Using ‘Scaffolding’ to Improve Confidence in Kids

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If you woke up tomorrow wanting to become a teacher or tutor, you’d have to dedicate hours, weeks, or even years to training before stepping into a classroom. However, at Youth Empowering Parents (YEP), we’re able to get young volunteers, i.e. students in elementary to high school, to become tutors in under 5 minutes. We do this with a technique known as ‘scaffolding’.

Our Program

While this may sound like young teachers are jumping into the deep-end with little to no training, our approach has been extremely fruitful for our young volunteers and adult recipients alike. So how have we successfully trained volunteers in such a short amount of time with such positive results? There are four main reasons for this.

1) Youth teach things they’re already doing in everyday life

What these young people offer in their instruction is somewhat unexpected or unorthodox, as they don’t teach academic subjects to other youth, but instead give adult learners feasible life skills in technology, music, dance, and more.

2) Our Lesson Plans

We’ve created simple, straight-forward lesson plans/booklets for the young teachers to follow along with. They break things down into basic steps, images and helpful tidbits to follow, simplifying the process of teaching an adult learner.

3) Acknowledging Their Existing Abilities

We recognize the existing knowledge and skills young people already have: familiarity with technology, a musical instrument, another language, or whatever else they’re teaching. We have confidence in our young teachers, and it inspires them to participate.

4) Scaffolding

Scaffolding refers to a system of guided and supported learning that helps students understand and do something that may otherwise be out of their comfort zones or abilities — like teaching! In practice, this means allowing students to try something new and continuously giving them supports so that they can keep building on that knowledge.

Here’s an example: suppose a young person is teaching an adult how to use Microsoft Word and the adult is having difficulty understanding the steps and technological terms. The young person may become frustrated and take over, grabbing at the mouse and performing the task themselves instead of talking the adult through it.

This is where scaffolding comes in. Our team would step in and encourage them to better communicate with their adult learner, asking what they do and don’t understand, and then breaking it down step by step.

The young person is still in charge but receives guidance on how to be a better tutor. Adult learners also benefit from this, as they are awarded the chance to understand and perform the tasks themselves.

Over time, scaffolding fades; fewer hints are given as young people need less help.

The Benefits of Scaffolding Among Young People

1) It accommodates a broad range of skills, backgrounds, and abilities in young people because it guides them through the learning process. This means that it can be individualized to different students’ needs. By using the scaffolding approach, we hope to create a tutoring program that appeals to and engages otherwise disengaged youth with a diverse set of abilities.

2) This generation’s youth have ~70% less attention span than the previous generation. Among our goals, we aim to capture and hold the attention of our volunteer teachers who, because they are so young, may have attention spans shorter than that of their adult learner.

3) Youth are often resistant to training for things they think they know; scaffolding allows these young people to gain a sense of control and responsibility during the learning process, helping them to understand, communicate and reflect. By beginning the teaching process as soon as possible, and by using the scaffolding approach along the way, we have condensed and amplified the sense of willingness and joy in the education process among our young volunteers. This way, they don’t lose focus or interest!

4) Training scripts also make the young volunteers feel more secure in their abilities because, should they begin struggling, they always have teaching material to fall back on. This is why they’re provided them with straight-forward, simple lesson plans. If, at any point, the teachers have trouble explaining or understanding the task at hand, and if their scaffolding is being faded away, they will always have a script to consult.

5) Youth feel good about what they accomplish, and they want to feel like they’ve done it independently. Our hope is that we can make the teachers feel in charge and responsible, leading to internal gratification. We also hope that this will motivate young people to build on these experiences, which may include continuing with our programs, volunteering with other organizations, getting involved in their communities, and more.

Lessons for the Future

Teaching doesn’t have to be hard, nor does it have to involve lengthy upfront training. In fact, youth often don’t respond to this. Young people are looking for opportunities where they can shine, find themselves and grow into adults. But they often want to be treated as though they already have something to bring to the table. By creating a module wherein youth can encompass the role of the teacher to adult learners and jump into the instruction right away, they are less distracted and more engaged. Due to the scaffolding approach, our student volunteers thrive without any formal training when giving unorthodox, customized lessons to adults. This is why the scaffolding approach is so essential and unique, as it improves the abilities of students, especially those who struggle in traditional academic settings. Not only will it help youth learn, but it will increase their confidence and leadership, both inside and outside their school setting. The younger generation is the future and, with the help of scaffolding, they will become more competent, capable leaders.

Join Youth Empowering Parents on February 15, 2021 for a virtual event titled “Re-thinking the capabilities of children: What happens when students become teachers?” Sign up by visiting https://yepeducation.eventbrite.com/

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