Understanding the revolutionary character of L2 development in the ZPD: Why levels of mediation matter

James P. Lantolf, Lindsey Kurtz, Olesya Kisselev

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22 Scopus citations


The Zone of Proximal Development has been one of the most misunderstood features of Sociocultural Theory. It has been inappropriately equated with Krashen's i+1 and with the concept of 'scaffolding'. Based on an empirical study where learners seemed to require the same degree of explicit mediation at two different points in time, Erlam, et al. (2013) have questioned Aljaafreh and Lantolf 's (1994) regulatory scale and have instead supported a one-size-fits-all use of explicit mediation. This article provides a theoretical and empirical counter argument to Erlam, et al.'s (2013) proposal. Given Vygotsky's (1987) claim that development is revolutionary, on theoretical grounds alone, we would not expect that because at time 1 a learner required explicit mediation at time 2 that same learner would require less explicit (or more implicit) mediation to recognize and correct use of an inappropriate L2 feature. We also present empirical evidence from a close analysis of Aljaafreh's (1992) dissertation that supplements the data considered in Lantolf and Aljaafreh (1995), which showed that even when mediation regresses from more implicit to more explicit levels on the regulatory scale, it does not regress to the beginning of the process where mediation is maximally explicit. Progress, overall, is forward, even if it requires some backtracking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-171
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage and Sociocultural Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Linguistics and Language


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