The concept of the zone of proximal development theorized by Lev Vgotsky deals with the development of a student’s abilities between the stages of being able to complete a task with help versus being able to complete a task individually. The Zone of Proximal Development is the next stage of development based on the student’s current skills .
Expanding from what we’ve already discussed in the previous Social Learning posts, Vgotzsky’s theory emphasizes that the learning process is one of “internalizing social experience” . A ‘social experience’, obviously, is built out of the interactions of at least two people – in the case of learning, one of those is the student in question. The importance of this is that each learning experience should take into account the context of the student’s current abilities. What she knows today will not be the same one week, one day, or even ten minutes into the future. The Proximal Zone is the stage of development that expands those current abilities to the next level. An interesting tidbit here is that ‘proximal’ means ‘next’, ‘nearest in space or time’, or ‘immediately preceding or following in a series’ . Given these definitions, this should not only mean that it is the following stage, but that it is connected to what already exists. We can thus consider the Zone of Proximal Development not just as the next stage, but an extension of what the previous stages of development. Learning is a continuous process, and it is important that students make use of what was previously learned to make the next stages meaningful as well.
The final goal should be for the student to be able to perform the skills in question successfully without the aid of a teacher or more knowledgeable peers.?
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