Vygotsky’s theory on the zone of proximal development was much easier for me to understand as I was able to see and use it in the classroom. I was able to use my previous knowledge from what I have learned in other classes to make better sense of the information. Zone of proximal development (ZPD) is the difference between the actual development level and the level of potential development. A child’s actual development is what he or she can do independently, while potential development refers to what a child can do with help. The key for the teacher is to understand just how much support to provide. The right amount of guidance will challenge the child to think, reason, problem solve, and learn. Not enough support will make the task too difficult, and too much help will not allow the student to grow and develop. The teacher, peers, or parents guide learning so that students are able to connect the new information to prior knowledge, and to expand on what they already know. If teaching is kept at what the child already knows, then learning will not happen. When the student is challenged and then supported with the right amount of help, this allows him to develop to his full potential.
When thinking of my own learning experiences, I think of my field experiences. Last Friday, my group of four students was solving a math problem. They were to find how many quarters were in three dollars. One student was able to complete the problem, but needed assistance. I had to guide him by prompting questions and connecting the material to what he already knew. Once he was able to make the connection that four quarters equaled a dollar he was able to solve the problem by drawing a picture and counting the quarters.
Math is probably the best example of my learning and ZPD. If an instructor gives clues to a problem, this leads me to discover a solution. I feel that this is the best kind of learning for me. Without the clues, nothing new is learned. I am unable to solve the problem. With the help I am forced to think, study, and push myself to find a solution.