Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Courtney Dressler's ZPD

As a teacher, I believe it is so important that educators understand the difference between a student’s actual developmental level and potential developmental level, or that which is supported and encouraged by an adult’s supervision and interpretation. We must admit, standardized and IQ tests can only show so much of a child’s potential. What we should really be aware of is what our students can show us when they are discussion, learning, and connecting information. Take, for instance, an individual who is studying addition concepts throughout his math unit. When given a worksheet comprised of unfamiliar problems, he may hesitate to solve the equations or even fail to complete the activity; this hesitation by one’s self represents a student’s actual developmental level. With a teacher by his side, he may show a different amount of knowledge; the instructor’s prompts and encouragement of using background knowledge may help that same student to make meaning of and solve the solutions at hand. This, of course, is where the Zone of Proximal Development comes into play. Although a child may not be able to explain or incorporate particular knowledge individually, with the help of a more knowledgeable peer he or she may be able to understand concepts that previously seemed in possible, showing his or her potential developmental level. Take, for instance, my educational experiences during my time at Indiana University. In so many different college level courses I have found myself baffled and bewildered by topics at hand; Biology, mathematics, even special education courses; they have all introduced me to new information that I have had difficulty learning and applying to assignments and discussions. This struggle that I have shown throughout my past into my present can be seen as my actual developmental level. The key to overcoming this struggle was asking questions and applying previous knowledge. After showing trouble in certain subject areas, my teachers helped me to find my potential developmental level through engaging discussion and application that helped me to understand new topics and information. As teachers, we must appreciate and accept the Zone of Proximal Development; it allows us to appreciate the difference between what our students can do alone and what they have the potential to do with minimal guidance and encouragement.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, it is so important for in-service teachers to really understand and use the ZPD for the sake of his/her students. Analyzing exactly where students stand in terms of their independent understanding of concepts is one of the best things a teacher can do so that s/he can know where to start from and just how much more challenging the curriculum can be. Knowing where students stand may also help them know if there is a wide discrepancy between a few students and the rest of the class. I can't help but think of RTI when I think of analyzing the lower end of ZPD. When the teacher finds a group of students that seem a little behind the rest of the class, s/he can place them in a second-tier intervention to ensure that they are able to make improvements because they can work with in their ZPD, which may not be at the level of the rest of the class. If these students were kept in with the entire group for the subject they struggle with, they may not get anything out of the lessons because it is completely out of their ZPD. This theory can also go the other way when a teacher finds a group of students that are just above and beyond the majority of the class. When students are ahead of their classmates for whatever reason, they may become bored if they are sitting through a lesson that they have already mastered. Challenging students who excel above and beyond is just as important as teaching to the level of those who may be a bit behind in the classroom in order to engage every student.