Analyzing Scaffolding in Writing Center Interactions: Beyond Descriptions of Tutors’ Interventions from Praxis: A Writing Center Journal Vol.19 No.3




Thompson, Isabelle
Mackiewicz, Jo

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This article examines the tutor-student scaffolding interaction as a means for writing center tutors to help students move forward in their development as writers and for tutors to develop expertise in teaching. To describe how scaffolding might operate effectively in student-tutor interactions, it defines six characteristics: intersubjectivity, where tutors and students develop a common goal for the conference; ongoing diagnosis, where tutors determine students’ current understanding; contingency, where tutors tailor their interventions according to students’ existing understanding and willingness to learn; interactivity, where the interaction occurs with the back and forth of tutors’ interventions and students’ responses; zone of proximal development, the intellectual space where students’ learning can occur; and fading, transfer of responsibility, and checking, where tutors are ready to pass on responsibility for completing a task to students but check back to see if the students can successfully move forward on their own. The article also provides four illustrative analyses to demonstrate tutors’ scaffolding interventions and students’ responses. It concludes by discussing the usefulness of analyzing scaffolding in an interaction, by making connections between scaffolding and directiveness, and by suggesting future data-driven research.

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