Scaffolding Creative Learning

  • A Collaborative Exploration (CE) that explores the meaning(s) and value of "scaffolding" for creative learning (in contrast to others transmitting knowledge for you to take in).
  • If you want to participate, you need to apply—read more or scroll to the link to the form for applying at the end.
  • If you want to know what a CE requires of you, review the expectations and mechanics. In brief, CEs are an extension of Problem- or Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping their own directions of inquiry and developing their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word).
  • If you are wondering how to define a meaningful and useful line of inquiry on the topic above, let us present a scenario for the CE and hope this stimulates you to apply to participate. We will then let CE participants judge for themselves whether their inquiries are relevant.

We have all seen scaffolding used in construction or renovation, so the "scaffolding" metaphor makes us think of someone starting with a final structure in mind and providing the workers a reliable, safe arrangement of physical elements they can use to complete the structure. In education scaffolding has been used to refer to an analogous arrangement of elements (more conceptual and procedural than physical) that allow students to come to understand the relevant ideas and end up proficient in the practices. But scaffolding has other connotations that might be fruitful to explore. For example, if we think about the maintenance of our bones, a scaffold could connote a dynamic structure with components that are constantly replenished with new materials, doing so, moreover, in ways that maintain its integrity as a structure while adapting to changes in its contexts (like new stresses strengthening the bones) and, in turn, generating possibilities not seen or experienced before.

Scaffolding in the first, pre-arranged sense comes to mind around the uptake of innovations, where an innovator is challenged to move beyond the enthusiastic early adopters, to "cross the chasm" and address the pragmatic and particular concerns of other potential adopters. Suppose, however, in place of an innovator-adopter divide, we focus on the potential of everyone for creative learning. (Use of this term invites elaboration, but for now let it simply point to generation of alternative ideas, connections, practices, and solutions, in contrast to memorizing knowledge that others transmit to us.) In the context of everyone becoming creative learners we have to notice the variety of projects of inquiry and engagement different adults and children pursue in their work, education, and lives. We also have to acknowledge, as mentioned above, the pragmatic concerns people have in pursuing those various projects. But can we still imagine benefiting from "connecting, probing, and reflecting" that stretches us beyond particular concerns? If so, what can we learn from and contribute to other people inquiring and engaging in a creative spirit:
  • When do different people keep to themselves or interact in a private, trusted circle? How have people reached out to build constituencies and counter feelings of isolation?
  • When and how have they sought support in not continuing along previous lines—that is, in taking initiatives where they cannot rely simply on the skills, resources, networks of connected people that they have built up over time and, in to a large extent, have embodied?
  • What stock-taking routines go on before they proceed from one phase to another; on from an activity or event; into dialogue with others; or at a branch point, when choosing an activity or path to pursue?
  • What role have they given to mentors and mentoring? To friends and cultivating friendship?
And so on. In this Collaborative Exploration, each of us has 22 days to shape and pursue directions of inquiry that illuminate how people can "scaffold" the efforts of current and potential collaborators and be scaffolded themselves by others.

Intended outcomes of this inquiry (in which we will be supporting and learning from each others' inquiries) are of two kinds:
  • a) tangible: a written document consisting of examples, guidelines, or theory that might be shared beyond the CE group; and
  • b) experiential: being impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

CE: expectations and mechanics

Whatever thread of inquiry participants pursue in any specific Collaborative Exploration (CE), your posts and contribution to live sessions should aim to stimulate and guide the learning of other participants, and build towards the final tangible product described in the scenario. The complementary, "experiential" goal is to be impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

The CE will take place over 22 days and consists of four sessions spaced one week apart, in which a small group interacts in real time live via google hangout for 60 minutes.* The day and time is arranged to fit the schedules of applicants, but often 9-10am, 4-5, 5-6 or 6-7pm to maximize the coverage of international time zones. Participants spend time between sessions on self-directed inquiry on the case, sharing of inquiries-in-progress, and reflecting on the process (which typically involves shifts in participants' definition of what they want to find out and how). Prospective participants are asked not to sign up if they cannot guarantee live participation in most of the sessions and an equivalent amount of time between sessions spent on the case. (Sessions will be available as a private unlisted youtube for participants who have to miss once.) A public google+ community, open beyond the small group, allows interested people to view and respond to any posts posted by the small group, which may, in turn, draw on them in their private discussions. The structure of each live CE session is predefined, but the CE builds in room for participants to take stock so as to inform future proposals for improvements in these structures.

To register to participate: complete

  • * The URL for the hangout supplied via a private google+ community. Everyone who has registered will get an invitation to join that community. Hangout participation requires a headset, a google+ or gmail account, installation of the audio and video plugins, and a reliable internet connection (preferably not wifi). It also requires being ready to start by the set time and muting your mic when not talking.