Educational Technique #5: Stepping Back
I am going to make the claim that one of the universally agreed upon concepts in special education (or regular education for that matter) is scaffolding. Scaffolding is the idea that a learner begins in a situation of high prompts and high control and as s/he demonstrates mastery the prompts and controls are removed. One doesn’t usually hear of critiques of scaffolding. Yet, despite its popularity, fading the scaffold can be difficult.
There are multiple reasons it may be tough to fade a prompt back. Probably the biggest reason is habit. If we help a student practice writing their name with hand- over- hand guidance everyday then this might be difficult to be as vigilant as we should. This is especially true if we are in a hurry. And good scaffolding is very progressive. We would have to periodically try to offer gentler support to see what the student can do. And this is not just for the whole name, but even for small parts, maybe just for the curve in a lowercase “d”. I think it is easy to imagine a little support becoming a hindrance.
There are several ways around this. Probably the biggest way is to be diligent about testing fading back the assistance. A better way would be to set some sort of criteria for fading back. However this is also a lot of work. To do this means one has to do some sort of data collection on a daily basis. This is however, a systematic way to approach the problem. This is also the way I like to approach the issue. And remember this isn’t just true for handwriting.