iterative zones of proximal development to help students #reachwayhigher

organize the landscape of a student's life into vertically integrated zones: a cartography of proximal development to map a path to college

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Beyond the educational applications of Lev Vygotsky's work about cognitive growth in a zone of proximal development, we might argue that certain types of people in the larger world operate in similar "spaces" through which they learn new attitudes, norms, and behavior. It can be argued that many different groups use some sort of zone when they are engaging in a new, unfamiliar task.

-- the best examples might be entrepreneurs.  their zones: Silicon Valley, incubator programs, start-up weeks, co-working spaces, conferences. (see below for virtual)
-- educators. their zones: 4.0 Schools, charter networks, Denver's DesignEDU network (, faculty lounge, conference trends, The Teacher's Guild (virtual)
-- fantasy football leagues.  their zones: living rooms, bars, man caves -- Go Broncos!
-- 826 Valencia's The Great San Francisco Personal Statement Weekend
-- book clubs. their zones: living rooms, classrooms.
-- identifier groups. their zones: think of Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
-- any sort of meet-up 

The idea here would be to create real world community zones as well as virtual zones so that young people are engaging in behaviors and learning the mindsets so that they can #reachwayhigher

via Harvard Business Review -- Growing Up Near Startups Makes You More Likely to Be an Entrepreneur

People who grew up near a lot of startups are more likely to become entrepreneurs as adults, according to a study led by Luigi Guiso at the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance. Using the broad definition of entrepreneur (one that includes the self-employed), the researchers looked at two datasets on Italian workers. They found that a one-standard-deviation increase in a location’s entrepreneurial firm density is associated with a 1.5-percentage-point increased likelihood of becoming an entrepreneur for those who grew up there. Conditional on becoming entrepreneurs, the same individuals are also more likely to be successful entrepreneurs, as measured by business income or firm productivity. A one-standard-deviation increase in firm density in the place you grew up also results in an 8% higher income. And firms run by entrepreneurs who grew up in areas with higher firm density have a higher total factor productivity and higher output per worker. These results support the view that entrepreneurial capabilities are at least partly learnable through social contacts, suggest the researchers. 

ChapterBe is a collection of interviews and inspiration from people who are charting their own journeys to have careers and lives doing what they love.  Many of the people interviewed are entrepreneurs and in their totality, they create a virtual "zone" for others to learn from and be inspired by.

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe what you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research. (Ex: Good advisors make a difference.)



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Photo of Meredith Herrera

Paul, I LOVED that you talk about the 'proximal zone of development!'  It's a phrase I use all the time in my work helping students choose the right college that hopefully stretches them, but not to such a degree that they break.  It's a sweet spot, no?  It'd be awesome to learn about how you use this concept in your work with students?  This notion that we become what is modeled to us rings so true.  I wonder what your students might say is modeled for them in their 'zones', whether those be academic, social, athletic.  Empathy interview perhaps?  :)  Thanks so much for sharing - you gave me a lot to mull over!

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