In the world of education, we talk about ZPD, the Zone of Proximal Development, a term penned by Lev Vygotsky, noted psychologist. ZPD is that space in which a learner is capable of learning something new, with the guidance of a more expert person.
Until recently, I had not given ZPD much thought, outside of classrooms, until I got to a place in which I was stuck. Not exactly stuck, but feeling a sort of disequilibrium. You know, that wobbly-legs place; that place in which I needed to know more or be able to do more, but was experiencing uncertainty in what to do about it while feeling a lack of confidence in my ability to figure out, on my own, what new steps I needed to take.
Like toddlers learning to walk, we all have had those times in our lives, in which we try first to stand on shaky legs, or those places in which we fall on our bottoms when striving to reach new goals. We have had those places in which we can’t move forward without an expert other, to hold our hands, until we can take steps on our own.
Let’s face it! We’ve all been there. In fact, it’s a necessary part of the growth process!
In order to move from your Zone of Proximal Development, you must first identify your ZAD (Zone of Actual Development), which is where you are most comfortable or independent. How? By answering the following questions:
- What have I mastered? With what parts am I most comfortable? Can I teach someone else to do this/ these part (s)?
After reflecting on your strengths and accomplishments, you will be able to acknowledge your ZAD. That’s just the beginning. Now, you must think about your LPD ( Level of Potential Development). In other words, where do you want to go? What do you now want to achieve? Write it, sketch it, make a vision board about it. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you recognize it and believe in it. Through this process you should be able to not only clarify your next steps, but gain confidence in your ability to take them.
Now, for the hard work: Now that you know where you want to go, ask yourself the following:
- What step should I take next? What new thing should I try? Learn? Get better at doing?
- What have I learned or done previously that can help me get there?
- Who is doing this thing well? How do I access this person’s knowledge?
The last step is usually the hardest. We often don’t want to acknowledge our struggles. We have been taught that not knowing is a deficit, a poor reflection on who we are. However, the most successful people are those who seek support from mentors, teachers, coaches; others who are more expert in the areas in which we want to grow.
Between ZPD and LPD is your willingness to honestly reflect, plan and seek support. What if asking for help is the only thing between you and your next level dream?
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