Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Impact of Using Teacher Scaffolding Techniques on Speaking Ability of Iranian Efl Learners

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Impact of Using Teacher Scaffolding Techniques on Speaking Ability of Iranian Efl Learners

Article excerpt


The term scaffolding which was devised by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) is an important sociocultural concept. According to Wood et al., scaffolding "enables a novice to solve a problem, to carry out a task or to achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted efforts" (p. 90). They also stated that scaffolding may end in "development of task competence by the learner at a pace that would outstrip his unassisted efforts" (p. 90). A plethora of research has shown that language learning is not an individual process since in the presence of teachers and peers who support language learners, more success is gained (Cagiltay, 2006). In learning environments, support must be provided for the language learners in order for them to experience learning in meaningful contexts. Such kind of support is scaffolding. Scaffolding tasks can be provided along with the materials in order to enhance speaking ability of language learners. Language learners should be given the opportunity to criticize their speaking processes and practices. The teacher has a very crucial part, as the teacher not only guides the students through the stages of speaking, but also by scaffolding techniques motivates them to feel autonomous in learning. Scaffolding rooted from the Vygotsky's psychology in which he focused on the concept of zone of proximal development which is elaborated on in the next section, after which detailed explanation of scaffolding is presented.

1.1.The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

Mercer (1995) states that most probably learning occurs in a domain which is called the Zone of Proximal Development (or ZPD). Accordingly, it can be understood that there are two developmental levels within the learner: the actual developmental level, which is the learner's independent capability, and the potential level of development, which is the learner's capability with the help or support of others. These two levels are explained via ZPD as follows:

"The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers". (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86)

Vygotsky's (1938/1978, as cited in Mercer, 1995) theory of individuals' capability for learning is put in the "zone of proximal development." ZPD shows the domain which the learner is ready to discover; however, in order for this to happen, some help from a more experienced partner is needed (Briner, 1999). The word "teacher" is used in the present study to refer to the more knowledgeable person.

According to Vygotsky (1987, as cited in Mercer, 1995), good learning involves the mastering of some skills which are beyond the student's capability. Such learning occurs through interaction within the student's zone of proximal development.

The concept of ZPD has a number of implications for teachers and learners. An important implication is that learning has a special social nature through which learners get involved into the intellectual life of others (Vygotsky, 1978). As far as language learning is concerned, the validity of the learning environment and the similarity between its participants cause the learner to associate with this environment. In typical classrooms, these kinds of interactions are less observed.


Maybin, Mercer and Stierer (1992) state that scaffolding is a help or assistance that provides a child with the capability to do a task which they cannot do by themselves. According to Mercer (1995, p. 74) scaffolding is the special kind of support that teachers provide during the process of learning. In fact, scaffolding is a technique in teaching that helps students in doing a task with less intervention from the teacher. Evans and Green (2007, p. 3) believe that "scaffolding enables a learner to solve a task or achieve a goal that would be beyond his unassisted effort. …

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