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  • Danielle Raja

Week #2: ZPD and DDD

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Acronyms are fun!


ZPD= Zone of Proximal Development

DDD= Degree of Desirable Difficulty



Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast


How do these concepts fit together? Let's start with the Degree of Desirable Difficulty. DDD originated with Robert A. Bjork and Elizabeth Ligon Bjork (yep, they're married) with the idea of 'desirable difficulty' and the ways to introduce it in teaching. They proposed several ways to introduce difficulty and challenges into learning that make learning last.

  1. Varying Conditions - introducing variety in modality of learning (motor skills, verbal recall, problem-solving) as well as learning environment increases difficulty but also increases long-term learning.

  2. Testing as a learning strategy - the act of retrieval is an important learning str techniques. This means that learners are engaged through activities, discussions, and group work which promotes higher thinking (as opposed to listening to a lecture). Active learning can be as simple as Q&A in which learners (all of them) must respond with clickers or as complicated as role-playing scenarios. Anything that forces learners too.

  3. Spaced Practice - scheduled, spaced out, revisiting of material

  4. Interleaving topics - this is the opposite of blocking, a practice in which large amounts of time are spent mastering 1 skill. Abandon blocking and start interleaving, that is, mix up topics and switch away from one before students have achieved mastery. Revisit old topics before mastery is achieved with new ones.


Neat how this fits in with my previous post!


Introducing DDD in learning settings can be as simple as employing active learning techniques. This means that learners are engaged through activities, discussions, and group work which promote higher thinking (as opposed to listening to lecture). Active learning can be as simple as Q&A in which learners (all of them) must respond with clickers or as complicated as role-playing scenarios. Anything that forces learners to work at understanding and mastering the material. Remember, (desirably) hard work = longer-lasting learning.


***The Degree of Desirable Difficulty is different for each learner, and increasing difficulty does not always equal better learning. The instructor must meet learner at their level in order to be effective***


This is where the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) comes in. The ZPD was first developed by Lev Vygotsky in the 1920s in Russia. He mostly studied the development and learning as it applies to children. His theory of learning pertains to what learners know, what they can learn with guidance, and what is unknown.



In situations where an instruc - the act of retrieval is an important learning str techniques. This means that learners are engaged through activities, discussions, and group work which promotes higher thinking (as opposed to listening to a lecture). Active learning can be as simple as Q&A in which learners (all of them) must respond with clickers or as complicated as role-playing scenarios. Anything that forces learners too ding a learner's Zone of Proximal Development and employing some Degree of Desirable Difficulty can ensure long-term, meaningful learning.




Overall, I'm learning that lecture is a thing of the past. If I want to be an effective instructor, it is essential that I employ challenging, engaging, active learning techniques so that my learners gain something from my teaching.

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