Expanding the concept of scaffolding : an ethnography in the Chinese university English classroom context
This study focuses on the nature of scaffolding used by the Chinese student and teacher in a Chinese university English classroom located in Mainland China. Using the Vygotskian theory to analyze scaffolding events which occur during three transcripted lessons, it expands the present research on scaffolding. Previous research has predominantly utilized Wood, Bruner and Ross' (1976) six criteria to characterize the building and deconstructing of the scaffold by a tutor: 1) recruitment; 2) reduction in degrees of freedom; 3) direction maintenance; 4) marking critical features; 5) frustration control; and 6) demonstration. Many of these six criteria are utilized by the teacher within a lesson for scaffolding the students. This study, however, has shown that the teacher's scaffold is not the only scaffold that is built. Indeed, this study has shown that at any given moment in a lesson, many different layers of scaffolding are being built, which intertwine and overlap each other.Within the Chinese English classroom, it is more productive to discuss scaffolding in terms of layers, rather than only analyze Wood et al.'s (1976) strategies for building a scaffold. Four separate layers of scaffolding were discovered in the Chinese context. The layer one scaffold is where the teacher sets the backdrop for the lesson. She/He has planned the lesson, aware of what the students already know and lays down the foundation for it within the students' ZPD. Carrying out the work at this level involves creating intersubjectivity with the students and using prolepsis. The layer two scaffold occurs when students attend to the teacher's layer one scaffold and become mentally involved in the teacher's scaffold. Layer three involves two or more learners building and deconstructing scaffolds for each other. Finally, layer four shows the student actually building and deconstructing a scaffold for him/herself.This study discusses the strategies utilized by both the teacher and students in building a scaffold for other students and shows how these scaffolds are inter-related. In the conclusion, suggestions are made for native-English speaking teachers who are teaching in China concerning how to incorporate the findings of this study into their own teaching strategies.