume your audience knows those first two outcomes well. Just do a quick check to ensure consistency on understanding those areas, and then move forward with the third outcome.

These options allow you to employ your own expertise and maintain a connection with your learners. The most difficult situation is when you have a mixed group. Some are newbies and some are experts, but the training is required. Worst possible situation, right? This is when your broken down options serve you in the most positive way, and you can help the group develop their own connections.

Methods to balance two extremes in your group include the following:

  • Have the inexperienced learners complete the first two outcomes, and have the experienced learners share stories of how they selected roles on their teams (first level), or how they helped helped their team understand Scrum (second level). The act of storytelling will allow sharing among the experienced, and advice for the inexperienced.
  • Pair the experienced learner with the inexperienced learners so that the experienced learners will possibly gain new insights by teaching.
  • Roll all three outcomes together, but ensure there is clear fulfillment for each outcome without making it explicit. Sometimes just knowing that a topic is going to be covered that one is already very familiar with can cause subconscious rejection while otherwise new insights might have been picked up.

These options ensure both relevancy and room for you to be flexible as an instructor or trainer to address the immediate needs of your learners. The important takeaway is to provide yourself several sub-options within a higher level outcome so you can help the learners scaffold through learning in an applied manner, and not simply recall.

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.