Monday, September 28, 2009

Kate Neal and Vygotsky

Like many of my classmates, most of my information and understandings regarding zone of proximal development (ZPD) and Vygotsky originate from P251 (Educational Psychology course) that I took over 2 years ago. The concept of ZPD was difficult for me to grasp in the beginning. However, after it being mentioned several times, I am beginning to become more comfortable with the entire concept. Zone of proximal development is the distance between the actual development level of independent problem solving and the level of development a person has with guidance from peers or an adult, according to Vygotsky. In other words, ZPD is the gap between what a learner can accomplish independently and what a learner can not do, even with assistance. The actual zone in zone of proximal development represents a place where the learner is challenged enough and may be frustrated without the guidance of someone who is more advanced. Along the lines of assistance, scaffolding is a good way to guide a student. Scaffolding allows the learner to build on to their knowledge. So, what a child needs assistance doing one day, he or she may be able to do it alone the next day because of the guidance they have received.
Thinking back on my experiences with zone of proximal development, the concept makes sense and I can see where Vygotsky was coming from when he invented his theory. I, like most learners, have an easier time learning with the help of others. With others around, I am able to feed off of their ideas and they also prompt me. On the other hand, my independent level of development places more strain on me due to the fact I have no one to cue me on my thoughts and ideas. I am on my own as far as independent development is concerned.
As a future educator, I need to be aware of the present stage each of my students is in and know what comes next. The theory of ZPD will be extremely beneficial for me to use to instruct my students, whether I will be teaching in a general education classroom or a special needs classroom.

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