Workshop Social Scaffolds


Social Scaffolds in Innovative Learning Environments


  • Dr. Frans Prins, Universiteit Utrecht, Centre for Learning in Interaction
  • Prof. dr. Frank Fischer, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Department of Education and Educational Psychology
  • Drs. Chris Phielix, Universiteit Utrecht, Centre for Learning in Interaction


Although collaborative learning essentially is a social process, support in CSCL-environments has predominantly focussed on the cognitive aspects of the learning process. There is, however, good reason to believe that learning in small groups can also be enhanced by scaffolding the social aspects of collaborative learning. This workshop explores whether and how social scaffolds can promote the ways in which students in CSCL-environments can learn with and from each other. The workshop is designed according to the principles of experiential learning in that participants engage in two hands-on activities prior to the workshop, and use the experiences gained herein during the workshop to come to a shared understanding of the pros and cons of social scaffolding.

Prior to the workshop

Participants will first be divided into teams/groups of three or four persons, depending on the number of participants signing up for the workshop. After being assigned to a team, they will be required to log on to the CSCL-environment that will be used during the workshop and to carry out two group-assignments, namely a content-based assignment addressing the subject of social scaffolds and a social-based assignment addressing personal characteristics that affect and/or that are relevant for working in groups or teams.

The goal of Assignment 1 is sharing knowledge and reaching shared understanding related to social scaffolds in innovative learning environments. Group members have to formulate:
1) a shared definition of social scaffolds,
2) arguments for (pros) the use of social scaffolding tools in CSCL environments,
3) arguments against (cons) the use of social scaffolding tools in CSCL environments, and
4) the pros and cons of collaborating in a CSCL-environment.

The goal of Assignment 2 is becoming better acquainted with the other group members. Group members will share their astrological sign with each other and in particular their personal characteristics which are relevant (either positive or negative) for working in groups or teams. Group members will use one positive and one negative characteristic to complete the model of Core Qualities by Daniel Ofman. The completed models will be shared with other team members.

Each assignment will take one to two hours to complete and must be completed one week prior to the beginning of the Spring School. At the end of both assignments, group members will be required to complete an anonymous peer feedback tool (Radar) and a reflection tool (Reflector) which are intended to increase group functioning awareness. All of the activity carried out in the CSCL-environment will be logged.

Workshop Session 1

Session 1 will begin with a short presentation of the social aspects of collaborative learning (Kirschner) and of social scripting in collaborative learning environments (Fischer). After this, group members collaborate in a face-to-face environment to construct a coding scheme for analysing their own chat protocols that were logged during the assignments prior to the workshop. The group interaction that takes place during the both the construction of the coding schemes and the analyses of the chat protocols will be recorded on video. These videotapes will be used for Session 2 of the workshop.

Workshop Session 2

Group members will analyse the videotapes containing their face-to-face interactions, by using their self-constructed coding scheme. Each group member will analyse and code the behaviour of one of his/her peers and present the findings to the whole workshop.
Finally there will be a discussion about the usefulness, usability and limitations of social scaffolding tools in CSCL-environments. Central questions during this discussion will be:
1) Was it hard to determine, analyse and code social behaviour?
2) Is it possible to change social behaviour by using social scaffolding tools like the Radar and Reflector?
3) Are social scaffolding tools, like the Radar and Reflector, also useful in face-to-face settings?