Defining the Zone of Proximal Development in US Foreign Language Education

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The focus of this article is the interpretation of Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) for foreign language teaching in the USA. This problem is taken to exemplify the effect of long-standing tensions between progressive and conservative stakeholders in educational processes. As the construct gains in prominence, it is claimed by the progressives and conservatives alike, who shape the contours of its meaning according to their particular educational vision. A brief summary of the construct's origins in the writings of Vygotsky is followed by an outline of its reception among Western psychologists and educators, reviewing a variety of proposals for interpreting the ZPD in teaching and in research, In the subsequent sections, the essay comments on progressive and conservative trends in the US foreign language profession, and on the reception of the construct, focusing on three cases in which the ZPD has been invoked in recent publications on research and classroom teaching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-261+281
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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