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Chapter 3: What's Your Zone?

Vygotsky introduced the concepts of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The former refers to the "reach" of our learning and the latter to the "boost" others can give to that learning. 

ZPD follows the "Cinderella Rule". Learning happens best when it is just right. Not too difficult and not too easy. To stretch ourselves professionally we don't need a "perfect fit", but one that is a "bit tight", a little uncomfortable. Something we can stretch into. In your professional learning, if at some point you aren't frustrated or confused or unsure: if it is too easy, you are probably confirming, not learning.

That is why we recommend you take the UDL Assessment we designed to help you find your "just right" spot to begin.

That being said, Goldilocks could have benefitted from an MKO (perhaps a legal consultant :) 

What's exciting about being an educator, and working collaboratively with colleagues, is the idea that we can be both a MKO and be supported by one. The idea of "Rotating" MKO" roles so to speak. There is always some knowledge or skill we have that can support others. And there is always someone who can help move our understanding forward. So reach out and connect with us. We'd love to support you and learn from you! #DiveIntoUDL

Apps and Resources

Ferris wheel. Text reads: Your PLN can act as a roatig More Knowledgeable Other. Find support #DiveintoUDL Give Support

Pause and Reflect

We've compiled the pause and reflect questions from the book into a Google Doc. 


Feel free to make a copy and work inside the document, or record your thoughts using another form of media. 

Chapter 3 - Pause and Reflect


Much of our professional growth can be attributed to the social construction of our learning. As we plan, design, and present with our peers, each of us steps up to support others’ learning, and in turn are supported by others’ when we needed it. We experience a sense of a rotating More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) (Vygotsky, 1978), which creates a synergy, where we create and learn, beyond what we could achieve alone. Although it can happen with peers face-to-face, the pandemic has proven that the connections can be just as powerful when they are virtual.

Dive Into UDL (page 22)


Wade In

What is a PLN?

A PLN is often called a personal learning network, sometimes a professional learning network and even a personalized learning network. Regardless, they are opportunities to connect, share and grow your practice.

This video encourages you to jump in and get started. There is also a link to an article "From PLN to Practice: Tips from 5 Educators on Personalizing Your Professional Learning" that provides lots of advice for getting started.

The article answers five questions:

  1. How do you define the term "PLN" for teachers? And how are PLNs different from more traditional PD?

  2. For teachers, what's the biggest benefit of having a PLN?

  3. Any advice for teachers who are just getting started with an online PLN?

  4. How important is Twitter when it comes to teachers' PLNs? What are some other PLN options?

  5. Any advice on how teachers can go "from PLN to practice"? In other words, how do you take the ideas and inspiration you find online and put them into practice in your classroom.


Shallow Swim

Learning for the Future - Professional Learning Communities

This video nicely describes a Professional Learning Community. It is professional learning in action beyond the individual. 

The problem with PLCs are when they become too prescribed or top-down driven. Again, this needs to be supported but not driven my administration. Everyone in the PLC is a "MKO".

Think about how you can start these learning conversations with your peers. Perhaps not as formally or cross-grade as represented in the video, but with your own grade or division level. To get started consider the three ideas explained in this article from ASCD - First Steps in Forming a Professional Learning Community


Deep Dive

It's About Learning Needs

"What ultimately makes something learning is the extent to which there's permanence in the change; it's a change that's with us forever..."

In this video Dr. Katz explores the need for strong alignment, where student learning needs inform teacher learning needs, which in turn informs leader learning needs.


Dr. Katz notes the process (collaborative inquiry) is the same for each group - student, teacher, leader. Only the focus of the inquiry is different. 


In the case of educators that focus is urgent student learning needs. 

Consider creating a flow chart or top down tree to explore one or two urgent student learning needs. Make the focus or top the needs of the student connecting how that impacts the learning needs of the adults in the building (and beyond). From there build out questions and start to build out your inquiry process to change practice and make it permanent.

Dynamic Learning

Connecting Student Learning and Educator Learning

This document contains a plethora of information and thought provoking questions as you work with others to build out collaborative inquiry that changes practice. 

One key aspect of the document that stood out was the need to be flexible: that instructional strategies and indeed frameworks are their as guides, not rigid structures. UDL emphasizes this both in intent of its framework and in the design of instruction. Both are designed with variability in mind. 

The questions below are just some of available questions within the document that could be used to spur discussion and help you engage with others in professional learning and collaborative inquiry. 

Three kinds of knowing ...

  1. Knowing our students as learners by engaging in rich, wide-ranging classroom assessments.

  2. Knowing ourselves as learners by engaging in classroom-embedded inquiries that connect to student learning needs.

  3. Knowing what matters in the classroom by identifying the important challenges of practice for students.


Three guiding principles ...

  1. Purpose guides the way (frameworks and models are just constructs).

  2. You frame the space based on student need (where students work and learn).

  3. Context is key (enabling an adaptive response).


There is no final certainty, so ...

  • Look for patterns in your own thinking.

  • Tune in to the questions that student learning and colleagues’ comments have raised.

  • Consider what new perspectives have been provided.

  • Ask whether instructional practices have been effective. For which students? What new educator knowledge is needed now?

Pie chart labeled Collaborative Thinking: Three Kinds of Knowing, with three sections. 1. Knowing our students as learners by engaging in rich wide ranging classroom assessments. 2. Knowing ourselves as learners by engaging in classroom-embedded inquiries that connect to student learning needs. 3. Knowing what matters in the classroom by identifying the important challenges of practice for students.
Join the conversation on Twitter

How can you build and extend your professional ZPD for #UDL? Reach out and connect with us at #DiveIntoUDL.           You’ve just expanded your professional ZPD! Together we truly are learning catalysts. @ISTEConnects

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