Page: 117-130 Author: Petrová, Z., Pupala, B. Key words:
The paper takes a new look at Vygot-sky‘s theory of the existence of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and offers a brief survey of ways in which contemporary education and theory of instruction operates with this concept. Debate on the ZPD is often oriented to explaining, re-interpreting and enriching Vygotsky‘s original hypothesis about the relation between development and learning in a way that clarifies human development in cultural context. Although theoretical elaborations of the ZPD may differ as to the particular components of Vygotsky s theory to which they relate, the ZPD as a topic compel us to clarify the factors that influence human development and how these shape the image of mental functions. Concurrently, original explanations of ZPD theoretically anchored in quasi-pedagogical relations have become a highly motivating topic for educational practice, diagnostics and research reform and also in many cases a kind of educational cliche, which can be flexibly applied to every kind of learning ac-tivity. By indicating the different lines of ZPD interpretations and practical applications the paper draws attention to the elasticity of this concept.
The first line of ZPD interpretations is based on the presupposition that ZPD can be fully explained through attention to the role of the tutor in learning. In this approach the link between the metaphor of „scaffolding“ and the ZDP is highlighted. This approach has its roots in the similarity between the original explanation of ZPD through a distinction between the ability to solve the task independently (zone of actual development) and the ability to solve the task under the guidance of skilled tutor (ZPD) and the definition of „scaffoldings“ in learning as a process of providing support that allows the novice to solve the problem or to achieve some goal which is beyond unassisted effort.
The weakness of the ZDP and „scaffolding“ parallel is demonstrated through a discussion of human ability to imitate demonstrations of the task solution in a way that is not based just on trial-error learning (emulative learning) but on the ability to imitate activities together with the intentions of demonstrator (imitative learning) and that substantially increases the effectiveness of learning. This distinction is broadened using Vygotsky‘s premise that the ability to imitate is possible because maturing mental functions enable a person to understand how to use the collaborative action of another to solve a task.
The second line of ZPD interpretations emphasises not the quality of novice - tutor interaction but the essence and the quality of cultural tools which may represent main aspects of social practice, especially in relation to theories of mediation. This line of interpretations may lead to the posing of the question (the third line of ZPD interpretations) of how educational practice can release and promote the developmental potential of children. And more substantially: how can educational practice be enriched with the use of cultural tools relevant to socio-cultural practice in relation to questions of which social practice produces those cultural tools, e.g how do they represent social practice? And how do they influence the cognitive socialisation of individuals? This approach to ZPD thus opens up discussion of the ability of the school to identify the intersection between the developmental potential of students and its basic aims based on needs resulting from socio-cultural practice.