Last January, I wrote about the advice that my professor gave me: to wonder actively.  He also had another saying that he reiterated frequently: maintain a critical perspective.  This is something that I struggle with in my academic life – and in my personal life. 

ImagePerhaps maintaing a critical perspective is about being in a “zone” between not caring about or not noticing things and being overly analytical.  Could this be related to Leo Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)?

Vygotsky’s theory asks us to assess student performance not in a moment, but over time.  The job of the mentor is to help the student to find that Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in which activities are challenging, but not overwhelming.

Recently, I have been seeing ZPD’s everywhere!  I love figure skating, especially the older skaters like Sonja Henie.  They usually only performed single or double jumps, but their moves were unbelievable to audiences at that time.  Now women are completing triple axels!  What happened?  The human body has not evolved significantly over the last fifty years!

Perhaps the Olympic athletes who continue to push the envelope in their fields are rewarded for being in this Zone of Proximal Development.  They push the limits of their minds and their bodies, imagining the possibilities just outside the realm of what they can do.


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