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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Zone of Proximal Development

It's time for another psychology lesson. I think that yesterdays guest lecture went very well and hopefully everyone enjoyed the story. If you didn't get a chance to read it you'll want to take a look at it.

Zone of Proximal Development was developed by social constructivist Lev Vygotsy in the early 1900's. Lev explained that children will follow the example of adults and will gradually develop new abilities without help. However, if the child is helped at certain points then that child will grow much faster. The zone of proximal development defines functions that not matured yet, but are in the process of maturing.

This concept is also known as scaffolding. Scaffolding is like stairs that a child/person must climb but can only get up the steps by someone on the step above them helping them up. This is where adults and other people step in to help the child up.

If we look at our characters and how they change throughout our stories we will see how they work along to accomplish their goals, but then they get stuck. Our characters generally then receive support from another source that helps them accomplish the goal and helps them grow. Think about  The Hunger Games story as an example. Katniss is pretty dependent in the beginning of the books and has learned to take care of her family, but without the support and training of those around her the story would have been over in the first book as she enters the arena. It doesn't stop there though. Throughout the series she is receiving support and help to get ther to the point she needs to be at in the end to accomplish.... I won't tell you what she accomplish I wouldn't want to spoil it, but you get the picture.

Our stories will be more realistic as we use the zone of proximal development with our characters. Our characters will not know everything on the first page; they need to learn and grow just like everyone else in this world.


  1. Whoa, that is a good point. I think it's easy to get caught up in an idea of that people can always help themselves get out of a tight spot, but often other people and outside help are needed too. Thanks for the writing--and life--lesson!

  2. This is a balancing game. In a story you want to show that the character is growing and isn't Superman but you don't want them to be weak because then we don't want to cheer for them.

  3. nice....def some great points josh on the development of a character as the story progresses...and we have a pretty screwed up idea of heros as a society honestly...there are very few true heros that are loners...

  4. It would be interesting to write a character who resisted help, and then see how far they could realistically progress along the scaffolding.

  5. I saw the name of this post on Ink Pageant and just had to stop. It reminded me of my Dad's Teaching Degree.

    I agree, there always comes the point where characters need help. It's interesting to see how psychology, especially educational psychology can help write good characters and character arcs

  6. That's an interesting concept. I use scaffolding a lot in my stories.

  7. Good points here. The temptation to make our characters 'superheroes' has to be resisted, or it's just not believable, but there has to be a real balance.

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