Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development


Vygotsky was able to look past other theorist’s approaches and see that children don’t only learn after they develop, but that they start to learn as soon as they are born.   He also states that learning needs to be matched to the developmental level.  It wouldn’t make sense to give a first grader geometry because most 1st graders are not ready to learn those skills.

This part of the theory helps us in the counseling field to know that even thought someone is a certain age chronologically; it does not mean they are in the same place mentally.  We should look at each person as an individual and assume they will be able to grasp the concepts you give them in the same way as the last person you were talking to.

Vygotsky states there are two levels of development, the actual development level and the zone of proximal development.  The actual development level is where a child is actually at in development.  This level shows you what a child can do right now.  The zone of proximal development shows us what a child will be able to do.  It is defined by looking at what a child can do first without help and then looking at what they can do with some adult guidance.

This helps a counselor by allowing them to see future cycles and maturation processes.  Knowing what is probably coming will help the counselor choose the best treatment for that child.  Instead of making a guess based on other children.  Instead of making a guess based on other children, the guess is more educated and centered on that one person.

Vygotsky also says children’s development is structured by cultural artifacts and specific social experiences, meaning, knowledge not only comes from the environment around the child but also that the child learns from the beliefs and values of the adults in the culture around them.

Another belief of Vygotsky’s is that human development is influenced on the levels of phylogenetic, historical, and ontogenetic.  The phylogenetic level says that we are different from the apes because we have more abilities than they do, but still looks at development through evolution.  The historical level says that cultures have developed differently over centuries in order to create diversity throughout the world.  The ontogenetic level says that each person’s development is dependent on culture.

This information is useful to a counselor when trying to understand where certain beliefs or behaviors come from.  Many cultures have different views when it comes to things like marriage, relationships and religion.  It would be very helpful to the counselor to know these things as well as how the client’s culture views the counseling process.

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