What is the zone of proximal development characteristics examples

The zone of proximal development is the situation in a learner’s skills where certain activities can be performed with the help of another person. For example, if a child knows how to add, even if he needs a little help from an adult, that would be the next developmental zone. With practice and support, you’ll finally do it yourself.

This is the area in which an interactive system is launched, a support structure created by others and the appropriate cultural tools for a situation that allow the individual to go beyond their current competences.

It is a concept formulated by Lev Semenovich Vygotsky, a Russian of Jewish origin and considered one of the most important and influential psychologists in history. The near-development zone is closely related to children’s education and evolutionary development. Many education professionals rely on this theory to design teaching strategies.

Actual development and potential development

In fact, the next development is an intermediate stage, lodged between two concepts: the zone of actual and potential development.

actual development

First, to clarify terms, we talk about real development, which is the area where tasks are performed autonomously and without the need for help or support. An example would be an 8-year-old child capable of performing addition and subtraction operations on his own.

potential development

With regard to the level of potential development, it is the area that the child can reach after receiving help from a teacher or classmate.

These two levels of development, actual and potential, determine the area of ​​proximal development, which is the area in which you can perform certain exercises or tasks with certain supports.


Note that these areas are dynamic. As progress occurs and the minor develops, the areas of actual, upcoming, and potential development change.

As new knowledge is strengthened, thanks to mentoring and support, they will become the true zone of proximal development, as they will be able to execute them autonomously.


In the case of a child learning to multiply, it would look like this:

  • Real development: knowing how to multiply with table 1, 2 and 3.
  • Close to the development zone: knowing how to multiply by 4 with a little help.
  • Potential development: learn to multiply with tables 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Near development zone facilities

Vygotsky, in relation to the zone of quasi-development and the learning processes that arise, elaborated the following statements:

-Exercises that currently require assistance to be performed will be performed in the future without such support.

-The fundamental condition for the performance to occur autonomously is the same help received, although it can be paradoxical.

-Help should not meet a series of specific features or requirements, but depends on good learning.


We can establish three basic characteristics of great importance. Are the following:

Set the difficulty level

It is important that there is a certain degree of difficulty, so that the child can face new challenges and situations that present a challenge. It also can’t be a difficult task to do, because otherwise you’ll get frustrated that you can’t do it or you’ll give up thinking you’re unattainable.

Offer help throughout the run

The adult or mentor should help you get closer to the goal of completing the task.

Evaluate independent execution

The initial goal of the Zone of Proximal Development is for the child to be able to do this alone.


Jerome Seymour Brumer, American psychologist, continued with Vygotsky‘s statement of theory and added a new element which is scaffolding.

This process occurs as a result of the interaction between an expert subject or with more experience in a certain activity or knowledge and another beginner, or less expert. The purpose of this interaction is for the novice to gradually acquire the knowledge of his expert partner.

At the beginning of solving the task, the beginner will depend almost exclusively on the specialist. As he can perform the task autonomously, his partner withdraws his support, also called scaffolding.

This scaffold concept refers to the activity that is developed in a collaborative way and, in the beginning, the expert has (almost) total control of the situation and, little by little, the novice, is acquiring this knowledge. Depending on the tasks and subjects, he will progress in a certain way.

The scaffold has two characteristics which are:

  1. The scaffolding must be adjustable . That is, it must be adjusted to the beginner’s level and the progress he is making throughout the execution of the task.
  2. It’s also temporary . This means that scaffolding is not a routine process, because otherwise the performance would not be the same. It is important to adjust to the circumstances of each task.

Why was the concept of zone of proximal development born?

Several authors, including Vallejo, García and Pérez (1999), point out that Vygotsky proposed this concept as an alternative to the large number of theories that talk about intelligence and the tests used to quantify it.

What Vygotsky wanted to convey is that these tests and theories were focused entirely on the skills and abilities acquired by the student at the time, but did not contemplate projecting into the near future, or what he was able to achieve with the appropriate aids and tools, as well such as the support of someone educated or a partner with more experience.

For this author, this would be the starting point of learning and so it was in the affirmation of his theory.

For other authors such as Ehuletche and Santángelo, the concept of the zone of next development is based on the sociocultural perspective and emphasizes the importance that social interaction and the helping processes charge, as well as the support within this interaction, so that progress in learning occurs. individual.

They contemplated, like Bruner, the concept of scaffolding in which handover and handover occur, progressively, of control and responsibility.

How to improve the zone of proximal development?

If you are an education professional or have a close relationship with children, we will see a series of tips developed to work with this theory and guarantee that children become more autonomous in the performance of their tasks and work.

Relate skills to learn with others already learned

Insert the specific activity that is carried out at the specific time as widely as possible into other broader objectives or frameworks.

For example, if we’re doing a mathematical operation, it’s a good idea to frame that particular operation in relation to others. When we learn to multiply, to verify that the multiplication has been done correctly, we can verify it through a sum. Thus, we increase and relate knowledge.

Group work

Within a group, it is important to allow, to the maximum extent possible, the participation of all students in the tasks and activities carried out. Although your level of competence may not match the task, some adaptations can be made. It is important to involve the whole group to have an attitude of participation and acquire greater autonomy.

In addition, when they finish the task or activity, their self-esteem will be reinforced, verifying if they were able to achieve it, as well as the satisfaction of the group in general.

work climate

It is important to establish a work environment that is affective and in which trust, security and acceptance of all participants are present. In addition to the relationships established within the group, they are healthy and reliable.

In this way, children, in addition to being satisfied with their peers, will increase their level of satisfaction with themselves.


Children are in continual learning and beyond constant change. Therefore, it is important to contemplate the existence of adjustments and modifications in the development of activities at a global level and, specifically at home, one of which is carried out daily.

For this, it is important to be aware of the progress and achievements made in this way, fully explore the zone of proximal development, and not get stuck in the Zone of Real Development without achieving new achievements.


It is important that students are encouraged to use and deepen the acquired knowledge autonomously. That is, if we learn something new, let the children explore and experience it, this is the best way to strengthen knowledge.

If, for example, we learn in the classroom that, by mixing the primary colors, we can obtain the rest of the colors, we give them to mix the paints and experiment with the color obtained from each mixture.


As children acquire new knowledge, it is important that we link this new content to content that has already been consolidated and internalized.

clear language

It is important that the language is used as clearly and explicitly as possible, to avoid and control possible misunderstandings or misunderstandings that may occur.


When we’ve finished an assignment, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to talk about what we’ve learned. In this way, through language, we will recontextualize and reconceptualize the experience we develop.

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