Transcending through Dynamic Interplay of Social and Individual: Rethinking Zone of Proximal Development in Light of Dynamic Systems Approach

Saeed Karimi-Aghdam
University of Jyväskylä
saeed.s.karimi-aghdam _arvaa_

Sociocultural theory has been a common refrain in educational sciences since Vygotsky’s revolutionary cultural-historical conceptualization of human development (Vygotsky, 1978) was introduced into Western scholarly circles in 1970s after being kept in abeyance. Zone of proximal development (ZPD) as warp and woof of Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory has been appropriated by a plethora of second language education scholars in order to cater for their ends. It can hardly be doubted that logical consequences of some multifarious and selective usages of ZPD mainly in educational sciences and admittedly in second language education literature has been resulted in amorphous conceptualization of Vygotsky’s original orientation to human development. To remedy this drawback, drawing upon Pepper’s (1970) root metaphor theory, this paper, inter alia, sets out to explicate philosophical systems or “world hypotheses” upon which sociocultural theory was originally contextualized. Then, the contention that sociocultural theory embeds dialectical transcendence of two “world hypotheses” namely contexualism and organicism for explaining human consciousness is expounded. Proving ontological similarity between Vygotskian sociocultural theory and dynamic system theory as “metatheory” of human development (Witherington, 2007), third section sheds light on mapping ZPD into dynamic system perspective. Finally, some interpretive sets of theoretical conclusions are offered in order to elucidate implications of looking at ZPD from dynamic system standpoint.


Keywords: ZPD, Sociocultural Theory, Dynamic System Approach, Root Metaphor Theory



Pepper, S. C. 1970. World hypotheses: A study in evidence. Berkeley (Calif.):University of California Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. 1978. Mind in Society. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.

Witherington, D. C. 2007. The dynamic systems approach as metatheory for developmental psychology. Human Development, 50(2-3), 127-153.


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