Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Michael Pratt

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The present study examined the effects of training child-tutors to scaffold instruction. Scaffolding is a metaphorical structure which teachers implement to provide temporary support aiding children to learn new skills. Grade seven and eight tutors were taught to apply the contingent shift rule (the CS rule) of giving more support when their grade five tutees failed and less support when tutees succeeded. Tutors were randomly assigned to one of three training groups: (1) an experimental group trained to use the CS rule, (2) a control group trained to consistently use moderate levels of support and (3) a control group given practice with long-division but no tutor training. There were eight tutor-tutee pairs in each of the three conditions. In the first session, tutors and tutees were administered various pretests including an audiotaped pretest of spontaneous tutor scaffolding. The second and third sessions consisted of training tutors by group and training individual tutors as they worked with their tutees. The third session was followed by affect posttests. In the final sessions, posttests were administered to both tutees and tutors. Results indicated that contingently trained tutors found the strategy difficult to apply and did not, in fact, follow the contingency rule any more frequently at the posttest than the other tutors. Not surprisingly, the contingently trained groups showed no evidence of generalization of these skills. Although child-tutors did not learn to employ the complete CS rule more frequently in this study, their ability to acquire the strategy cannot be discounted. It may be that tutoring practice and feedback sessions would have been more effective in teaching the tutors the CS rule if tutee need for task assistance was greater and/or if more training sessions were administered. Nevertheless, all tutees, regardless of group tended to show improved long-division skills after the tutoring experience. In addition, contingently trained tutors felt more positive about themselves as teachers than did untrained tutors. As well, tutors taught by contingently trained tutors were more positive about the tutoring experience than tutees taught by untrained tutors. Overall, the general ideas of scaffolding based on Vygotskian principles, and described by Wood et al. and others, were consistently supported by the patterns observed across groups.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season