Shot 1 - "Watch Grandad feed the wallaby". Note his position.
Shot 2 - "Would you like to try?". A tentative step forward
Shot 3 - "You hold it Sam". "Aw-right" Note my arm.
Shot 4 - "I did it!" Note his face (and mine) - success!
What the above photos show are the way an adult can support a child to take risks and learn new things. My own research and that of many others has demonstrated that there are several key processes occurring learning events such as the above. Two of these are "guided participation" and "scaffolding".
1. Guided participation
In the pictures you can see how I have been guiding Sam’s participation in the act of feeding the wallaby. You can't hear my words but there was constant conversation with Sam:
- verbally prodding him forward.
I also demonstrated the task and segmented it (though you can't see precisely from these shots). There were a number of steps in between photos 2 and 4.
Barbara Rogoff suggests that guided participation is critical to children’s learning. She describes this process as the guided participation of children and others in the collaborative process of "building bridges" from children's present understanding and skills in order to reach new understandings and skills. This in turn requires "the arranging and structuring of children's participation in activities" in some way. I wanted Sam to experience the wallaby up close and I wanted him to be brave enough to try to feed it himself. Alone he would just have watched but with my support he eventually did it and learned new things.
2. Scaffolded support
Jerome Bruner developed the term “scaffolding” that describes in a more specific way what was going on in this learning episode. The concept of "scaffolding" was devised by Bruner to explain the behaviour of a tutor helping three- and five-year-old children to build a pyramid out of interlocking wooden blocks. He concluded that the act of scaffolding that he observed was a process whereby an adult helped children by doing what the child could not do at first, and allowing students to slowly take over parts of the process as they were able to do so. The adult controlled the focus of attention, demonstrated the task, segmented the task and so on. While in my work I consider in more detail how children also direct attention and take some control of their own learning, this is a level of discussion that isn’t needed in this instance.
Once again, you can see this demonstrated in the photos above.
Implications for parents and teachers?
There are many implications from the work of researchers like Rogoff and Bruner that have direct application to the type of support that adults (both parents and teachers) give to children every day. The type of support that is shown in the photos is quite similar to the type of support we give to children as they learn language, explore their world, attempt new gross motor tasks (walking, riding a bike etc) and so on. Two key factors in learning are the quality of support adults provide and the encouragement we give children to become risk takers.
For anyone who wants a more detailed discussion I have included a section of one of my books on my website (here) and of course you could source the book itself (here).