(Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes)
It was Vygotsky (18961937) who coined the term “zone of proximal development” (ZPD): the distance between what a student can do on their own and what they can accomplish with support.
How do we know where the students are on the continuum?
Here are some strategies to gather feedback on whether the assigned work is too easy, too hard, or jusssst right (Goldilocks, 1837). The most obvious approach would be through questioning, asking students directly, however some students could feel embarrassed if they are identified as struggling. A more lowkey approach is the use of visual indicators such as coloured cups on desks, three fingers or coloured tags. These are a very quick way to test the waters.
A strategy that gives teachers more time to reflect on their students' readiness for learning is to use Google Forms. This is a survey I created based on Vygotsky’s zones of proximal development that you can copy and customise to your needs.
Here is some real student data.






 The part of the lab i had the most trouble with  This task took me _____hours to complete. 
Student 1  I get it straight away  I have to think  This is basic  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  Sussing out the equations for the first time  3 
Student 2  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  equations  24+ 
Student 3  I know some things  I have to think  This is basic  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  Converting the numbers to make my graph correct  3 
Student 4  I know some things  I already know how  This is basic  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  Finding the gravity value  3 
Student 5  I know some things  I have to think  This is basic  I'm cruising  I'm on my toes  Success takes little effort  Keeping motivated enough to finish it  34 hours 
Student 6  I get it straight away  I have to think  This is basic  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  ...  2.5 
Student 7  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  Working out a value for g  3 
Student 8  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I'm frustrated  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  Formulas  8 
Student 9  I get it straight away  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  Success takes little effort  the equation work  2 
Student 10  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I'm frustrated  I'm angry  I feel challenged  The graphs, which caused issues with the maths  3 
Student 11  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  Finding the slope and then using the slop to find the value of gravitational acceleration.  ~4 
Student 12  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  Success takes little effort  percentage errors, graphs  few hours 
Student 13  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  understanding why we did the 1/h vs t^2 calculations  3 
Student 14  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  I feel challenged  Discussion  4  5 
Student 15  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  Success takes little effort  Applying equation to the graph/results  ~2.5 
Student 16  I know some things  I have to think  This takes persistence  I hit some walls  I'm on my toes  Success takes little effort  Calculating the 1/h, the slope and graphing them  1 and a half 
Student 17  I know some things  I already know how  This is basic  I hit some walls  I'm bored  Success takes little effort  big errors  1.5 
The above survey was of a formative assessment (assessment for learning) that had good parity with the summative assessment (assessment of learning). By identifying students requiring more assistance in the formative work, allowed for task adjustments such as more scaffolding or stretch goals in the summative task. The survey also showed the class as a whole needed more explicit teaching of the mathematical underpinnings of the experiment.