To ZPD or not ZPD?: A reflection using my reflection checklist

Vygotsky’s Zone of Primal Development describes the ‘sweet spot’ and is the difference between what children can currently do independently and what they are capable of achieving with scaffolding.


1. Description of experience

During my previous professional experiences I utilised the ZPD as a form of getting the best out of the children.  Each lesson I taught included a 3-step process to implement the ZPD theory.

Firstly, an assessment of prior knowledge was undertaken to determine what students already knew. This formed the base-line of the ZPD and gave me an idea of where the students were in terms of prior knowledge and where to start the new teaching.

Starting from this base-line I used careful scaffolding to introduce and reinforce new learning. Throughout the lesson I regularly assessed the students’ understanding and adjusted the teaching sequence accordingly. As students understood the content, the level of teacher input and support was withdrawn, with the aim being for students to undertake tasks independently.

Upon completion of the lesson, a post-test of student understanding was done to assess the new current level of understanding and knowledge.

2. Personal experience

I really enjoyed implementing the ZPD in my lessons during prac. I felt using the process gave me a good starting point on which to base my teaching, and its being based on the students actual knowledge meant the content was appropriate to their level and better understood. Using scaffolding to gradually withdraw teacher assistance gave the students a feeling of responsibility for their learning and independence. It was really well received as a teaching and learning style by my prac classes.

3. Critical analysis

I have analysed the ZPD as a teaching strategy, and whilst it is a great tool for teaching to student’s current capabilities, it is not a complete teaching tool. It is great for judging the prior knowledge of individuals, using this as the basis of a teaching sequence makes it hard for a teacher to have a specific starting point, as each child may have different base-lines of knowledge.

Secondly, as each child is different, and learns differently, scaffolding may not be the most effective learning style for all children. Using ZPD as a whole-class approach may suit some students better than others.

4. Take perspectives into account

Viewing this teaching experience from the perspective of the children, I feel that this was an effective way of learning, as it was designed around their current level of understandings, but for those students who had a higher knowledge level, being taught below that level in order to catch others up may have been boring and uninteresting.

5. Outcome

Whilst using the ZPD theory in teaching can be useful in assessing students’ prior knowledge and encouraging independence through scaffolding, it should not be relied on to be a complete planning and teaching strategy.

Further details on ZPD can be found at:


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