Each one Teach one: Doctors Learning in the Zone of Proximal Development

Doctors in the zone while learning with the support of someone who knows more.

Regardless of one's age or years completed in school, I think we learn best when we are assisted with the unknown. This doesn't mean you can't struggle a little to solve a problem, but not so much so that you are no longer interested in the answer.

Lev Vygotsky defined the space of what we can achieve independently, and what we can achieve through the support of someone who knows more, as the Zone of Proximal Development.

This is not rarified space. It is a deeply personal space that exists in all of us. It is a space of learning within a social context that is rich with conversation and thinking skills. 

Earlier this week, Anesthesiology residents at a local medical center discussed a case vignette in small groups. Later, after completing directed reading, group-based discussions, and written practice questions, the residents began to design their own multiple choice questions. It was rewarding to listen as these doctors came up with new ways of questioning their fund of knowledge while pushing themselves to clarify and understand more than when they started the day. Within these small groups residents were able to explore what they knew and get support for what they needed to learn. This process gave them another context in which to prepare for exams. 

Think about your earliest learning experiences. Most of us didn't learn to tie our shoes without someone sitting beside us, and showing us how. It's kind of the same thing with anesthesiologists and other doctors.  


For more information contact Loren Academic Services, Inc.

310-986-6265 or 847-446-5822 




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Loren Deutsch November 15, 2013 at 12:54 AM
I was recently reminded of this posting as I met with a group of 50 or so at our LOFT in Winnetka, IL. We were discussing motivation as a follow up to a presentation by Daniel Siegel, Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute in Los Angeles. In thinking about what motivates people, I asked everyone to identify areas in which they feel confident and strong. As the discussion continued we looked at ways in which we engage in these strengths, personally and professionally. We also considered experiences in which we don't engage, because we don’t seem motivated. I asked if our strengths were somehow tied to our motivation. When motivation fluctuates for certain tasks, I often suspect that it is linked in some ways to competency for those tasks. If we encounter an experience that is complex and challenging, and our frustration increases to a level that requires assistance in order to proceed, what happens if none is available? If we can't proceed without assistance, and none is forthcoming, then I think our motivation to persevere is challenged and in some instances, disappears. What do you think?


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