The ZPD is the difference between a child's actual development level and the ability they are able to perform at with modeled or explained instruction. This is always a very interesting subject to look at. I have not noticed the importance of this concept until my observation/guided small group teaching began in M201. In M201, we are required to mold the young mathematic minds 3-5 students in 4th and 5th grades. We also observe the classroom when the students divide up into, what they call, “passions”, where students have the ability to fulfill an interest for approx. an hour.
During our small group teaching sessions, we as teachers must prepare a lesson that follows the required curriculum for the week. What we all quickly learned after week one was that although these students were labeled as 4th and 5th graders, there was a much larger range of mathematic abilities in the classroom. When working with my group, I noticed that they all performed on a low 4th grade level when doing the initial math interview. I did not aid, explain, or model, how to complete the problems initially. Instead I watched and asked them to explain their personal reasoning and their answer with the group. Since the first week was only the initial interview, where very little information was being taught or explained, I would categorize that experience as the actual development level.
The second week the students were asked new questions. I first let them try to solve the problem on their own. If they had trouble with the problem, I would either model or repeat the question with a hint in how to solve it. Finally we would share the answers amongst the group members. One student accomplished all of the problems, with accurate solutions, with little to no help. Since my help was not needed, the student was not being challenged at the appropriate level, or during the interview, it was not an accurate representation of her actual development level. One of the other students had many questions that I guided him through. The next question became more easily understood by the student because of the modeling the student remembered from the first problem. This shows the students ZPD. He had a large ZPD because of the amount of knowledge he was able to apply in a very short amount of time. The third student had a very small ZPD. Even with additional guidance and modeling, the student was only able to solve a handful of the problems given to him. This shows that although students may be in the same grade and classroom, that does not mean that their learning ability is the same.