Some Basic Concepts 3: Zone of Proximal Development

The Zone of Proximal Development is a model developed by Vygotsky. It states that learning is most successful in a social context, meaning that people learn more and develop further when they are supported by somebody who is more advanced in a certain area and functions as their mentor (= pedagogue).

Vygotsky defines the zone of proximal development as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”. In this sense the pedagogue could be a practitioner or another child!

According to Schwartz (2001), the Zone of Proximal Development can be extended through four different scenarios of supporting children in their learning:

  • Starting from the child’s motivation to learn
  • Children want to learn and are interested in finding out new things – this provides a great opportunity for pedagogues to support their learning.
  • Starting from where the pedagogue thinks the child ‘is’
  • The starting point for learning is where the child is at, and the pedagogue can assess this through observations, reflection and dialogue.
  • Mutual process of learning together, e.g. Common Third
  • Learning can also be a mutual process, in which both the pedagogue and the child learn something new and support each other in this.
  • Necessary development, things that need to be learned

There are things that we all need to learn in order to lead a happy life in dignity, be part of society and make use of our resourcefulness.

3 thoughts on “Some Basic Concepts 3: Zone of Proximal Development”

  1. Dear,

    Could you please give me the complete reference of the publication of Schwartz (2001)? I’m looking for this reference and I’m not able to find it.

    Thank’s any way,

    Bests regards,

  2. Hi,

    the full reference is: Schwartz, Ida (2001): Socialpædagogik og anbragte børn. 1. ed., Gyldendalske Boghandel, Nordisk Forlag, København.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s available in English.

    Best wishes,


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