The zone of proximal development, often abbreviated ZPD, is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. It is a concept introduced yet not fully developed by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934) during the last two years of his life. Also, many theorists are still applying to their work today.
Vygotsky stated that a child follows an adult's example and gradually develops the ability to do certain tasks without help. Vygotsky's often-quoted definition of zone of proximal development presents it as...
"...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. For example, two 8 yr. old children may be able to complete a task that an average 8 yr. old can do. Next, more difficult tasks are presented with very little assistance from an adult. In the end, both children were able to complete the task. However, the styles methods they chose depended on how far they were willing to stretch their thinking process."
Vygotsky and some educators believe education's role is to give children experiences that were within their zones of proximal development, thereby encouraging and advancing their individual learning.
"The zone of proximal development defines functions that have not matured yet, but are in a process of maturing, that will mature tomorrow, that are currently in an embryonic state; these functions could be called the buds of development, the flowers of development, rather than the fruits of development, that is, what is only just maturing."