Along with many of my peers, the first time I had heard of good old Vygotsky was here at IU. I believe my first encounter with Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) was in my Children’s Psychology class my sophomore year. ZPD is seen whenever someone is learning something new for the first time (this can be academic or not). It can start with modeling something, then the student working on it with the teacher, followed by the student working on it alone but with help available (worksheet), and finally the student works on it all alone with no help (exam).
I was trying to think of a time in which ZPD was relevant in my life that did not correspond to my academic life and I could clearly think of when I was in a beauty pageant in high school. Oh, the joys of learning the “beauty pageant” turn. The first time I was encounter with it was when my agent was demonstrating to me how to properly turn. Following her modeling this for me, we taped off X’s on the floor so I knew exactly where to stop and where my next step was supposed to be. She and I practiced in from of mirrors for hours, yes simply for just a turn that took about seven seconds. Then we removed the X’s and I did the turns on my own with her watching in case I forgot what was supposed to happen. Finally, there was the “exam” where I had no help and no X’s on the floor, the pageant!
As a teacher, I think it is critical to keep Vygotsky’s ZPD in mind while teaching; more importantly, I think it is important (especially as a special educator) to remember that not all student’ ZPDs are the same. While in the classroom, I must know that I should be readily available when students need me to be there in order for them to succeed.