The Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky) is the knowledge just beyond the child’s present level that can be attained.
Hitting the “zone” is the bliss point of good teaching. Learners are motivated by the belief and confidence that they can move forward to the next step, but if the next step is too difficult and beyond their confidence they become discouraged, frustrated and more difficult to motivate.
Good teachers create a trust by presenting appropriate challenges that extend the learner’s confidence and belief in their ability. This is often called “self esteem”. Success motivates and leads learners to take more risk and greater challenge.
When teachers or coaches demand higher expectations than those in the child’s “Zone” the learning continuum breaks down.