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The Importance of Proximal Development

Step by Step Parenting Tips 5

Biology Drawing Class

It's important to note that to successfully link new knowledge and skills, the chances of success are much higher, if they're in the zone of proximal development... Close to what the learner already knows

Vygotsky's theory of Proximal Development underpins the link between socially supported development and skill development.


His theory, (along with practical applications devised by Bruner, Wood and Ross,) is based upon a three stage learning process. They are:

  • Foundational or Independent Zone: The things your child can do or understand independently.

New knowledge, or skills, link to existing knowledge and skills.

  • Proximal Development Zone: The things someone can do, or understand, with assistance.

This new skill, or information, requires some form of scaffolding from a knowledgeable other (parent, teacher, mentor,) to help the individual learn and retain new information and skills.


  • Too Difficult Zone: The things someone cannot do, or understand at this time.

This means that the person does not as yet, have the necessary skills, or information, for the task to be completed or the information to be retained.


I can do these skills and can recall this knowledge on my own.

PROXIMAL LEVEL: I can do this next level of skills, and link this new knowledge to my existing knowledge with your help and support.


Regardless of whether I'm helped, or not, this level of knowledge, or skill, is beyond my ability to understand and retain.

Working in the Proximal Zone of Development encourages children while positively challenging them. They gain a sense of satisfaction as they learn new skills and knowledge.

Good teachers know Proximal Development zones because they pretest knowledge and skills prior to introducing new learning.

Working in the Too Difficult Zone causes children stress. It's more than likely to create a negative attitude towards learning over time.

Step 6: How to Create Strength Based Kids.


And this theory explains why some children learn much more quickly than others. Their zone of proximal development is greater because their independent knowledge is more advanced.

Basically, the more they already know the more they can learn...

'A child's greatest achievements are possible in play, achievements that tomorrow will become her basic level of real action. What a child can do in cooperation today, he can do alone tomorrow.'

Lev Vygotsky

For more information on strength based learning go to the links below on developing independent learners:

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