Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

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An argument for engaging learners in collaborative learning can be illustrated by Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) model. The following diagram explains how a learner can move from their actual developmental level into their potential developmental level in collaboration with more knowledgeable peers (Vygotsky, 1978. pp. 82).

Collaborative Zone of Proximal Development

When a group of learners with varying skills and backgrounds engage in collaborative learning their ZPDs overlap, forming a shared area for the exchange of information. This exchange of information formulates more complex conceptualisations, meaning that ‘collaboration drives learners’ construction of their mental structures’ (Borthick, Jones & Wakai, 2003).

Scaffolding knowledge and skills across abilities

The idea of scaffolding knowledge is based on Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD). It is the belief of sociocultural learning theorists ‘that a novice is able to do more in the presence of an expert than when working unaided…the scaffold metaphor refers to the teacher’s role, offering support that enables the learner to operate in the ZPD until they are able to perform unaided’ (Davis et al., 2015. pp 152).