Building a Better Education with Scaffolding!

Scaffolding for Coaches, Teachers, and Students

For this module’s blog post, I decided to look at scaffolding and how it applies to peer coaches in education.  Les Foltos mentions scaffolding with regard to helping teachers aid students in solving particular tasks in Chapter 7 of  Peer coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (Foltos 127), and much of what we are asked to do as teachers involves scaffolding for our students as well.  ISTE coaching standard standard 2, part F requires us to “Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences” (ISTE). One of these best practices is scaffolding. I wanted to find out how we as coaches and teachers can scaffold our coaching and our instruction to help our fellow teachers AND our students. There is thus a two-pronged approach to my question – how do we provide the necessary support to both of these groups to help them attain the goals of 21st Century learning?

For Coaches and Teachers

Fortunately for my question (and this post) there are numerous philosophies and websites dedicated to providing structures to assist teachers and students in integrating technology. One of these sources has actually been mentioned to me on several occasions by Dr. David Wicks. He suggested I check out the work of Dr. Liz Kolb at the University of Michigan.  As it turns out, her “Triple E” framework turned out to be just what the doctor ordered (pun intended).

Dr. Kolb’s framework helps provide scaffolding for teachers as it establishes three components for technology integration: engagement, enhancement, and extension.  Within each of these components are three questions that pertain to adequately activating each component.  This simple, though not simplistic, approach allows teachers to analyze how well their activities implement technology.  Below is a summary of the three E’s and their relevant questions:

Rooted in Dewey-esque pragmatism and focusing on learning goals, the Triple E framework is fundamentally a measurement tool to help teachers write better tech-integrated lessons and help administrators better gauge the effectiveness of how technology is integrated in their schools. The website even includes an online tool teachers can use to match their lessons to the framework. Once the questions are entered for the activity, the responses are tabulated and set in a three-tiered response which lets the teacher know where their assignment falls with regard to the framework.  This provides concrete feedback for teachers looking to advance their craft. In addition to providing a rubric and feedback, Kolb’s site also provides a list of instructional strategies to help teachers focus on particular parts of the framework. For example, if you’re stuck on Engagement, try “I do, we do, you do” or “Purposeful partnering.” If you need help with Extension, then “connecting with authentic experts” or digital “pen pals” may be the solution.

Despite its simplicity (or perhaps because of it), the Triple E Framework has an impressive scope. It can apply to all grade levels, all disciplines, and works with administration as well as faculty. It includes goals, rubrics, and resources.  It provides teachers with the necessary support they need to succeed in incorporating technology in their lessons.  This Framework compares favorably with other systems like Michigan State’s TPACK or Ruben R. Puentedura’s SAMR model, though Kolb argues that no other system has the focus on using technology to help students achieve learning goals.

MSU’s TPACK. Where are the learning goals?


The SAMR Model. Student learning goals?

Learning goals are key to the Triple E Framework.  Kolb consistently argues throughout the framework that learning comes first – then technology. Improper pedagogy will render even the most dazzling tech tool completely ineffective.  “No digital tool is a magic bullet for learning.  While some tools have effective learning strategies built into them (eg…collaboration, differentiated instruction…etc), many do not.  Even when a tool includes good pedagogical practices, teachers supports and instructional strategies around the tool are still a vital component to the lesson plan. The type of tool selected is not nearly as significant as the instructional strategies a teacher creates when using the tools.” Teaching is still at the center – not the technology. With regard to coaching, Foltos echos the sentiment in his chapter on Enhancing Learning by Integrating Technology.  Establish the learning goals first, then enhance with technology. Foltos writes, “With teaching and learning as starting points, coaches can emphasize how a specific piece of technology might help students reach the goals and perform the tasks that the teacher has defined” (Foltos 138). For teachers and coaches, pedagogy drives the technology, not the other way around.

Whether or not the Triple E framework is really the only one to address learning goals may be somewhat open to debate, but the Triple E Framework remains a valuable instrument for teachers (and coaches) looking for support as they begin to implement technology and 21st Century learning. It provides structure, feedback, and scaffolding.

For Students

In a way, scaffolding for coaches and teachers will ultimately “trickle down” to students (“supply-side education”? “Voodoo Learning”?). As the teacher becomes more adept at integrating technology in a seamless way – combining sound pedagogy, learning goals, and tech tools into one fully integrated lesson, the students will ultimately be the beneficiaries of this approach. However, more direct student scaffolding can also be beneficial to students – and teachers. Dr. Cheryl Nixon posted an interesting piece on scaffolding and engagement in her 2016 article “Scaffolding your way to a more engaged class.” In it, Nixon echos the aforementioned sites, in that she also begins with pedagogy.  “Visualize the space, time, student movements, materials used, and physical structures of the classroom rather than the content being taught. What are students actually doing during class time and how are they doing it? How are students interacting with the course materials, other students, and you? After thinking through the different types of work your students do, scaffold that work. Sequence those learning activities in a meaningful way across several class meetings—order the activities with engagement in mind, training students to become progressively more engaged in their coursework.”

Nixon doesn’t emphasize technology per say in her post, but it is certainly easy to see where it could be integrated into her visualization of what students are doing. She also may be a bit light on learning goals, but again, those can be easily integrated into her approach. The benefit of Nixon’s approach here is that she is mindful of the need to scaffold this type of learning for the students. She provides two examples in her post, and both illustrate how a teacher can arrange activities to build on the previous construction of knowledge and skills. This allows for a more systematic move through Bloom’s taxonomy and approach the 21st Century learning goals we all strive for.  Nixon only directly includes technology in one of the five days worth of activities she illustrates, but again, it would be fairly easy for a skilled Ed Tech coach to help move the needle with regard to technology here – the hard part (the pedagogical re-examination) has already been done. The redefinition of the learning process and the centrality of pedagogy combined with special attention to scaffolding make this piece pertinent to my initial question.  This is a good example of student scaffolding and, as I said earlier, it benefits the teacher as well. It forces teachers who are already embracing 21st century learning to start systematically examining how they can help their students best achieve their goals. This purposeful and thoughtful approach can only sharpen teachers’s focus as they provide appropriate scaffolded activities for their students.

Good for me, good for you, good for us.

A pedagogically sound, technologically enhanced, scaffolded lesson ultimately benefits everyone involved – students AND teachers AND coaches. Fortunately for all of us in the profession, a great deal of work has already been done to establish frameworks in this. The Triple E Framework is one of the better ones, but not the only one. It is now our job as peer coaches to find the framework (or model) that best works with our collaborating teacher(s) and help them to implement it to establish best practices. It can’t all happen at once, but it can be scaffolded to fit the needs of the situation. The systems are build to accommodate this.  It’s a brave new world of education and we can build it together…with the proper support.


Foltos, Les (2013).  Peer coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

ISTE (2011). “ISTE Standards for Coaches.” International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from

Kolb, Liz. “Triple E Framework.” Retrieved from:

Mkoehler (September 24, 2012). “TPACK Explained.” TPACK.ORG. Retrieved from:

Nixon, Cheryl (April 12, 2016). ” Scaffolding your way to a more engaged class.” Pearson Ed. Retrieved from:

Peer-Ed (2015). Defining 21st Century Learning.  Accessed from: