Buds, Flowers, Fruits: Potential, Performance, and Test Administration
In a 19261 paper, Vygotsky (chap. 3) broke with three central tenets of the psychology of his time: that IQ is immutable, that learning necessarily trails behind development, and that if children's mental functions have not matured to the extent that they are capable of learning a particular subject, then no instruction will prove useful. "Development or maturation is viewed as a precondition of learning, but never the result of it" ( 1988, p. 80). Vygotsky went on to propose a radically new approach that distinguishes between the actual developmental level of the child, and the level determined by intellectual testing.
The testing looks backward, argued Vygotsky, at development that has already been completed: This means that if children barely miss an independent solution of a problem -- for example, if they solve the problem after the teacher has initiated the solution, or after leading questions have been asked that indicate how the problem might be solved -- then the solution is not regarded as part of the child's mental development (p. 85). On the contrary, commented Vygotsky: "What children can do with the assistance of others might be in some sense even more indicative of their mental development than what they can do alone" ( 1988, p. 80).
Vygotsky then defined his central developmental construct, the zone of proximal development (the ZOPED), as the distance between the child's actual developmental level during independent problem solving, and the child's level of potential development revealed by problem solving under adult guidance or when working with more competent members of the child's own age group. This notion of "distance" at once turns the exam-____________________