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. The zone of free movement (ZFM) signals what the learning environment allows, and it encompasses environmental conditions that enable or constrain actions and access. The 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.
CommentaryWhile proponents assert that Zone Theory of Child Development is based on and aligned with Socio-Cultural Theory, in fact references to learning within the theory are almost entirely articulated in terms of the Attainment Metaphor. In other words, the theory is a formalization of a commonsense metaphor, not an elaboration of a well-researched theory of learning. A result is a mishmash of incompatible metaphors for knowledge, learning, and teaching.
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.
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2019). “Zone Theory of Child Development” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List