Measuring the zone of proximal development : studies of map-use in children with learning difficulties
The value of measuring Vygotsky's 'zone of proximal development' (ZPD) is the main concern of this thesis. The theory and research described in the thesis examines the psychological and educational purpose of measuring the ZPD within the context of children's representational skills. The first chapter discusses the development of children's ability to understand and use spatial representations. Recent research in developmental psychology is criticised for measuring the ZPD and claiming that the ZPD corresponds to children's individual developmental level. The experiments in Chapter 2 show that previous research has overestimated the representational ability of young children and that a children's potential development is different from their actual development, as assessed by the ZPD. Chapter 3 examines the origins of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and the ZPD within Soviet psychology and Hegelian philosophy. The next chapter presents contemporary interpretations of the ZPD which have to varying degrees attempted to extend this concept. The idea of dynamic assessment is introduced in this chapter and experiments using this notion are described in detail. Preliminary studies are described in Chapter 5, which examine the possible need for measurement of the ZPD and they also choose appropriate samples, methods and apparatus for future experiments which aim to measure the ZPD within a spatial task. The sixth chapter consists of three experimental studies, which all attempted to measure the ZPD using dynamic assessment techniques. These studies showed that measurement of the ZPD could provide important diagnostic information about children's spatial ability beyond that given by individual tests of intelligence. This was especially true in the case of children with learning difficulties. The results of all the experiments in the thesis are discussed in relation to measurement of the ZPD and its value within developmental psychology and educational psychology.