Comparing mother’s and teacher’s scaffolding in preschoolers’ problem solving: A case study

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Contemporary theories of early development and learning regard problem solving as a very important activity in young children’s cognitive development. Scaffolding indicates a process of joint problem solving in which an adult or a more capable peer provides guidance and support to help the child gain the best development in their zone of proximal development (ZPD). Both parents and teachers are significant adults in children’s early development. However, there exists a mismatch between aspirations of educators and the parents; this dissonance may originate in different conceptions of teaching and learning, and affect children’s cognitive development through their scaffolding behaviors towards children. In this study, a mother-child and a teacher-child problem solving episode were compared from two dimensions of scaffolding functions and scaffolding levels. It was found that both the mother and the teacher tried to execute the scaffolding functions of extending knowledge, reducing task complexity, transferring responsibility, and providing emotional support. But the mother took more responsibility on herself, and could not adjust her scaffolding according to her child’s performance contingently; while the teacher encouraged the child’s autonomy and could use the contingent rule smoothly. The differences of the scaffolding behaviors between mother and teacher might be attributed to differences in their educational beliefs. Copyright © 2007 The Authors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch studies in education
EditorsDarren Anthony BRYANT, Fang GAO, Barbara Bycent HENNIG, Wing Kai LAM
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherOffice of Research, Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong
ISBN (Print)9789628093489
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


cognitive development
planning of teaching


Sun, J. (2007). Comparing mother’s and teacher’s scaffolding in preschoolers’ problem solving: A case study. In D. A. Bryant, F. Gao, B. B. Hennig, & W. K. Lam (Eds.), Research studies in education (Vol. 5, pp. 147-158). Hong Kong: Office of Research, Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong.


  • Scaffolding
  • Problem solving