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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - The Social Scaffolding Supporting Academic Placement


The information we presented in chapter 4 suggests that the characteristics associated with students' socioeconomic and academic background are not overwhelmingly responsible for the commendable college enrollment record that the San Diego untracking program enjoys. Because AVID students are enrolling in college more frequently than their early high school records would predict, we are attracted to looking into the inner workings of the program to find the reasons for its success. We take up that task in the next four chapters, starting here with the social organization of the AVID classroom.


Our discussion of the social processes of untracking rests on two interrelated ideas: One, academic life has implicit or hidden dimensions that students must master in order to be successful in school; and two, a system of institutional supports or “scaffolds” supports AVID students as they traverse this implicit cultural system.

Social Scaffolding

Instead of simplifying instruction or reducing the curriculum for underachieving students, AVID attempts to maintain a rigorous curriculum for all students while adding increased support for lowachieving students. We borrow (and modify) the term “interactional scaffolding” (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976; Bruner, 1986) or “zone of proximal development” (Vygotsky, 1978; LCHC, 1983; Cole & Griffin, 1987) from the cognitive development literature to characterize the practice of combining heterogeneous grouping with a uniform, academically rigorous curriculum enhanced with strong supports.