The New Classroom: The Role of AI in Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Developmentby@webism
119 reads

The New Classroom: The Role of AI in Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development

by WebismMay 28th, 2024
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript
tldt arrow

Too Long; Didn't Read

The article delves into the integration of Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) with AI technologies, highlighting how this synergy is revolutionizing education through innovative teaching methods and enhanced pedagogical mediation, ultimately equipping students for the challenges of the 21st century.
featured image - The New Classroom: The Role of AI in Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development
Webism HackerNoon profile picture


(1) Fabiano Villan, Universidade Luterana do Brasil (ULBRA), Curso de Licenciatura em Física;

(2) Renato P. dos Santos, Universidade Luterana do Brasil (ULBRA), PPG em Ensino de Ciências e Matemática (PPGECIM).



Theoretical Framework

The ZPD and Chat GPT as a Co-Advisor in Scientific Guidance


Results and Analysis

Conclusions, Acknowledgements, Author's Contribution Statement, Data Availability Statement





The education of children and youth in the 21st century should prioritize the development of essential skills for academic, professional, and personal success. Creativity and socio-emotional skills are vital in this context. Creative individuals tend to be open to new experiences, imaginative, and unafraid to express ideas, even in the face of complex information (de Cássia Nakano, Primi, & Alves, 2021). Scientific Initiation (SI) not only acquaints students with research methods and practices but also incites critical skills, curiosity, and autonomy (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 1997). Thus, SI can play a crucial role in stimulating these skills, preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century (da Silveira, Cassiani, & Von Linsingen, 2021).

In Brazil, SI in school contexts, encouraged by the state, had a significant milestone in 2003 with the establishment of the Junior Scientific Initiation Program (PIC-Jr) by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). Before this period, similar initiatives were already implemented in some educational institutions, notably the Scientific Vocation Program (PROVOC) of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) since 1986. Notably, the Brazilian government program was largely influenced by the Fiocruz model, adopting principles aimed at cultivating talents for science and encouraging scientific vocations (Brazil, 2015).

SI in Elementary Education is fundamental in students' educational formation. Thus, SI has the potential to serve as a foundation for the development of future researchers, paving the way for more advanced learnings and the emergence of scientific vocations. Participation in a Scientific Initiation Program (PIC) promotes the development of a theoretical-scientific attitude, clarity in vocational choices, research skills, and the expansion of study group performance with the goal of increasing scientific productivity (Nascimento & Morosini, 2019). A study by Saliba et al. (2019) observed that doctoral students who underwent scientific initiation obtained better scientific production, achieving a more significant number of publications compared to those without this experience.

In the SI process, the pedagogical mediation performed by the teacher is vital. Carvalho, Nevado, and Menezes (2007) emphasize that an effective advisor must go beyond simply instructing; they should inspire their students to actively engage in research. This involves encouraging them to reflect on their findings and to explore, rather than just seeking ready answers. This idea is encapsulated in the statement by Hernández and Ventura (1998): “Not everything can be taught through projects, but everything can be taught as a project.”

Explaining how learning is enhanced by mediation and collaboration, Vygotsky's theory remains central to this research. According to his idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), a student/learner might be ready to acquire a new knowledge or skill, yet may still be unable to do so independently:

The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature but are currently in an embryonic state. These functions could be called 'buds' or 'flowers' of development rather than 'fruits' of development. The actual level of development characterizes mental development retrospectively, while the zone of proximal development characterizes it prospectively. (Vygotsky, 1991, p. 97).

Vygotsky emphasized the crucial role of the social environment and interaction in the construction of knowledge, introducing concepts such as the ZPD to explain how learning is enhanced by mediation and collaboration. The learning process according to the ZPD is marked by the difference between a student's ability to act independently and their ability to act with adequate support (Vygotsky, 2001).

On the other hand, the theoretical foundation of the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) methodology is often associated with educators like Dewey, who highlighted the relationship between practice and learning, Bruner, who advocated for new educational proposals, as well as constructivists like Piaget and Vygotsky (Servant‐Miklos et al., 2019). Its current form emerged as an educational innovation in 1969 at McMaster University in Canada, influenced by earlier experiences at Harvard, with the goal of promoting self-directed learning and critical thinking (Servant‐Miklos et al., 2019), with the idea that learning would be more engaging if the learner were actively involved in their own learning process (Schmidt, 2012).

This approach not only emphasizes the teacher's role as facilitator and mediator but also fosters the development of cognitive skills such as observing, questioning, analysing, and problem-solving, stimulating students' curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, as advocated in General Competence 2 of the Brazilian Education Guidelines and Bases (Brazil, 2018).

Furthermore, this pedagogical mediation enables the development of social skills, such as communication abilities, teamwork, leadership, cooperation, and social responsibility, as described in General Competence 3, preparing students to be active citizens aware of their role in society (Brazil, 2018).

The action-research methodology, initially proposed by Kurt Lewin, stands out as a practical and participatory approach, aimed at solving problems and promoting social and educational changes through a cyclical process of planning, action, and reflection (Lewin, 1946). This method emphasizes collaboration between researchers and participants, with the goal of transforming the reality in question. Following this principle, Kemmis and McTaggart (1988) developed a structured model that guides educators and researchers in the planning and execution of action-research projects, proposing a reflective sequence that involves the continuous reconstruction of understanding and practice. This methodology is particularly relevant in the field of education, where the dynamics of teaching and learning can be enhanced by the direct and reflective application of new pedagogical strategies, allowing educators and students to co-construct knowledge in a collaborative and contextualized manner.

On the other hand, since the early experiments with Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 1950s, technology has been shaping the educational landscape. The transition into the 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of pioneering AI tools dedicated to education (Mekari, 2023). Cognitive models like the Student, alongside platforms such as Khan Academy, revolutionized teaching, providing more intuitive interactions and personalized feedback for students. The beginning of the 2000s brought a qualitative leap forward. Adaptive learning platforms emerged, and giants like Google, Microsoft, and Apple introduced innovative tools. Among them, Google Classroom stood out, transforming the dynamics between students and teachers by promoting individualized teaching, adapted to each student's pace.

ChatGPT, a notable member of the Large Language Models (LLMs) family from OpenAI, is a tangible example of this integration. Its creation involved training on large volumes of textual data, resulting in its ability to respond to a wide range of questions and commands in natural language. ChatGPT's capacity to process natural language and generate contextualized responses enables it to become an effective co-advisor, assisting students and teachers on their educational journeys.

However, the resistance and insecurity of faculty in teaching degree programs concerning Digital Information and Communication Technologies (DICT), including AI applications like ChatGPT, are still evident. This hesitation, evidenced by the prevalence of traditional teaching methods, has both technical and emotional roots. To overcome such barriers, it is essential to provide teacher training that integrates affective, technical, and pedagogical dimensions, enabling the full exploration of these technologies' potential and promoting a pedagogical transformation adapted to the digital world (Silva & Paniago, 2022).

Parallelly, teaching methodologies have also evolved, and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) approach has gained prominence, promoting interdisciplinary learning and problem-solving orientation. Educational robotics emerged as a valuable pedagogical tool, stimulating cognitive abilities, creativity, and innovation.

In the contemporary educational context, Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) intertwines with technological innovations, particularly with AI. While pedagogical mediation has evolved from its traditional format, positioning the educator as essential in knowledge construction, AI has established itself as a vital tool for amplifying learning.

In summary, when considering the current educational landscape, it becomes clear that the intersection of Vygotsky's ZPD with technological innovations, mainly AI, is redefining teaching. Pedagogical mediation, which has traditionally been centred around the educator, now benefits from these technologies. Teachers become not just facilitators but active mediators, creating enriched and dynamic learning experiences. The combination of innovative pedagogical methods with AI facilitates deeper learning, equipping students for the challenges of the 21st century. This theoretical framework will be used to explore this interaction more deeply in the subsequent section.

This paper is available on arxiv under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 DEED license.