Zone of proximal development

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The zone of proximal development (ZPD) is a concept of teaching proposed by Vygotsky. It is the basic theory behind Bruner's practical application of scaffolding in the context of children's linguistic performance.[1][2]

According to the theory, "knowledge is an active process on the part of each learner in which they make sense of information. It recognises two aspects to an individual's development: actual and potential".[3] In other words, the "difference between what individuals can understand on their own and what they can understand with help from somebody with more knowledge".[3]

Vygotsky's actual words (in Russian, and not translated until long after his death) were: “...the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with a more capable peer.” Vygotsky, L., 1978. Mind and society: The development of higher psychological processes, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (cited[3])

In more practical terms, this basically means that the teacher should identify a student's ZPD and work within that zone, using scaffolding, for the student to find his/her own solutions and promoting reflection by which to make good decisions about how to progress from their current state of knowledge to reach a higher stage of learning.


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