In the middle circle, representing the zone of proximal development, students cannot complete tasks unaided, but can complete them with guidance. Development of subject activity in young children zone of proximal development, often abbreviated as ZPD, is the difference between what a learner can do without help, and what they can’t do. The concept of the zone of proximal development was originally developed by Vygotsky to argue against the use of academic, knowledge-based tests as a means to gauge students’ intelligence. He also created ZPD to further develop Jean Piaget’s theory of children being lone learners.
Alternatively, Vygotsky saw natural, spontaneous development as important, but not all-important. He believed that children would not advance very far if they were left to discover everything on their own. It’s crucial for a child’s development that they are able to interact with more knowledgeable others. They would not be able to expand on what they know if this wasn’t possible. Vygotsky argued that, rather than examining what a student knows to determine intelligence, it is better to examine their ability to solve problems independently and ability to solve problems with an adult’s help. He proposed a question: “if two children perform the same on a test, are their levels of development the same? He concluded that they were not.
Since Vygotsky’s original conception, the definition for the zone of proximal development has been expanded and modified. The zone of proximal development is an area of learning that occurs when a person is assisted by a teacher or peer with a higher skill set. The person learning the skill set cannot complete it without the assistance of the teacher or peer. Any function within the zone of proximal development matures within a particular internal context that includes not only the function’s actual level but also how susceptible the child is to types of help, the sequence in which these types of help are offered, the flexibility or rigidity of previously formed stereotypes, how willing the child is to collaborate, along with other factors. In many cases students are able to complete a task within a group before they are able to complete it on their own.
In the context of second language learning, the ZPD can be useful to many adult users. The concept of the ZPD is widely used to study children’s mental development as it relates to education. The ZPD concept is seen as a scaffolding, a structure of “support points” for performing an action. This refers to the help or guidance received from an adult or more competent peer to permit the child to work within the ZPD. Scaffolding is a process through which a teacher or a more competent peer helps a student in their ZPD as necessary and tapers off this aid as it becomes unnecessary—much as workers remove a scaffold from a building after they complete construction.
Scaffolding the way the adult guides the child’s learning via focused questions and positive interactions. One example of children using ZPD is when they are learning to speak. As their speech develops, it influences the way the child thinks, which in turn influences the child’s manner of speaking. This process opens more doors for the child to expand their vocabulary. In mathematics, proximal development uses mathematical exercises for which students have seen one or more worked examples. In secondary school some scaffolding is provided, and generally much less at the tertiary level. Ultimately students must find library resources or a tutor when presented with challenges beyond the zone.
Another example of scaffolding is learning to drive. Parents and driving instructors guide driving students along the way by showing them the mechanics of how the car operates, the correct hand positions on the steering wheel, the technique of scanning the roadway, etc. As the student progresses, less and less instruction is needed, until they are ready to drive on their own. The concept of scaffolding can be observed in various life situations and arguably in the basis of how everyone learns.
The basics must be learned first so one can build on prior knowledge towards mastery of a particular subject or skill. Various investigations, using different approaches and research frameworks have proved collaborative learning to be effective in many kinds of settings and contexts. Vygotsky: Mind in Society: Development of Higher Psychological Processes, p. Vygotsky also felt that social interaction was very important when it came to learning.