The zone of proximal development

Before I wanted to be a college professor, I wanted to be a first-grade teacher. I spent 2 years studying pedagogical theory in preparation for teaching K-6; but when I did my practicum, I only lasted 18 days. Those first-graders are tough to teach, a diffusion of energy. It’s much easier to teach engineering students at the university level.

When I was learning how to teach first graders, I learned about Lev Vygotsky and the zone of proximal development. There are things a student cannot do when they first enter the class. The goal of the class is to get students to learn how to do these things (the course objectives) unaided. The process we go through to make this happen involves students entering “the zone”, where they learn, with guidance, from the professor as well as the other students in the class. This involves being in close proximity, both cognitively and physically, with those who share the discourse community.

The fun thing about being trained to teach first graders is you know it works when you apply it on college students. Today was the day my Current Affairs class left the zone, when they no longer needed me to be in the classroom, where they demonstrated their ability to learn unaided. Check out the video.

The zone of proximal development.



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