Professional Learning Teams and Triads will refer to Vygotsky’s work around the Zone of Proximal Development - that is the notion that learning occurs within a social context of conversation and thinking skills and can only occur beyond an individual’s Zone of Actual Development. According to Vygotsky, learning occurs only in the Zone of Proximinal (potential) Development.

He contends that if a learner can complete a task independently and unassisted then learning is not occurring. In practice this means that we learn best when we start from what is already known and are assisted with scaffolding to work to the unknown.

The implications on the way we structure our teaching or professional learning are that initially modelling occurs, the strategy is explained, the learner is assisted by a more skilled leader to use the strategy, and then the learner uses the strategy independently. The team then move to the next phase of development.

The role of the professional learning teams and teaching triads is to be aware of each individual’s ZPD and then to lead development within a social context rich in oral language. It is neither a learner centred nor teacher centred approach. The learner is led through the use of scaffolding to gradually being able to complete the targeted task independently, resulting in improved student outcomes.