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Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding

Psychologist Lev Vygotsky developed the principle of ZPD

The psychologist Vygotsky developed a theory of cognitive development that focused on the role
of culture in the development of higher mental functions. Several concepts arose from that theory
that is important to classroom learning. This lesson will focus on two concepts: zone of
proximal development and scaffolding.

The zone of proximal development, commonly referred to as ZPD, is an important principle of

Vygotsky's work. ZPD is defined as the range of tasks that a child can perform with the help and
guidance of others but cannot yet perform independently.

Within the zone of proximal development there are two levels. First we have the actual
development level. This is the upper limit of tasks one can perform independently. The second
level is the level of potential development. This is the upper limit of tasks that one can perform
with the assistance of a more competent individual.

Vygotsky viewed the zone of proximal development as the area where the most sensitive
instruction or guidance should occur. This would allow the child to develop skills to use on his or
her own to develop higher mental functions.

Scaffolding is the second concept of focus. Scaffolding is directly related to zone of proximal
development in that it is the support mechanism that helps a learner successfully perform a task
within his or her ZPD. Typically, this process is completed by a more competent individual
supporting the learning of a less competent individual. So, for example, there could be a teacher
assisting a student, or a higher-level peer assisting a younger peer.

To understand this concept better, let's think about how scaffolding is used in the construction of
a home. The scaffold is an external structure that provides support for the workers until the house
itself is strong enough to support them. As the home gains stability, the scaffold becomes less
necessary and is gradually removed.

Giving clues on how to solve an equation is an example of scaffolding

Scaffolding is applied similarly in the classroom. First, the teacher should provide clues about
how to proceed through the problem. As the child becomes capable of solving the problem
without support, the teacher gradually removes these clues. This process is referred to as fading.