The zone of proximal development defines the relationship between the learning process and the child’s mental development. The concept was introduced by the Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the early 1930s. It traditionally acts as a fundamental position in educational and developmental psychology. Interestingly, the list of types of cooperation is limited to one way of bringing the model of action to the child. An adult either shows the child how to do it, explains, or breaks down a complex action into parts and works with each part separately.
This corresponds to the cultural-historical concept, according to which learning leads to development, and self-development occurs due to the assimilation of humanity’s cultural-historical experience. The bearer of such experience is evidently an adult whose role is to ensure the inheritance of the child’s rules, morality, and self-consciousness in the world. In fact, the ZPD is a set of different development vectors, for each of which it is possible to build cooperation between an adult and a child, during which there is a transfer and joint development of methods of action (John-Steiner & Mahn, 2012). Let us consider the application of the ZPD concept in the example of creating a presentation for a report on a historical event as a task in History class.
Creating a presentation is a creative process in many ways, which cannot do without some technical skills in working with software and sources. A few key steps need to be taken to make historical event presentation slides and present them to the class. First of all, it is essential to collect reliable information from reliable resources. In addition, the presentation requires the ability to use, for example, Microsoft. Ultimately, the student must organize the information on the slides in a way that communicates effectively to the audience, given a number of constraints (time, number of slides, etc.). Certainly, a student who has received such a task can perceive and transmit information and can also understand the software independently.
Therefore, the teacher’s main task is to explain the basic principles and criteria by which the project will be evaluated. Thus, the child must understand that in order to get a high grade, it is necessary to use reliable sources. Moreover, a student is expected to adhere to a certain style in the slides to ensure their readability, rehearse the speech to meet the allotted time, and so on. That is, when planning and setting such a project for the first time, the teacher must first explain these important features of the task and show an example that can be considered successful (Eun, 2017). This will allow students to understand what is required of them and autonomously learn the skills needed to complete the assignment.
It is obvious that exactly how and what kind of assistance an adult provides to a child can influence both the course of development, its direction, and the dynamics of the movement of the ZPD itself. When interacting with an adult, the ZPD does not disappear – its border shifts due to the expansion of the zone of actual development while the ZPD itself expands. The child can do more independently and interact with an adult. The example considered above with the creation of a presentation for a school report helps determine an adult’s role in the education process, which should limit a student’s abilities. The result of successful interaction in the Zone of Proximal Development is not the task itself but the experience and skills acquired by a child. Thus, with adequate planning and organization of the educational process, the student should complete further similar tasks on their own.
Eun, B. (2017). The zone of proximal development as an overarching concept: A framework for synthesizing Vygotsky’s theories. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 51(1), 18–30. Web.
John-Steiner, V., & Mahn. H. (2012). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian Framework. Educational Researcher, 18 (8), pp. 4-10