Vygotsky’s concept of “zone of proximal development” describes a range of what/how children learn. Each child has two zones-actual development which is what the child already knows/can do, and the zone of proximal development is the “range” of what the child can do with guided instruction from a teacher or peers. The child can be guided by an instructor in order to reach understanding of the topic. Once the child can perform or understand the information alone, the zone of proximal development shifts. Now the child’s actual development includes information which was once unknown, and other topics/information become attainable for the child. The idea can be confusing, so here is an example: Let’s say the student is learning how to add more complicated double digit numbers (like 13+18). He has an actual development of knowing how to add single digit numbers. However adding double-digit numbers falls in his zone of proximal development. Using his background knowledge, and the teacher’s use of scaffolding, the student begins to understand how to add double digit numbers. Eventually he will know how to add them by himself. Once he can, this information becomes his actual development and now for example, adding three digit numbers may now be in his zone of proximal development.
ZPD connects to my learning all the time. One subject that this is especially clear about is math. In high school especially, the teacher would explain a new topic and once we could do it on our own, our zone of proximal development expanded. Math is a topic that builds off of itself so it would be important to expand my zone of proximal development often. Also, in college it is still present. Every time I learn something new in a classroom, my teacher is explaining the information to me (guiding me), and then once I understand it I can gain more knowledge that may have been farther out of my reach before. Also, it is prevalent when I study for tests with friends. If we understand different concepts, we can use scaffolding and help each other understand the material and again shift our zone of proximal development. Using the concept of ZPD would be beneficial for children so they can effectively grasp the material taught. If students have a good understanding of material at the beginning, as the year progresses they will be able to use their basis of knowledge to help them understand the new information.