Zone of Proximal Development

ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development


Vygotsky (1978) recognised that a student’s development and learning can be bridged between the ‘actual development level’ and their ‘potential level’ by gradual knowledge gain and the use of scaffolding to support that learning. Learning facilitators can aid the student’s development in the form of teachers and colleagues; scaffolding gained and required to get to the next level. Vygotsky believed that development was a ‘life-long process’ (Driscoll, 1994), which would coincide with lifelong learning, a phrase which was coined in the 1990’s.


Vygotsky’s famous definition of ‘zone of proximal development’ states that Zone of Proximal Development is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.” (Vygotsky, 1978 p 86). In other words, Zone of Proximal Development is an area where the child cannot solve the problem alone but can successfully solve it under the guidance or in collaboration with an adult or a more advanced peer – this is where real learning is possible (Woolfolk, 2000, p 47).   This advanced peer could be a career guidance professional. Vvgotsky refers to these facilitators as scaffolding within a person’s development in order to get to the next step and without this aid the client would not have been able to get to the next learning stage. Scaffolding should only be used when the student is unable to get to the stage by themselves. In Bassot’s (2006, cited in Barnes et al, p 137) research with a student utilising Zone of Proximal Development in the context of Career Learning and Development (CLD), the student referred to the process used as ‘joining the dots’ to describe how he envisaged his career. With the aid of the guidance professional the student was able to find more dots in his picture and join them. CLD can be used to bridge the gap and identify future career, progressive learning and ultimately career happiness.


As there has been no forced or aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns undertaken throughout the three years of the study, it can be assumed that the people who completed the ‘make an appointment forms’ voluntarily accepted that they had reached a turning point in their lives and sought out career guidance as a solution. The next section of the literature review will look into the area of identity and turning points in career.


‘Extract from Career Guidance Dissertation, for details of references, please contact me directly:’


Diarmuid Haughian

MA Career Guidance, QCG

Zone of Proximal Development

Zone of Proximal Development