What is Scaffolding and Sequencing?

What is Scaffolding and Sequencing?  

We know from research that students best learn how to communicate when teachers:

  • Provide explicit instruction and discussion on disciplinary conventions and expectations
  • Offer students multiple opportunities to practice written and oral communication 
  • Engage students in a process approach to communication (brainstorm, draft, revise, edit) 
  • Facilitate frequent formative feedback on students’ written and oral communication

Sequencing and scaffolding are important aspects of assignment design that help you achieve the above. When we talk about sequencing and scaffolding in education, we are talking about how to structure and support student learning. Scaffolding and sequencing can have a significant impact on student growth and learning at the assignment, lesson, course, and program curriculum levels. For our purposes, we will focus on these concepts in relation to developing a formal, high stakes assignment in your W/O course. 

Sequencing assignments and incorporating scaffolds into your course design are not easy and will likely require ongoing revision as you plan, then implement, and figure out what works and does not work once you are working with students. However, this process is well worth the effort in terms of student learning and teacher satisfaction. 


Sequencing assignments means providing checkpoints within an assignment. For example, asking students to turn in a thesis statement and outline of a paper or presentation for approval and feedback. Then, you require a draft final paper or practice presentation and provide feedback before the final is due.


As in construction, scaffolds are support structures that provide clear guidance and assistance. The opposite of scaffolding is telling students to read this article, write a six page essay on it, and present it in class on Thursday. Essentially, scaffolding involves breaking the assignment, or lesson, into chunks and then providing an appropriate structure to support each chunk. Scaffolds can also be thought of as training wheels – they are meant to be removed as learners become more proficient. 

Scaffolding accomplishes the following:

  • Provide clear directions
  • Offer feedback to clarify expectations
  • Focus learners on specific goals and create momentum
  • Facilitate deeper learning and higher level competencies than would have been achieved without scaffolds

Resource adapted from: Norander, S. (2019). Learning guide: What is sequencing and  scaffolding? W/O Teaching Academy, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.