The extent to which actual development of proportional reasoning creates conditions for potential development in Vygotsky's ZPD.

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dc.contributor.author Brenner, Elisabeth Ann
dc.date.accessioned 2009-09-03T07:15:13Z
dc.date.available 2009-09-03T07:15:13Z
dc.date.issued 2009-09-03T07:15:13Z
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/7176
dc.description.abstract This study has examined how the attainment of theoretical frameworks may create the conditions for and support subsequent learning of related material. In this regard, it has investigated a particular conception of Vygotsky‟s proposal that learning only occurs in the zone of proximal development, which he defined as the gap between what can be performed independently and what can be achieved with assistance. Specifically, it used a multi-pronged, mixed method research approach to probe the relationship between the actual level of development, as reflected by an ability to do proportional reasoning, and potential development, which was measured as the ability to perform certain strategic procedural operations in the molecular biosciences which were underpinned by proportionality. This four phase study which was carried out on a class of 106 second year students registered for Basic Molecular Biosciences II in the School of Molecular and Cell Biology, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, initially measured proportional reasoning ability by posing a generative question requiring proportional reasoning to the class during a lecture and established that only 49% of the students who participated were able to answer the question. It could be shown statistically that these students were more adept at answering a contextual question based on proportion than those who had answered the generative question incorrectly, which suggested that actual development created the conditions for future learning. A paper and pencil test developed from Fleener (1993) which claimed to measure the hierarchical development of proportional reasoning ability was administered to the class and was used to select two groups for comparative purposes. The first group (group one) was comprised of the 23 students who scored 50 % or less, and the control group (group two) consisted of the 15 students who scored 100 %. Using these two groups, it was shown that the control group performed better than group one on specific questions underpinned by proportion which had been included in pre-laboratory tests and in summative assessments. Moreover, the control group‟s general performance in the course, as assessed by their marks in the examination at the end of the first semester, was substantially better than that of group one (67 % as opposed to a 51% average mark). These results were supported by findings where conceptual development of proportion had been judged from student‟s informal written accounts of the concept. Drawing on biological evidence, it was concluded that the actual level produces the structures necessary for further development. The second phase of the study utilized two focus groups constituted from students who iv had been randomly selected from the two groups compared in phase one of the research. Facilitated guided informal discussions probed which of factors like play and leisure activities, early childhood enrichment, schooling, mathematical ability and practices, instruction in proportional reasoning, and parental involvement, might have augmented the development of proportional reasoning ability. In phase three, the factors which emerged from the discussions were interrogated in a specially designed questionnaire which was administered to a sub-set of students who were concurrently registered for Basic Molecular Biosciences II and Biochemistry and Cell Biology II. Statistical analysis of the questionnaire which occurred in phase four of the research led to the conclusion that enrichment in early childhood, and having learnt proportion at school were the two factors that contributed most to attainment of the actual level of development which would enable subsequent learning of more elaborate procedural knowledge constructs based on the concept of proportion. These results supported the view that mediation results in internalisation of the embedded knowledge which can be drawn on for further learning in that domain. Therefore, in the final analysis of the research, it was concluded that actual levels of development create conditions for potential development as conceived by Vygotsky‟s zone of proximal development. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject Proportional reasoning en_US
dc.subject Potential development en_US
dc.subject Vygotsky en_US
dc.subject ZPD en_US
dc.title The extent to which actual development of proportional reasoning creates conditions for potential development in Vygotsky's ZPD. en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US


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