Difference Between Scaffolding and Differentiation

Both scaffolding and differentiation are essential instructional strategies designed to assist diverse students in reaching their maximum potential. Although they share similarities, such as fostering student development and success, their underlying principles and applications are distinct.

Both scaffolding and differentiation are essential instructional strategies designed to assist diverse students in reaching their maximum potential. Although they share similarities, such as fostering student development and success, their underlying principles and applications are distinct. Scaffolding refers to the temporary assistance provided by instructors or more capable peers to assist students in acquiring new skills or comprehending complex concepts. This process progressively builds on prior knowledge, breaks tasks into manageable steps, and eventually removes assistance as the learner becomes increasingly independent. Essential for facilitating the mastery of new skills or concepts, scaffolding can take various forms, including modelling, interrogating, and providing feedback.

Differentiation, on the other hand, is an instructional strategy that adapts teaching methods and content to the varied requirements of individual students. This strategy recognises that students have varying levels of preparedness, learning styles, and interests and requires instructors to adapt lesson plans, materials, and assessments accordingly. Differentiation is possible in three primary areas: content (what is being taught), process (how it is being taught), and product (how students exhibit learning). This strategy seeks to provide equitable learning opportunities that engage and challenge each pupil at their level. In a nutshell, scaffolding focuses on providing temporary assistance to develop skills and comprehension, whereas differentiation emphasises adapting instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners. Together, the two strategies promote an inclusive and efficient learning environment.

What is Scaffolding?

Scaffolding is a way to teach that gives pupils temporary help as they learn new skills, gain knowledge, or understand complex ideas. Scaffolding comes from the social constructivist theory of learning, which says that learning is a social, active process in which students build on what they already know. Teachers help this process by giving direction and support. The scaffolding process involves breaking jobs down into smaller, more manageable steps and giving learners the help they need to finish each step successfully. As students get better and become more independent, they get less help. This lets them use their newly learned skills or knowledge on their own. This gradual handing off of duty helps students move from relying on the teacher to relying on themselves.

Scaffolding is a dynamic and flexible teaching method that considers each student’s wants and learning path. There are many ways to scaffold, such as showing, asking questions, giving comments, or giving hints and cues. Teachers can also build on students’ knowledge by changing the pace of their lessons, using visual tools, or giving information in different ways. The goal is to help each student learn in a way that is easier and more important to them. By providing learners with just the right amount of help at the right time, scaffolding helps them reach their full potential and gives them a sense of accomplishment and trust in their skills.

What is Differentiation?

Differentiation is a way of teaching that adjusts teaching methods, material, and tests to meet the needs and skills of each student. Differentiation takes into account the fact that learners have different learning styles, hobbies, and levels of readiness. This ensures everyone has the same chance to get an education and creates a more inclusive learning environment. The main idea behind differentiation is to change lesson plans, tools, and tests so that each student can learn best from them. Differentiation can happen in three main areas: what is being taught, how it is being taught, and how students show they have learned. By changing these things, teachers can better get students interested and push them at their levels.

Differentiation tactics include making tasks more or less complex, teaching differently, giving students choices in assignments or tests, and putting students in different groups. Teachers can also help students learn by building on what they already know and giving them tailored help to fill in any gaps. In short, differentiation is a student-centred method that considers each learner’s different needs and skills to help them grow and succeed as much as possible. Teachers can better engage and challenge students by changing how they teach and creating a supportive, responsive classroom environment. This promotes a culture of success and inclusion.

Difference Between Scaffolding and Differentiation

Instructional tools like scaffolding and differentiation help students who learn at varying rates. The main difference between scaffolding and differentiation is that the former provides short-term assistance to students as they acquire new skills or grasp complex ideas, while the latter customises instruction to fit each student’s unique requirements and abilities. Differentiation tailors teaching to each student’s preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, while scaffolding breaks down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks and removes support as students become more self-reliant. Together, they help create a welcoming and productive classroom for all students. We’ve outlined what sets these two apart most prominently down below.


The goal of scaffolding is to assist students in gaining temporary mastery of skills or concepts, while the purpose of differentiation is to meet the unique learning needs of each student through individualised lesson plans and content delivery.

Support Structure

Scaffolding is a method of teaching that helps pupils succeed by breaking down complex tasks into simpler ones and gradually increasing their level of autonomy. When students’ learning styles, interests, and readiness levels vary, differentiation allows teachers to tailor their lessons, resources, and evaluations to each student.


Differentiation occurs continuously throughout the learning process, according to individuals’ changing needs and skills, whereas scaffolding is only used temporarily and is phased out as students become more proficient.

Learning Stages

Differentiation is essential at every learning stage because it ensures that material, methods, and outcomes are appropriate for each student. Scaffolding is most useful when students learn new skills or struggle with new concepts.


Scaffolding often includes modelling, questioning, and providing feedback. In contrast, differentiation tactics involve changing the difficulty of the tasks, providing new ways to learn, giving students agency over their work, and allowing for more fluid grouping.


In contrast to differentiation, which considers each student’s individual qualities and modifies the entire learning environment to foster diversity and success, scaffolding focuses on acquiring knowledge and competence within the confines of a single task.