Steve Wheeler has just posted something interesting about the ZPD and scaffolding in his 'always worth a read' (©Sarah's Made-Up-Taxonomy of blog types, 2009) blog. Anyway, he posted it and it reminded me that I'd been interested in just this thing a few months ago when I was doing my research project to finish off my MEd. I was interested in the impact of a tutor when students were learning in an online synchronous (chat) environment. I wanted to know what happened to any conversation and associated learning... and whether or not the tutor's presence enriched the experience.
Anyway, I ran my research project and got some interesting results. Although the activity itself was fairly carefully constructed so as to provide a light scaffolding for the main body of discussion and the environment was controlled so that I was able to compare both sessions - how each discussion evolved was up to the participants. Different types of reflection were evident in the session with the tutor present and that which took place when just the students were around. The flow of the conversation altered. The type of questions and responses changed. Students seemed to be more passive in the tutor-led session and although there was plenty of conversation, the expectation seemed to be that the tutor was in the driving seat and the ownership of that communication shifted noticably.
If, having read the above blurb, you'd like to read the full report of the research I carried out, then feel free!