Sociological Implications of Participative, Student-Based Scaffolding Strategies
On Academic Success
The accelerating pace of technological change is leading to disruptive innovations throughout education, with didactic, often static approaches to teaching giving way to more participative-based approaches. The sociological dimensions of technology disruption on education is the focus of this paper. Technologies are quickly progressing education beyond socialization and structural foundations to a more experiential-based approach to learning based on student participation (Wade, Stone, 2010). This is especially the case when the sociological implications of scaffolding are analyzed in the context of structural functionalism and the designation of roles inferred through educational experiences of students (Najjar, 2008).
How Technologies Are Changing The Sociology Of Education
Didactic approach to teaching the sparingly use technology including the use of overhead projectors that are used for sharing presentations that are not sharable digitally with customers are detracting, not increasing, learning ability. Technologies in aggregate are leading to a more socialized, shared experiential approach to learning as students are often more conversant with technologies than their instructors (Wong, 2008). This creates an equitable transfer of knowledge, and instructors who see learning as a highly collaborative, cooperative experience seek to involve students at the technical mastery level as a result. Sociologically this leads to a shared ownership of the learning process, and while technologies have often been cited as responsible for creating segregated learning opportunities, in reality technology plays an egalitarian role in customizing content and learning experiences to the student’s needs (James, Okpala, 2010). From a sociological standpoint the concept of social equilibrium is being redefined through the use of technologies as a result (Selwyn, 2012).
Didactic teaching strategies that were though to be successful in decades previous have since been proven archaic and anachronistic by the enabling effects of giving students greater control over the pace, repetition and depth of knowledge discovery they undertake. Combining self-paced technology-based learning tools with in-class session that seek to capitalize on socialization and solidify social equilibrium, educators are becoming more attuned to how they can use technology to support and strengthen learning strategies and attain challenging teaching goals.
Of the many advances technologically that are changing the nature of sociological aspects of education, scaffolding as a technique for personalizing learning is proving to be one of the most effective (Najjar, 2008). This technique is commonplace in math, science and advanced courses that require conceptualization of complex learning concepts. Educators are using technologies to personalize lesson plans to individual students often as early as elementary school, and progressing through the university level, to better match the material of a course to their unique learning styles. This has proven to be especially productive for college students in chemistry, math and physics courses where concepts are often complex, require considerable conceptual ability to comprehend, and require continual reinforcement to master (James, Okpala, 2010). This approach to teaching also provides students with the opportunity to have a much higher level of autonomy, mastery and purpose in their course studies. It also provides the student with a truer measure of how their efforts at learning are progressing. The previous approaches to teaching that treated all students as a single, undifferentiated group of learners has proven over time to be incorrect, as scaffolding’s performance gains are apparent across a range of subjects at the collegiate level (James, Okpala, 2010). The implications of scaffolding therefore from a sociological perspective are clear: it is an accelerator of socialization and an enabler or a deeper level of learning, leading to greater social and educational capital being accrued to the learner (Selwyn, 2012). The accumulated value of research in the areas of how technology is accelerating learning and changing it from a sociological perspective are clear from empirical studies (James, Okpala, 2010) and the area of scaffolding shows significant potential to disrupt education in a positive, productive context (Najjar, 2008).
What is unknown about the impact of technology on education from a sociological perspective is how this is changing educators’; self-defined concept of teaching excellence and how their perspective of autonomy, mastery and purpose are changing as a result. There is also a lack of empirical studies on how technologies are shifting accountability for learning to a more equal distribution between students and instructors. In didactic, drill-based teaching strategies, instructors often sense they are entirely responsible for repetitively defining concepts and ideas until the students learn them through rote practice. In fact this has proven to be ineffective as a teaching style as long-term leaning is rarely achieved in this manner. Instead, concentrating on how technology can be an accelerator of learning over the long-term, used for deliberately capitalizing on social equilibrium and the need for creating shared accountability and group cohesion, is possible using scaffolding technologies (Najjar, 2008).
The continual advances in the use of technologies in education are leading to disruptions in the sociological aspects of the student-instructor relationship and the group dynamics and expectations as well. As empirical studies have shown in combining scaffolding technologies with in-class teaching leads to high academic performance long-term (James, Okpala, 2010).
James, I., & Okpala, C.O. (2010). The use of metacognitive scaffolding to improve college students’ academic success. Journal of College Teaching and Learning, 7(11), 47-49.
Najjar, M. (2008). On scaffolding adaptive teaching prompts within virtual labs. International Journal of Distance Education Technologies, 6(2), 35-54.
Selwyn, N. (2012). Making sense of young people, education and digital technology: The role of sociological theory. Oxford Review of Education, 38(1), 81-96.
Wade, B.H., & Stone, J.H. (2010). Overcoming disciplinary and institutional barriers: An interdisciplinary course in economic and sociological perspectives on health issues. Journal of Economic Education, 41(1), 71-84.
Wong, R.S. (2008). Stratification in higher education: A comparative study. Contemporary Sociology, 37(6), 551-552.
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