Psychology of Education

I think two of the most important personal characteristics involved in teaching and learning is teacher clarity and the ability of a teaching to scaffold learning for students. According to work on meta-analysis on achievement by Hattie (2009), there are many factors related to student achievement. Of these, scaffolding and teacher clarity, as teacher characteristics, are seen to have a high impact on student achievement. I also think that the development of a teacher to be clear in his/her teaching approach and to interact with a high inclusion of scaffolding brings about a strong student-teacher relationship, a key component to successful education.

There are many differing learning theories involved in the classroom that emphasise different aspects of learning, and each is therefore useful for different purposes (Wenger, 2009). Theories such as behaviourism and cognitivism focus on the individual learning and cognitive development while constructivism groups learning perspectives in that learning is the understanding that knowledge is actively constructed by the learner (Waring and Evans, 2015). Ertmer and Newby (2013) further describe constructivism whereby learners are encouraged to create their own understanding and then to validate, through social negotiation, i.e.  peers and teachers in the context of education, their new perspectives.

Scaffolding in education, a factor related to student achievement (Hattie, 2009).

“PowerPoint Slide: ‘Scaffolding Defined'” by Ken Whytock is licensed with CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

The term ‘scaffolding’ is a metaphor first introduced by Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976) as an intervention by tutors that enables a student to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond the students own unassisted efforts. This intervention of the teacher serves to ‘control’ elements of the task that are beyond the learners ability at first, and aids the student in focussing on the parts of the task that are within the students competence. Although Wood et al (1976) never referred to Vygotsky’s socio-cultural psychology, in particular, his Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), I think the scaffolding concept came about as a particular way of constructing the ZPD. This point is furthered by (Verenikina, 2003) where it mentions there is a consensus that Vygotskian socio-cultural psychology and the notion of the zone of proximal development are at the heart of the concept of scaffolding. Vygotsky describes this later named ZPD as the space between a child’s current development and the development a student could potentially reach through teachers or more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978). Additionally, Vygotsky’s ‘mind in society’ describes how what the student learns with the help of their peers and teachers today will be what the child will be able to do by their selves tomorrow (Vygotsky, 1978). This statement in itself shows the importance of engaging prior knowledge and scaffolding in achieving learning goals.

Although there has been criticism of scaffolding, including it being an excessively narrow way of operationalising the concept of ZPD (Margolis, 2020), scaffolding remains increasing popular among teachers (Verenikina, 2003). I think Vygotsky’s ZPD and scaffolding as a constructivist approach to education, brings about student-centred lessons that aid heavily with interaction of students with peers and teachers, strengthening the student-teacher relationship which I believe to be a vital component to a successful education.

Teacher clarity- the ability to effectively stimulate the meaning of course-content and processes in the minds of students through the use of appropriately structured verbal and non-verbal messages (Chesebro and McCroskey, 1998).

Teacher Clarity.
By: Jordan D Fredericks.
Video source : YouTube.

 Teacher clarity has been defined as a variable that represents the process in which a teacher has the ability to effectively stimulate the meaning of course-content and processes in the minds of students through the use of appropriately structured verbal and non-verbal messages (Chesebro and McCroskey, 1998). I believe it is very important for teachers to be clear in their instruction to aid the student-teacher relationship and to further develop scaffolding with students. When a teacher connects prior knowledge with what is presently being learned in a clear, understandable manner for students, I believe a greater student-centred inclusive lesson to be achieved which can only but improve the student-teacher relationship. A study carried out by Land and Smith (1979) showed that students taught with clear conditions and lack of teacher vagueness achieved more than the students taught with unclear conditions.

I think teacher clarity can be further developed with the inclusion of teacher strategies such as formative assessment and differentiation. When a teacher understands each of their students’ needs and learning preferences, the teacher will then be equipped with the information to provide clear specific instruction (Tomlinson, 2008).

Teacher clarity and scaffolding link as teacher clarity complements scaffolding and further develops it. If the teacher’s instruction is too complicated and difficult for the student to understand, the student is more likely to get frustrated and tune out (Hammond and Gibson, 2005). I think this frustration and lack of inclusion stems where teachers lack differentiated instruction and clarity which will negatively affect the teacher-student relationship and reduced inclusion and participation of the student. Similarly, if the instruction is too clear and over-explained, the student will not learn anything new and tensions and lack of inclusion will begin to emerge in the class (Hammond and Gibson, 2005).

The importance of a positive teacher-student relationship can be summed up by ‘for many students, lack of connection with the teacher spells academic failure’ (Tomlinson, 2008, p.27). From my learning throughout this module, I now understand the importance of the key theoretical perspectives, especially in terms of the constructivist approach and its importance and impact on education today. I understand the importance of a strong student- teacher relationship and teacher characteristics that aid in strengthening these relationships. Going forward I will continue to strengthen my understanding of the key theoretical perspectives and will focus on strengthening my own personal characteristics that will contribute to strengthening student-teacher relationships and inclusion in class.

Reference List:

  • Chesebro, J.L. and McCroskey, J.C. (1998) ‘The relationship of teacher clarity and teacher immediacy with students’ experiences of state receiver apprehension’. Communication quarterly46(4), pp.446-456.
  • Ertmer, P.A. and Newby, T.J. (2013) ‘Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective’,Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), pp.43-71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/piq.21143.
  • Hammond, J. and Gibbons, P. (2005) ‘What is scaffolding’. Teachers’ voices8, pp.8-16.
  • Hattie, J.A. (2009) ‘Visible learning: A synthesis of 800+ meta-analyses on achievement’. London: Routledge.
  • Margolis, A. (2020) ‘Zone of Proximal Development, Scaffolding and Teaching Practice’,Cultural-Historical Psychology, 16(1), pp.15-26.  
  • Tomlinson, C. (2008) ‘The goals of differentiation’, Educational Leadership, 66(3), pp.26- 30.
  • Verenikina, I. (2003) ‘Understanding scaffolding and the ZPD in educational research’.
  • Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) ‘Mind in Society : Development of Higher Psychological Processes’. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Wenger, E. (2009) ‘A social theory of learning’, Contemporary theories of learning, pp.209-218.
  • Wood, D., Bruner, J.S. and Ross, G. (1976) ‘The role of tutoring in problem solving’. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry17(2), pp.89-100.
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