A Wealth of Tools

Learning is a never ending processes. As you can see from my previous blogs, we as instructors are blessed with a wide variety of tools to help students become the best learners possible. By treating students as individuals, finding their motivations, improving their self-efficacy, identifying their needs, and putting together a plan, instructors give students their best chance to succeed. These are the strategies that I relate to as an instructor, and believe these are my most effective tools for teaching students.



Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.

Bcb704. 2012, April 4. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BX2ynEqLL4

D’Angelo, C., Touchman, S., Clark, D., O’Donnell, A., Mayer, R., Dean, D. ‘ Hmelo-Silver, C. (2009). Constructivism. Retrieved online Oct 18, 2014 from http://www.education.com/reference/article/constructivism/

Gallagher, C. (1999). Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky. Retrieved online Oct 18, 2014 from http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/vygotsky.htm

Goble, F. G. (1971). The third force: The psychology of Abraham Maslow. New York: Pocket Books.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning therioes: An educational perspective. (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Publishing. 4

Zone of Proximal Development & Scaffolding

The final learning components I want to talk about are ZPD and scaffolding. These are two very intertwined ideas that are musts for instructors and students. Every student will have a different zone of proximal development. As a teacher it is my job to identify that zone and do everything possible to move that student past that zone and into the next level of learning. We all need help from time to time. Scaffolding is a great way to help students achieve their goals.

The Zone of Proximal Development “is the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.” This is basically what a person can do with aid, but not alone.

“Pedagogy must be oriented not to the yesterday, but to the tomorrow of the child’s development. Only then can it call to life in the process of education those processes of development which now lie in the zone of proximal development” – Lev Vygotsky


By identifying what a student can accomplish without assistance, an instructor can then form a plan to help that student to reach new heights. Scaffolding is a technique that helps students to learn and grow in incremental steps. Scaffolding is simply providing a student assistance to accomplish a task and then overtime removing the assistance to allow the student to perform the task unaided. Think of beginning spelling words where some of the letters are already in place with blanks for the missing letters. Over time the provided letters are less and the blanks more abundant until eventually no assistance is needed.

When one puts up a building one makes an elaborate scaffold to get everything into its proper place. But when one takes the scaffold down, the building must stand by itself with no trace of the means by which it was erected. – Andres Segovia


Examples of scaffolding include pairing higher performing students with those in need of assistance. This would allow the more advanced students to teach or model for the underachieving student’s needed skills. Another example might include giving a student hints and gradually reducing the hints as a student progresses.


To be human means different things to different individuals, students included. Humanism is learning focused on the individual. Humanism stresses growth and the realization of potential. Humanism also focuses on how individuals acquire their emotions, attitudes, beliefs, and values. An instructor must meet the needs of a large and diverse group of learners.

Teachers must realize that students are individuals, each has needs that must be met. These needs may be in the form of learning styles, motivation, or emotional stresses. As instructors finding a way to reach individual students is one of our paramount tasks.


All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards the actualization. – Abraham Maslow

Maslow's hierarchy


I want students to believe they can do anything. In my opinion, low self-efficacy is the #1 deterrent to student learning. Many students, unfortunately, do not have a source of encouragement outside of the classroom. Students should believe that the only obstacles they face are the ones they set for themselves. If students believe in themselves, learning will follow. As an instructor, I plan to always encourage students of all learning levels.


Self-Efficacy is an individual’s belief that they have the skills necessary to achieve a goal. Students with higher self-efficacy generally set high goals, give greater effort, and achieve more. Factors that affect self-efficacy are expected outcomes (that a behavior will result in the desired outcome), perception (confidence in your abilities), and goals set on the belief of what can be accomplished.

In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life. – Albert Bandura

The effects can also occur within groups (group self-efficacy) and teachers (teacher self-efficacy). Teacher self-efficacy can result in higher standards, greater efforts, and a willingness to experiment with learning. Group self-efficacy leads to greater common goals, higher perception of the group, and greater expected outcomes.


I really want to assist students with learning through motivation. Students are all different and have different motivations. Each individual student needs something to help guide them towards a goal.
Motivation can be Intrinsic, a reason from within such as pleasure, or Extrinsic, an external source such as praise or reward. As instructors, you would love each student to want to learn for learning’s sake; however, that’s simply not the case. A good teacher will find ways to motivate students, and that motivation will lead to learning. I want to make sure my students know that I believe in them, that they are free to succeed and fail, and that they can achieve the goals they set for themselves. Sometimes the belief of another is all the motivation a student needs.

“Through the exercise of forethought, people motivate themselves and guide their actions in anticipation of future events. When projected over a long time course on matters of value, a forethoughtful perspective provides direction, coherence, and meaning to one’s life” – Albert Bandura

There are several ways to use motivation in the classroom. One example is to give the students a stake in what happens in the class, allow them to help set the rules and expectations. Another motivation is to make objectives clear so that students know exactly what their goal is. And finally, if all else fails the offer of reward generally tends to work well.


Motivation in the classroom can help improve student focus, cause them to work harder, set and achieve higher goals, take risk, try new things, have a higher self-efficacy, and better utilize their thoughts and emotions.

Implementing Modeling

Modeling sounds great, but what are the most important skills needed to help students get all they can from a good model?

1) Attention – Students should carefully observe the modeled behavior.
2) Retention – Instructors must model behaviors that students can remember.
3) Capability – Students must have the ability to replicate the desired behavior.
4) Motivation – Instructors must provide the students with a reason to invest in the model behavior.

These attributes can lead to a student successfully learning a new behavior.


In a classroom, an instructor could model writing the cursive letter ‘D’. The students must focus on the instructor in order to learn the new skill. Students should commit the new skill to memory. It is important for the students to have the ability to duplicate the instructors writing, and the instructor must give the students a connection to the importance of learning the new skill.

Effects of Modeling

Modeling is a great concept to help students learn, and is at the forefront of a student’s education. Can models really have an effect on students?

There are four main ways that models affect behavior.
1. Observational Learning – Acquiring new skills or behaviors from watching others.
2. Response Facilitation – When a child displays a skill or behavior more often after a modeled behavior is reinforced.
3. Response Inhibition – When a child displays a skill or behavior less often after a modeled behavior is reinforced.
4. Response Disinhibition – A child more frequently displays undesired behavior when no adverse reaction occurs.


Modeling can have a real impact on a child’s ability to learn. What can I do to be the best model I can be?

1. Demonstrate Competence – Children will generally model someone with a well-honed skill.
2. Demonstrate Authority – Students tend to imitate someone of power or authority, like a teacher or parent.
3. Recognize Gender Roles – Students generally select models of their own gender. Girls model Women, etc.
4. Focus on Relevancy – Students tent to Model behavior and skills relevant to their situations.