How to Use the Zone of Proximal Development Theory in Your Lesson Planning

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A theory of learning developed by Lev Vygotsky states that children learn when they undertake difficult tasks beyond their capabilities and receive assistance to complete them successfully. The “zone of proximal development” is a term used to explain the ideal difficulty level for a lesson. A learning activity that is too easy won’t help a learner’s progress. A learning activity that is too hard will disengage a learner who won’t be able to do the task. However, an experience that is difficult but achievable with effort will push a learner forward. Lessons that are just hard enough, but not too hard are in the zone of proximal development (ZPD).


  • Learners get lessons catered to their own needs.
  • There is always catered support for any learner in the class.
  • When you create learning activities that are always challenging, you are setting high expectations for all learners.


  • Differentiation like this can lead to considerable variations in ability levels.
  • You’re often under pressure to teach content that is difficult for learners to meet standardized curriculum requirements


  1. Another way to do this is to create three learner assignments for three different ability levels. State in your learning activity that you will assess each learner’s ability and give them the appropriate task. Each task must build on the previous to help learners move through their ZPD one step at a time.

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