My Personal ZPD

Posted by Debby on 8th November and posted in EDC 633, EDC 638A, EDC 664

As I was finishing up Visions of Vygotsky, I was able to see times when I was in my own ZPD. I have been immersing myself in online technologies and distance education for several years. In some areas I was very proficient and able to teach others, in my Intro to Internet class, for example. The summer the college hired me full time yanked me out of my comfort zone. On some level I was confident that I could do the job they were asking of me. On other levels, I was very unsure and insecure about my abilities to pull it off. I felt like I had fooled everyone into thinking I could really do the technologist job. I mean, I had played around with technology for years and had a knack for it, but my degree is in Linguistics for heaven’s sake! It’s one thing to teach community college students, but I was now in a position to train people with master’s degrees and doctorates.


I was fortunate in that first year because I was able to lean on a good friend and mentor. He had encouraged me for years and I completely trusted and respected his opinions and experiences. I spent a lot of time discussing distance education, campus politics, balancing workload, and life in general with him. At the same time, I became an online student, enrolling in a series of courses through UCLA that led to a certificate in online teaching. The spring of that year, I developed 3 of my own online courses and offered 5 sections that semester. In one year, I went from talking about distance ed to living it. I was supporting faculty, becoming an online student, and teaching my own distance ed courses. The entire time, my mentor was there to fall back on for support and ideas.

Then, near the end of the spring semester, he resigned his tenure to accept a position at another institution. I felt almost abandoned, and back to being a little unsure of myself again. However, this time I had plenty of my own experiences to give me strength and I knew that I would be able to continue on my own. My confidence in the validity of those experiences has pulled me through several trials this year already. I am now serving as a “more capable peer” to a colleague who is developing her first online class for Spring 2003 delivery. I am sure some new challenge is just up ahead to throw me back into the zone, but I am ready to take it on!

  • Peita

    There is a idea out there called the circle of enquiry, where a teacher and students work together and learn and then the students are tested somehow using a performance task and then they receive feedback and might have to have more learning and then re-take the performance task. What it deals with is that we are always spiralling and building on our knowledge.
    I believe that you are in the circle of enquiry an use that to evaluate yourself. Especially now that you have gone from the supported to the supporter. I love that you described how you were unsure and now are helping others the way you were helped.
    Good job Deb. 🙂

  • Doug LaFlamme

    It sounds like you’re in your circle of INquiry… 😉 (sorry, couldn’t resist Amuhr-ic-anizing that one, Peita 🙂
    Seriously, it does sound like you’ve been forced into a different zone. Which is often what it takes to make us move. You’ve been pushed to the extent of your existing knowledge, and by some force (be it pressure from people/admins or some other force), and that’s what it takes to make us grow! Sounds exciting to me!

  • Cat

    It sounds like your mentor was really a critical part of your learning, and the development of your confidence. It’s not surprising that when he moved on, you felt slightly insecure again.
    Do you ever feel like he is still there, mentoring you, even though he is not part of your day-to-day experience?

  • I have his email, AIM, home phone, and cell phone, so I know I can get him if needed. What I have found is that, although I like to bounce an occassional idea off of him, I am able to get things done on my own now more. However, just when I get feeling too complacent and comfortable, something new gets dropped in my lap and it starts all over again. I supposed that is how we keep growing and developing.

  • Jo-Ann

    Do you have a more capable peer with some knowledge on design, decorating, etc. that could assist you through your learning project? Like Cat said, seems like you thrive having a mentor. But Doug has a great point that, sometimes you just go for it, no training wheels anymore. I’m sure you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

  • Kathleen

    You are not only supporting people in your workplace, but also some of us in your cadre. You are the more capable peer for many of us. Don’t worry, everyone feels insercure at times, I think that’s part of being human.

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