Scaffolding is an instructional method in which teachers demonstrate the process of problem solving for their students and explain the steps as they go along. After a few initial explanations the instructor will then remove themselves from the students and only offer help when needed.
This theory, developed by Jerome Bruner in the late 1950's, is based on the idea that when students receive instruction and support during a new concept they are more likely to successfully grasp and use the concept independently.
Three modes of representation are to be used during the instructor's initial explanation: actions, images, and language.
An example of scaffolding could be seen in a math classroom. When introducing a new type of math problem the teacher would write the problem on the board and solve it themselves, explaining each step in the process aloud. The teacher would also ask the students questions and give positive feedback on all answers whether they are correct or incorrect. The teacher would repeat this process a few times and then give the students problems to work on themselves. The teacher would then 'fade' away and allow the students to work independently and only offer assistance if requested from the student. By scaffolding the teacher is building a support system of initial knowledge before allowing the students to stand alone and work by themselves.