Six Steps to Create Learning Scaffolds for Staff Development

Do you have issues creating meaningful training for your staff and students? Consider adding scaffold learning to your training. These six steps will help you find ways to make training that sticks!

Six Steps to Create Learning Scaffolds for Staff Development

During the start of my professional career, I used to worry a great deal about how I was being evaluated. I would worry about the skills I was supposed to learn and where I was going to learn them. As I began supervising more and more staff, this worry switched to how I was going to train staff on the necessary skills to do their work.

I have found that my worries are shared. So I wrote about the experiences! Earlier this year, I wrote about what I wish I had known before supervising professional staff. I had a pretty long list, but one skill I wish I had known more about was scaffolding. Here is what I first wrote about the practice from the original post:

From What I Wish I Knew: Supervising Professional Staff

I’ve written about implementing a management plan when working with staff. That is important to help staff separate skills that need to be learned as part of the job versus those that will advance them personally. When you require your staff to learn a skill, like budgeting or learning outcome development, how will you help them learn the skill? Especially when there are competing daily priorities to manage.

I believe that supervisors must provide the scaffold to their learning and implementing the skills. Teachers use this technique when introducing complex skills. Imagine using the scaffolding technique when introducing learning outcomes development. You could tap into previous use of learning outcomes, introduce learning outcome vocabulary during staff meetings, develop an outcome as a staff to measure during the next week’s programs, and discuss ways to measure outcomes that can be taught to student programmers.

If you only ask a staff member to learn a skill, but provide no support to get there, I believe you’re unintentionally setting them up to failure. Without a way to apply their learning, how will they know they are meeting your needs or the departmental needs?

Six Steps to Creating Scaffolded Learning

The concepts around scaffolding learning emerge from K-12 education. But their application can work in any type of learning environment, including professional or skill development. has offered six steps to developing a scaffolded learning environment. I’ll give examples of how to introduce these steps in the next post.


If you plan to introduce a new skill, begin by showing examples that your institution or department has already produced. For instance, if you are showing staff an assessment method, show them what types of materials were produced. For instance, show assessment tools, coded Excel worksheets, how the data was shared afterwards. While it might seem like an overwhelming way to introduce a skill, it can help staff recognize what these new terms mean. Plus it can show what it could or should look like when completed.


As you begin skill development training, make sure you help use prior knowledge to help connect new concepts with their existing knowledge and understanding. Within the college environment, staff may have experienced the skills as a student or as staff at a prior institution. Allow your staff to build from this context. It can help them reduce their learning curve and the time to perform the skill to an evaluation level.


Within the K-12 world, giving time for students to talk about what they have learned and talking about it with their peers helps reinforce their learning and allows learners additional points of context if they are not picking up the content quickly. In student affairs, consider adding time during staff meetings and trainings for staff to speak with each other. Ask them what they are learning, or to ask questions from each other about what the concepts mean so far.

Giving staff a chance to talk about the concepts while learning them may also help them understand ways to collaborate. This is especially useful when working with established staff.


During one of my many jobs, I had to help train staff about an online engagement platform. As you can imagine, this type of training required not just understanding the basics of mastering a new online platform, but also the technical terms that were part of the platform and how they translated into our everyday terms. When staff wanted to learn the platform from a super-user perspective, it was useful to send an FAQ about terms associated with the program. In this way, staff would arrive with just enough vocabulary to help me train them on the more technical aspects rather than focus on what each link did.


One of the best ways to introduce and reinforce new skills is to show people what they are supposed to be doing and what it can look or sound like. When introducing assessment, I show the Mad Libs-like diagram that helps put the nouns and verbs in the right spot. Or I show them a divisional assessment report that reduces what is shared to what is necessary to share. One year, our student government adopted a new student creed. I showed them pictures of the creed from my undergraduate institution, talking about how it was shared at New Student Orientation and throughout the year. This picture helped the officers develop and implement a creed that worked for the college. I was thrilled that a complicated process was made easier through a visual aid.

Infographics are also great visual learning tools and can be sent to staff via mobile devices or shared on social media. Given how Millennial and Gen X students and staff use their devices, it might be easier to engage learners where they feel the most comfort and have the most access!


Edutopia suggests that we temper our learning with strategic pauses. They suggest that we “share a new idea from discussion or the reading, then pause (providing think time), and then ask a strategic question, pausing again.” It also means that as instructors we need to have these strategic questions ready to be asked. But I believe that allowing the learning to be broken up into smaller chunks, reinforced with reflection, allows complicated topics to be covered with a high degree of retention.

FYI: This Blog is a Scaffold Learning Example

In the next blog, I will introduce ways to to add scaffolded learning into your next training for staff and students. If you want specific questions or examples addressed, please feel free to contact me using the link provided below. And post your comments below for other readers to help give advice or suggestions!

Skill Building Development for the New and Mid-Level Career Professional

I have worked with entry-level and mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years. I have helped them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you as you develop this new skill.

Schedule an introductory meeting so we can discuss a plan that works best for you.

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