Learning through Video-Based Narratives within the Cultural Zone of Proximal Development

By Hung, David Wei Loong | International Journal of Instructional Media, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview
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Learning through Video-Based Narratives within the Cultural Zone of Proximal Development

Hung, David Wei Loong, International Journal of Instructional Media


In this paper, we examine instructional tools along the Vygotskian perspective of Zone of Proximal Development (or ZPD). Basically the ZPD is the instructional zone where under guidance a learner is able to do some task which he or she would not be able to do independently. From our literature reviews, we recognized that research on instructional tools applied within ZPDs are classified into three perspectives: (a) societal-culture (e.g., Matsumoto, 1996), (b) communities of practice (e.g., Hung, 1999), and (c) school-classroom (e.g., Newman, Griffin, & Cole, 1989). We also found that instructional tools have been designed largely for concept- and skill-oriented learning (that is, the second and third perspectives according to our classification). In other words, tools have focused primarily on learning within school-classrooms settings emphasizing concept understanding (e.g., Jones, Rua, & Carter, 1998) and language learning (e.g., Hoel, 1997). For communities of practice, tools have been emphasized in relation to skills and application of knowledge (e.g., Guile & Young, 1998).

However, a relatively smaller number of such research and development efforts have focused on the learning of epistemological knowledge such as beliefs, morals, values, and other societal-related norms (Hung, 1999; Tappan, 1998). A social-cultural perspective of Vygotskian psychology has much to offer to the appropriation of cultural knowledge. There is also a general lack of instructional tools focusing on ZPD within the societal-cultural perspective. We are arguing that narratives and stories are effective instructional tools for the appropriation of cultural knowledge. In the later part of the paper, would also present a prototypical design of an on-line environment where learners can appropriate cultural knowledge, beliefs, and values through video-based narratives.

In the following sections, we describe the Vygotskian notion of ZPD along the three perspectives as stipulated above. These three perspectives are linked in the sense that a learner generally encounters these three zones in the course of his/her history of learning and development. First, under the societal-cultural perspective, we connote that the learner becomes enculturated into the society and its cultural beliefs and epistemologies (way of thinking) through his/her parents and subsequently through members of the society.

Second, under the community of practice perspective, the more mature learner generally undergoes an enculturation process through more specific communities of practices which he develops specialized skills and dispositions in particular fields. For example, a mature learner in the course of his/her development becomes skilled in being a professional accountant, doctor, academic, etc.

Third, under the school-classroom perspective, we also regard the school-classroom as an integral part of a learner's earlier development, in particular relation to the acquisition of knowledge and cognition. The school by itself is a special community, learning school-based knowledge that hopefully has relevance to the community at large.

In all three categorizations, learners become enculturated within stipulated zones of proximal development where there exist individual(s) with a potential level (Vygotsky, 1978) belief, ability, perspective, or skill of which the learner can attain to through assistance by that individual(s) (Hung, 1999).

We are arguing, in this paper, that since epistemologies and ways of thinking (i.e., the social formation of the mind) is inextricably linked to the societal-cultural context, a more concerted effort needs to be developed to consider the implications of the instructional tools that influence the learners' mind.


Vygotsky defined the ZPD as the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978).

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