Saturday, 4 March 2017

Lev. S. Vygotsky: Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the concept given by the Russian psychologist, Lev. S. Vygotsky (1896-1934). Vygotsky was famous for his theory of Socio-Cultural Development. According to him, development takes place primarily through interaction with one’s culture.

Lev. S. Vygotsky (1896-1934)
Lev.S. Vygotsky

In a layman’s term, ZPD is defined as the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he/she can do with help or assistance. It is an area of learning that takes place when a student is given assistance (also called Scaffolding) by a teacher or 
more skilled peer. In other words, the ZPD is the gap between the actual competence level and the potential development level.

Actual competence refers to what problem level a student or an individual is able to solve independently, whereas potential development level refers to what problem level a student or an individual could solve with the help of a teacher.

The ZPD stated the role of a teacher as a necessary mediator of child’s cognitive development. For example, a student, who is trying to learn a skill set, cannot accomplish it without the assistance of the teacher or peer; the teacher then extends guidance or assistance to the student to attain the skill.


Scaffolding, Zone of Proximal Development

Scaffolding is defined as the many different methods teachers use to provide support for students as they learn.

According to Vygotsky, learning requires scaffolding. In the early stages, scaffolding (that is, guidance and support) is often essential. For example, a preschooler who knows nothing about the significance of the letters of the alphabet can hardly be expected to discover or accurately invent the various sounds they represent. By telling, demonstrating, pointing, correcting, the teacher builds scaffolds for the child. As the child begins to learn, the nature of the scaffolding required changes. Often there is less need for scaffolding as the learner begins to build on previous learning by gradually learning how to learn.

There is a variety of specific types of scaffolding (or support) that the teacher and parents can build for children. These are the following:

  • Demonstrate how to do things
  • Explain procedures
  • Providing written or actual models
  • Systematically developing all the pre-requisite skills required for more demanding tasks
  • Asking questions that lead to certain important realizations
  • Correcting on-task errors
  • Identifying and correcting misconceptions
  • Motivating students
  • Providing clear and realistic objective