Sunday, September 27, 2009

Joe Kartholl's ZPD

Vygotsky and the Zone of Proximal development was something that I did not learn until college. Ever since I’ve been to college I have heard about all I need to hear about Vygotsky and ZPD. From my understanding, the zone of proximal development is the area or zone where a learner is able to do something with the help or guidance of somebody and what the learner is able to do without the help of somebody. For example, a student can read a passage at a 4th grade level with the help of the teacher, but when the student is on her own she can only read at a 3rd grade level. Vygotsky would say that if this student would read at a 4th grade level with the teacher over and over again, eventually this student would read at a 4th grade level by herself. This process leads into scaffolding. Scaffolding occurs when person A, with a greater understanding of a certain subject matter, guides person B, who has a lesser knowledge of the same subject matter. If the person A guides person B, eventually the person B will gain a better understanding of the subject matter. Eventually guidance will be unnecessary from person A because person B will be able to perform the task or they will have understood the concepts on their own.
I think ZPD and scaffolding happens to me every day. For example, in my math methods course I usually do not get some things right away. We sit at tables with 3 other students and chances are someone at the table has a pretty good idea of what we are doing. This person will help me and the others understand what we are doing, until we are capable of doing it on our own. In a lot of ways I think this is a huge part of being a teacher. Some of our future students will already be advanced or knowledgeable on certain subjects while others will be behind. Ideally the teacher could help each child who is behind, but in reality there isn’t enough time in the day. However, thanks to Vygotsky and ZPD, we don’t have to help every student who needs help at once. We can instead designate a time for students to help each other learn. I think the idea of ZPD has been around for a while, but Vygotsky was the first to put a label on it.

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