Examples of Scaffolding and Chunking in Online and Blended Learning Environments

Rose Marie Baker

Penn State College of Education

Scaffolding and chunking are instructional strategies designed to support the relationship of new information to prior knowledge in manageable sizes for the learner’s working memory. This presentation defines scaffolding and chunking instructional strategies as they relate to information processing, describes how to determine and when to use scaffolding and chunking, and provides examples of when scaffolding and chunking have been used effectively in online and blended learning environments.
Scaffolding is based within Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory that proposes that learning occurs through participation in socially or culturally embedded experiences. A competent instructor presents information that activates the learner’s zone of proximal development just above the learner’s current skills level. Online and blended materials can include interactive strategies to help the learner elaborate on their prior knowledge. The interactive bridges are built within the educational materials or provided through interactions with other learners or the instructor.
Chunking is the process of taking individual units of information and grouping them into larger units. Working memory functions optimally with no more than five to nine pieces of information. By chunking information in larger blocks, the information becomes easier to move from working memory to permanent memory, be linked to prior knowledge, and be recalled at a later time.
The placement and use of instructional strategies is based upon where the learner demonstrates difficulty in relating the materials to prior knowledge or has difficulty recalling the information. Hierarchical analysis of the instructional materials, learner analysis, and evaluation of learner performance are techniques used to place the instructional strategies most effectively and efficiently for a proper balance of support and challenge to motivate the learner.
Excerpts from online and blended learning environments and materials are displayed for provide practical and successful examples of using scaffolding and chunking. Participants in the session are invited to analyze examples and discuss educational situations that may need additional scaffolding and chunking strategies to guide the learners.

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