Re: [xmca] Does Vygotsky Accept the "Assistance Assumption"?

From: Gordon Wells (
Date: Tue Nov 28 2006 - 11:15:54 PST

I have always taken the notion of the zpd to be more metaphorical
than subject to empirical verification. But to comment on the three
"heterodox assumptions:

a) "generality" (the ZPD describes all learning and not just child
If by "generality" is meant that the notion of the zpd is also apt
for thinking about adults as well as children, I would agree. On the
other hand, I would not wish to argue that "all learning" is
encompassed. It has been argued that learning occurs every time we
meet a new situation (which is most of the time) but not all
situations are sufficiently new or challenging to call for the sort
of learning that Vygotsky mentioned when he discussed the zpd.

b) "assistance" (learning depends on assistance from more capable individuals)
"Assistance" - yes, perhaps, as long as the assistance in a person's
problem solving includes the "words" of published writers, cultural
tools to hand, and the affordances of the situation.

c) "potential" (there is some mysterious potential within the child
awakened by the ZPD).
This is the one that seems uncontroversial to me. All humans have
great potential - but it may not be realized if they do not, on their
life trajectory, participate in the activities that would provide
opportunities to develop their potential (for example, what if Mozart
had grown up in a culture that did not have a tradition of performing
orchestral music, a range of musical instruments, and a writing
system for giving permanent representation to the compositions that
he imagined?)


Gordon Wells
Dept of Education,
UC Santa Cruz.
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