FocusUnderstanding and manipulating learning environments to channel learner development
- Knowledge is … a territory/area/domain/field (typically involving challenge)
- Knowing is … attaining a goal
- Learner is … agent on a trajectory (in a social setting)
- Learning is … development
- Teaching is … promoter (of action)
SynopsisZone Theory of Child Development claims to build on Socio-Cultural Theory – specifically the notion of zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is based on the realization that a learner in the presence of an expert is often able to do more than a learner working unaided. One’s ZPD encompasses those developmental possibilities that are within reach, with guidance. Zone Theory of Child Development adds two additional zones:
- Zone of Free Movement (ZFM) – signals what the learning environment allows, and it encompasses environmental conditions that enable or constrain actions and access
- Zone of Promoted Action (ZPA) – signals what the teacher promotes, and it encompasses teacher-intended actions and interactions to encourage specific types of learning. The entwining of the ZFM and ZPA is seen to channel learner development
CommentaryZone Theory of Child Development follows a minor trend in education to name “zones” that ostensibly define possibilities for learning. Other examples include:
- Zone of Optional Functioning (ZOF; Zone of Individual Optimal Functioning, ZIOF) – signals the range of physiological arousal associated with peak attentiveness, learning, and performance
- Zone of Potentiality (ZOP) – signals the range of one’s possible learning in relation to a specific competence or discipline
Authors and/or Prominent InfluencesJean Valsiner
Status as a Theory of LearningZone Theory of Child Development is not a theory of learning.
Status as a Theory of TeachingZone Theory of Child Development represents an attempt to translate Socio-Cultural Theory into a model that informs teaching, by combining two “zones” over which educators can have direct control to a zone over which they can have only indirect influence.
Status as a Scientific TheoryBecause of the manner in which it uncritically blends Folk Theories with Socio-Cultural Theory, Zone Theory of Child Development does not meet our criteria for a scientific theory. The perspective is associated with some empirical evidence – but, arguably, that evidence is better interpreted using Socio-Cultural Theory alone.
- Zone of Free Movement (ZFM)
- Zone of Optional Functioning (ZOF; Zone of Individual Optimal Functioning, ZIOF)
- Zone of Potentiality (ZOP)
- Zone of Promoted Action (ZPA)
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Zone Theory of Child Development” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
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