Introduction Education is a lifelong process. The role of education is to enhance cognitive development among students.

Students need to actively participate in classroom activities in order for them to develop cognitively. Vygotsky (1962, as cited in Poole, Warren & Nunuz, 2007) mentioned that children gain more skills and widen their knowledge through interaction and socialization with more competent peers and teachers in the classrooms. Students also develop more systematic, logical, and rational concept when they engage with more skilled people around them (Santrock, 2008). Students are able to enhance their cognitive development because they receive support or guidance from more skilled and knowledgeable individuals around them. This guidance is called scaffolding. In this essay, the writer will define the terms ‘scaffolding’ and ‘cognitive development’. Then, the writer will discuss several types of scaffolding namely questioning, graphic organizers and cooperative learning that may enhance Malaysian students’ cognitive development. Next, the writer will discuss the reasons that inhibit scaffolding to be effective in helping Malaysian students to enhance their cognitive development. Finally, the writer will conclude the role of scaffolding in enhancing Malaysian students’ cognitive development which also represents the stand of the writer towards the matter discussed.

1

Definition of terms Scaffolding Technically, scaffolding is a temporary framework used to support workers and material to build tall buildings in the construction site (Wikipedia, 2008). However, in education, scaffolding can be defined as a type of assistance offered by teachers to support learning (Lipscomb, Swanson & West, 2008). In the process of scaffolding, teachers will scaffold the students to master the task or the concept that the students are initially unable to grasp independently. After the students are able to master the skills and to solve the problems faced, scaffolding is gradually removed. When the students are able to solve the problems they previously could not solve, it shows that their level of zone of proximal development has also increased (Vygotsky, 1978). Cognitive development Ormrod (2008) defines cognitive development as sophisticated thinking and reasoning processes. Ccognitive development also refers to the gradual and orderly changes in cognitive processes as one develops (Woolfolk, 2007). The processes include thinking, reasoning, inferring, problem solving, relating and generating strategies. Cognitive developmental processes enable students to memorize a poem, solve a math problem, come up with a creative strategy, or speak meaningfully connected sentences (Santrock, 2008).

2

Scaffolding enhances Malaysian students’ cognitive development There are three types of scaffolding namely questioning, graphic organizers and cooperative learning which will be discussed in this essay to show whether scaffolding enhances Malaysian students’ cognitive development. Questioning According to Boyd and Robin (2006), questioning can increase students’ level of comprehension in the learning of literature and can engage them to talk in classrooms. To enhance students’ cognitive development, teachers are required to generate questions of different level of difficulty to facilitate thinking and acquisition of new concept (Boovaneswari, 1998). In conducting proper question-based learning in classrooms, teachers should begin by asking clear and specific questions, which might only require yes or no answers (Aps, 1996). For example, “Was environmental pollution responsible for the dead fish in the lake?” Then, teachers may ask students questions that require them to clarify their answers such as “How did the pollution kill the fish?” Finally, teachers should ask students questions that they can relate to the lessons or other important concepts that they have learned before such as “What are the contents of chemical that contribute to the water pollution?” The steps indicated above help students to think critically and this will enhance their understanding towards the lessons. In Malaysian classroom, questioning strategy has been proven as an effective tool to enhance students’ cognitive development (Boovaneswari, 1998). For example, Boovaneswari’s study showed that students are able to follow the lessons in the classrooms better when teachers keep asking those questions to them. They become
3

more aware of the lessons taught and thus understand the lessons better. This study is based on Year Five students of two primary schools in Malaysia. Another study conducted by Klinger and Rauphn (1996) also showed that questioning strategies encouraged students to develop critical thinking skills in order to answer the questions and those strategies are also better to relate one concept to the other since the questions are combinations of different difficulty levels. In short, questioning strategies as a scaffolding tool is proven to be effective in enhancing Malaysian students’ cognitive development. Graphic Organizers Graphic organizers can be defined as visual and graphic display which shows relationship between facts, terms and ideas (Hall & Strangman, 2002). There are variety of graphic organizers such as concept map, sequence chain, table, flowchart and Venn diagram. Graphic organizers have the ability to increase students’ comprehension which facilitate them in relating to the new knowledge, thus help them to learn within their zone of proximal development (Snowman & Biehler, 2003). It also enables the students to enhance their thinking since they can easily organise and relate the concepts and facts in a better method (Piaget, 1954, as cited in Santrock, 2008). In Malaysian classrooms, the use of graphic organizers can be applied in any subjects that require students to remember a lot of facts such as History, Science and Commerce because it will help students to get a clear holistic view on every topic. Graphic organizers are also important for the students to have a quick and effective revision since they can just go through the tables or the diagrams that they have made. This will bring out their prior knowledge and hence they can relate the concept and
4

remember the facts longer and better. In classrooms, teachers may ask students to bring articles about science to share with the classmates. To know the students’ understanding toward the articles they bring, teachers can ask them to create graphic organizers. Firstly, the teachers will show how the graphic organizers are done. Several examples of graphic organizers like mind map, Vann diagram and table will help the students to creatively think of the suitable graphic organizers to be done. If the students are not able to create graphic organizers, teachers can show them the steps one by one. Aziz (n.d) mentioned that by making and doing graphic organizers, students will be more aware of the key concepts and relationships among them and hence they become more conscious of conveying a clear holistic picture of the content and the relationships between different parts of the content. Another study done by Mohammad Abdullah (1995, as cited in Jawikaur, 2005) mentioned that students who use graphic organizers show improvement in reading comprehension, written expression and vocabulary development. Thus, it is clear that graphic organizers can help students to enhance their cognitive development. Cooperative learning Gilles (2004, as cited in Woolfolk, 2007) defined cooperative learning as a method of working with others to attain a shared goal. Jacobs, Lee and Ng (1997) defined cooperative learning as an organised and managed group work in which students work cooperatively in small groups to achieve academic and social goals.

5

In Malaysia, based on a study conducted by Rahimah (1977), to perform cooperative learning in classrooms, the teachers should explain all the related concepts and illustrate a few examples to students. After explaining, teachers place students in groups and ask them to solve problems. However, they are not allowed to solve the problems during the first fifteen minutes. This is to ensure that students cooperatively discuss and brainwash the solutions based on the explanation given by the teachers. Students may only start answering questions after fifteen minutes or after they have gained enough substantial points to solve the problems. Rahimah further reveals that the discussion among students in a group enhanced their thinking skills since they can help each other if any of them are stuck in expressing ideas. The members of the groups also help their friends to trigger new ideas if any of them are lacking of ideas. Discussion in cooperative learning also provides opportunities for the students to observe and imitate others’ cognitive processing strategies, thereby increasing their mastery of higher level reasoning process and understanding (Kok, 1989). Thus, it shows that the cognitive development of students enhances when they have discussion in groups, particularly in cooperative learning based.

Challenges or development

obstacles

in

scaffolding

students

to

enhance

cognitive

Apart from the effectiveness of the three types of scaffolding mentioned above, there are impediments that inhibit the process of scaffolding to be effective. Two impediments which are teachers’ lack of pedagogical skills and examination-oriented cultures will be discussed below.

6

Lack of pedagogical skills An effective teacher is the one who has acquired high quality knowledge content and able to apply the knowledge to novel types of problems and situations (Mohanan, 2005). According to Sheffield (1974), effective teachers should enthusiast about his or her subject and use teaching aid effectively. Teacher should serve as a person who can enlighten others and have all the skills in making lesson an enjoyable experience. Nonetheless, a study conducted by Rajini (2004) based on Malaysian classrooms found that teachers are lacking of teaching skills when they teach students. They only ask the students to read from the textbooks and do homework alone. Teachers should ask students more than reading in order to develop and enhance their cognitive processes. In terms of teachers’ mastery in subjects they teach, for example in Living Skills, Abu Husain (1997) revealed that only 20% of schools in Malaysia have more than three trained teachers in Living Skills. Thus, it can be said that many teachers who are teaching Living Skills do not have good pedagogical skills because they are not trained well in this field. Examination-oriented culture in Malaysia Many have commented on Malaysian Education system to excessively practise examination-oriented culture. Examination-oriented culture has made Malaysian education system seems complicated for students who cannot bear with this system. Those students will be out casted from this system if they cannot catch up. A study conducted by Rajini (2004), claimed that Malaysian education system emphasizes too much on examination without concerning about other soft skills. Thus, the priority for
7

teachers is to finish syllabus and other values are put aside. The examination-oriented culture is occurring in our Malaysian classroom, whereby all the teachers are rushing to finish the syllabus by the month of September to prepare the students for the final and public examinations (Rahimah, 1977). When the teachers rush to finish the syllabus, Rajini (2004) says that they will focus on students being able to remember all the facts rather than understand the concept they teach. Thus, students’ cognitive development is not fully enhanced. Conclusion Scaffolding gives choices for teachers in enhancing students’ cognitive development. The teachers should find the best method of teaching for their students to make learning fun. Rajagopal (2006), states that teachers can manipulate the strategies and techniques in the classroom in order to suits the students’ need. Teachers should look forward to adapt the three types of scaffoldings in the classroom such as questioning, graphic organizers and cooperative learning in enhancing students’ cognitive development and promoting critical thinking skills. Nonetheless, teachers also should take into consideration of obstacles in making scaffolding a success such as lack of pedagogical skills and examination-oriented culture in order to ensure that these obstacles do not impede students’ cognitive development. (1872 words)

8