Personal/Professional Growth, YouTube, and the Zone of Proximal Development
Anyone who has been through an education prep program or studied cognitive psychology has most likely heard of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), thanks to Lev Vygotsky. It is most often seen when applied to students and their education. The basic premise is that there are things you don’t know or can’t do even with guidance and support, there are things you know or can do alone, and there are things that you can’t do alone, but can do with guidance and support. The latter is your ZPD. It’s one of my favorite nuggets from cognitive psych.
Here’s the twist: it’s most often used for students in school, but this certainly applies to those of us who have long since matriculated.
When beginning a new project at the house, there are things that I already know how to do effectively (e.g., hang a picture, replace a light fixture); things that I cannot do at this time even with guidance and support (e.g., install a pool, find a leak in a pipe below the slab); and things that I cannot do alone, but can do with guidance and support (e.g., hang a fan, complete moderate woodworking projects). Those last few items are within my home repair ZPD. If you back up more than a decade, you would have needed someone there to guide you through those projects, had a repair/project manual, or at least had someone on the phone trying to walk you through. To complete the final group of examples today, I’m usually leveraging a tool that many of us have access to in our home- YouTube. In essence, we’ve been able to remove the need to have a more knowledgeable party within our social group to lean on. YouTube has become the facilitator of our ZPD activities.
For our own personal and professional growth, we regularly leverage tools like YouTube or Lynda.com or Instructables to drive our learning and bridge our knowledge gaps through our ZPD without needing to find a more knowledgeable party waiting in the wings.
Coming full circle to education: instead of only teaching students by being the ‘more knowledgeable party’ and creating a social and cognitive dependence, let’s teach our students how to effectively navigate and curate the world of resources that they have at their fingertips as well as those in the world around them.