Stretching the Zone of Proximal Development: Accelerating Learning Through ZPD Elasticity


Vygotsky’s (1986) theory of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is often cited in pedagogical approaches that position the learning just above the learner’s independent problem-solving level, but which the learner can do with the help of a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). However, these approaches reflect only a partial understanding of Vygotsky’s work, which describes learners of the same ability level as having ZPDs with vastly different potential for “stretching” to more complex content (Zaretskii, 2009). Learning situated at the outer limits of one’s ZPD has the potential to increase the efficiency and quantity of learning over traditional methods of instruction. The present Randomized Control Trial placed Pre-K to 2nd grade learners (N = 1407) into a business-as-usual control group, or a treatment condition designed to explore the elasticity of their ZPDs and its leveraging effects on their learning. Key findings showed that when compared to the control group, learners in the treatment group were able to significantly increase their learning pace and the amount of content learned, while continuing to demonstrate mastery of the content. Implications from this work suggest that better understanding and leveraging the ways in which learners’ ZPDs demonstrate varying elasticity (ability to stretch) may provide opportunities to accelerate learning and mastery of content, especially for learners who are most at risk for not meeting grade level expectations.

Author Information
Anastasia Betts, Age of Learning, Inc., United States
Diana Hughes, Age of Learning, Inc., United States
Lacey Plache, Age of Learning, Inc., United States
Kieran Smith, Age of Learning, Inc., United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICE2024
Stream: Learning Experiences

This paper is part of the IICE2024 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Betts A., Hughes D., Plache L., & Smith K. (2024) Stretching the Zone of Proximal Development: Accelerating Learning Through ZPD Elasticity ISSN: 2189-1036 – The IAFOR International Conference on Education – Hawaii 2024 Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon