The Zone of Distal Development

As educators and learners create zones of proximal development, we must be mindful of the zone of distal development (ZDD) involved in guiding learners toward mastery of professional skills and knowledge (Spear-Ellinwood, 2011).

The ZDD is characterized by the distance between what the learner can achieve now without assistance and the ultimate goal of engagement in an extended learning experience. The ZDD, then, requires the learner to acquire knowledge, skills or practices in achieving a series of more proximal learning objectives, each building toward the accomplishment of the more distal, ultimate goal. 

Educators should, then, consider how to organize professional education as a zone of distal development, mindful of the strategic guidance to build on knowledge and practices acquired in successive experiences - the culmination of which brings the distal goal - professional competence - within proximal reach in the final analysis.

Source: Spear-Ellinwood (2011)