Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

Vygotsky (1978) maintained the child follows the adult's example and gradually develops the ability to do certain tasks without help or assistance. He called the difference between what a child can do with help and what he or she can do without guidance the "zone of proximal development" (ZPD).

The whole-language approach to teaching reading and writing draws on this notion. As children play and interact with others at home and at school, they develop specific models of communication, expression and explanation. Goodman and Goodman (1990) believe this social use of language forms the basis for literacy. Tharp and Gallimore (1988) use a four-stage model of ZPD to show how children develop speech and language.

Various researchers (Newman, Griffin, & Cole, 1989) also suggest that the activities included in the ZPD reflect the cultural background of the learner.

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