Developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky defined what the person or a student can do — or the problems they can solve — as three different stages:
1. What a student can do on their own, working independently or without anyone’s help.
2. What the student can do with the help of someone.
3. What it is beyond the student’s reach even if helped by someone else.
He called the second stage the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which had, as said, two limits: the lower limit, which was set by the maximum level of independent performance, and the upper limit, the maximum level of additional responsibility the student can accept with the assistance of an able instructor. But Vygotsky believed that learning shouldn’t follow development, but rather should lead it. A student should constantly be reaching slightly beyond their capabilities rather than working within them.
In other words, and summing up, I believe that it is likely that we see a decreasing need of instructors as more knowledgeable others in order to learn something, but an increasing need of instructors as more knowledgeable others in order to learn how to learn something. With Personal Learning Environments to cover the ground of one’s Zone of Personal Development, learning how to learn, how to design one’s own learning process may be more relevant than ever and require more help from third parties. This is, I think, the most promising future of teaching today.