Visiting the Zone of Proximal Development: Are You In or Are You Out?

Visiting the Zone of Proximal Development: Are You In or Are You Out?

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5007-5.ch002

Abstract

Decades ago, Lev S. Vygotsky introduced us to a view of learning and development, and how they are interconnected, which has supported our understanding of how children learn new things. This view has been the foundation for a tool used for teaching to this day. This chapter visits the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and examines the view of the traditional approach to literacy instruction, designed to support emerging as well as struggling readers. It describes the gulf between those tasks children have mastered in their literacy development and new tasks to be introduced with scaffolded support. It references the observation of children's reading behaviors during instruction and identify interactions that suggest behaviors requiring attention to being solidly in the child's ZPD. The chapter concludes with a discussion about the connection between research and instructional practices.
Chapter Preview

I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it. (Vincent Van Gogh)

Top

The Zones

Decades ago, the field of education was introduced to a view of learning and development, and how they are interconnected. This view has supported our understanding of how students learn new things, and has been the foundation for a tool used for teaching to this day. Lev S. Vygotsky, the distinguished and influential Russian social-learning theorist in psychology and education, created the theory of social constructivism, and produced a multitude of articles in a short ten-year span (Tracy & Marrow, 2012). Although Vygotsky’s works focused on how students’ interactions with their surroundings impact their overall education, he is most widely known for creating the concept of a student’s zone of proximal development, also referred to as ZPD. “A well-known and empirically established fact is that learning should be matched in some manner with the student’s developmental level” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 85). “The ZPD is succinctly summarized in Vygotsky’s postulation that “what the student is able to do in collaboration today he will be able to do independently tomorrow’” (Smargorinsky, 2011). A zone of potential, when scaffolded into a new skill by another, will result in the growth of an individual’s competencies. The theory and concept of the zone of proximal development has had a significant impact on education in general, and on reading instruction more specifically.

As a social constructivist, Vygotsky asserted that “social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of all of the individual’s cognitive abilities, including thinking, learning, and communicating” (Leonard, 2002, p. 205), and a student must interact with others, successively being pushed by others to learn. Vygotsky’s theory suggests students must experience the use of higher mental tasks in social settings, including school, before internalizing the task and demonstrating mastery (Tracy & Marrow, 2011). The zone of proximal development (ZPD) is a concept that supports the relationship between learning and development when something fundamentally new is introduced to the student. Vygotsky speaks of developmental levels, and suggests finding two levels: the actual developmental level, known as the zone of actual development, or ZAD, the level at which the problem-solving is done independently by the student; and the level of potential development, ZPD, the level at which the problem-solving is done by the student, with the guidance and support of an adult. It is critical to be aware of being in the student’s zone of proximal development. Delivering instruction within a student’s ZPD has proven to be a sound tool that is fairly easy to use. In terms of understanding the manner in which new learning occurs, it is powerful (Wass & Golding, 2014).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset