Elevator Pitch on Cognitive Scaffolding

Some scaffolds are introduced to share the cognitive load or to draw attention to specific aspects of the work. Reiser & Tabak (2014) suggest scaffolding can be introduced to facilitate thinking in several ways. Especially when dealing with complex situations early in their studies, students may focus on irrelevant aspects of the problem or they may otherwise misunderstand some aspect of the curriculum. Scaffolds can help students focus their work, thus reducing the frustration of false starts.  

Students often do not perceive critical elements of problems, strategies, and solutions. Scaffolds can draw attention to aspects of the work they may overlook without them. Rubrics that are used to assess students’ work are scaffolds when they are shared with students as they complete work and if they use the rubrics to assess examples of similar works. 

Cognitive scaffolding is further useful when teachers are facilitating metacognition. The prompts they suggest to have students be critical of their current understanding can focus their attention in productive ways. 


Reiser, B., & Tabak, I. (2014). Scaffolding. In R. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 44-62). Cambridge University Press.