Sunday, September 27, 2009

Aimee Frantzen - Vygotsky & ZPD

Vygotsky is a name I have been hearing since my sophomore year of high school when I first decided to take a child development class. This name, along with Montessori and Piaget came up often within class discussions in my two year-long child development classes I took over the course of my high school years. Along with the name Vygotsky we often talked about scaffolding and more importantly Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). For years ZPD was something I heard about often but never understood EXACTLY where it could be applied until now.
To start out, Vygotsky defines ZPD as the "distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined though problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers," (Vygotsky, 86). To make this more clear, Vygotsky is essentially saying ZPD is the difference between what the child can accomplish on his or her own, and what the child has potential to accomplish with a teacher, tutor, or peer working with them. Interestingly enough ZPD intertwines in a sense with the idea of scaffolding - and I believe all of these ideas tie in very well together. When looking at ZPD and scaffolding broken down into steps it appears like this: step 1) modeling step 2) working with the teacher, tutor, or peer step 3) working alone with available help and step 4) working alone with no help (at step 4 the child has mastery of the topic being taught). This process of scaffolding as seen in the steps leads learners to the higher level of development in which potential is reached.
With that said, I have come up with a bizarre idea of where ZPD may fit in perfectly. In a number of other classes taken in the IU school of Education we learn a lot about a new "scientific based research" method of identifying and preventing LDs called Response to Intervention (RtI). Maybe it is because I have been reading so much about RtI lately for my other classes but I feel like ZPD and scaffolding could be woven into the first tier of RtI quite perfectly. Given the idea that the first tier is a general education classroom, in RtI the teacher or instructor would go through the 5 steps of scaffolding I have listed above - if a child was failing to respond upon reaching step 4 and then 5 where they are left to problem solve a little more independently then the child would be evaluated and moved up to the second tier for more intensive reading, writing, or mathematics practices (whichever subject is being taught). Once moved to the second tier the child would be put through these same 5 steps again this time with steps 1-3 being a little more intense. Another thing to think about here would be the students that benefit from instruction just on the first tier - these students will eventually (and likely more quickly than their classmates deemed "at-risk") reach the "potential" Vygotsky talks about when he states "the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers," (Vygotsky, 86). Please keep in mind that this is all my opinion but in my knowledge of scaffolding, ZPD, and RtI this is how I am able to connect to my own learning on these topics.

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