When Vygotsky was first introduced to me, I had a hard time understanding the practicality of his ideas. After some field experiences, personal reflection, and more research on his ZPD ideas, his theories make much more sense to me. Essentially, the zone of proximal development is the distance between the actual developmental level (that which he or she can do independently) and and the level of potential development (that which can be accomplished with assistance). Vygotsky sees that there is a difference between skills that are fully matured and those that are in the process of maturation. This makes total sense when I think about my own learning and understanding. There seems to be a continuum of understanding that consists of basic knowledge all the way through the ability to teach it.
There are a few ways that we experience potential development with assistance. This can be through scaffolding from a teacher or through group work. The basic idea consists of constructive learning. When we have assistance or we are exposed to new ideas, we tend to combine that information with what we already know, or at least are in the process of knowing.
This relates to my exposure to field experiences. I have been a student for most of my life, but when looking at entering a career as a teacher, I need to have a different viewpoint. This specifically relates to writing lesson plans. I have been a participant in lessons, so I have some exposure to the idea. Now, I have to take the next step and be the creator of a lesson. Through guidance from teachers and working with other students, I have become much more competent as to how to write and implement a successful lesson plan. With the assistance from other more experienced people, I'm in the process of moving from my actual developmental level and to my potential developmental level.
Having seen my own understanding develop from a basic knowledge to an implementation, I can see how the zone of proximal development is an applicable idea. Being aware of what is needed for this formation, I hope to be a more effective educator in the future.