The ZPD and Chat GPT as a Co-Advisor in Scientific Guidance

29 May 2024


(1) Fabiano Villan, Universidade Luterana do Brasil (ULBRA), Curso de Licenciatura em Física;

(2) Renato P. dos Santos, Universidade Luterana do Brasil (ULBRA), PPG em Ensino de Ciências e Matemática (PPGECIM).



Theoretical Framework

The ZPD and Chat GPT as a Co-Advisor in Scientific Guidance


Results and Analysis

Conclusions, Acknowledgements, Author's Contribution Statement, Data Availability Statement





In the contemporary educational landscape, Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) has generated significant discussions when combined with technological innovations such as ChatGPT to enhance learning and evolve pedagogical mediation. It is therefore essential to observe the practical manifestation of this combination in the contemporary educational setting, with ChatGPT serving as a co-advisor in scientific guidance. Over the years, pedagogical mediation has undergone a metamorphosis, with technology increasingly playing a role in enhancing learning. When introduced as a coadvisor, ChatGPT becomes an embodiment of this evolution, acting as a technological extension of the human educational mediator and offering students perspectives and insights that transcend their current capabilities. This combination has the potential to broaden the ZPD for both students, allowing them to tackle more advanced concepts with appropriate support from teachers, and teachers themselves, enabling them to address more complex topics than they could independently.

In the educational context, ChatGPT acts not just as a mere virtual assistant but as a technological extension of the human educational mediator, assisting both students and teachers in expanding their horizons. It can clarify complex concepts, provide insights for research, and more importantly, collaborate in the co-advising of learning projects. Such integration resonates with the fourth General Competence of the National Common Curricular Base (BNCC) of Brazil, which emphasizes the adoption of technologies in education (Brazil, 2018).

However, despite significant advancements in Artificial Intelligence in Education (AIEd) providing educators with a range of new tools, there is growing concern about their impacts. The need for an ethical approach becomes evident when considering the increasing interaction between humans and AI in the educational context. While there are ethical guidelines for AI, guidance specifically aimed at basic education in Brazil is still in its infancy. According to Adams et al. (2023), analyses of recent guidelines revealed indispensable ethical principles such as Transparency and Pedagogical Suitability. The focus of the ethical use of these AI tools should be on the accuracy of information and the development of students' critical thinking.

Yet, it is crucial to understand that the advent of ChatGPT does not diminish the central role of the educator. Instead, it serves to enhance and complement teaching, aligning pedagogy with Vygotsky's principles of social and mediated learning. AI serves as a tool for technological mediation, not as a substitute for the teacher. Teachers play a critical role in guiding and interpreting the information provided by ChatGPT, tailoring it to the specific needs of the students. This promotes deeper and more meaningful learning.

A study by Borges and Borges (2018) on the practice of teachers as advisors in scientific guidance in basic education reports various challenges. Indeed, the process of teaching and guidance requires from the teacher specific knowledge and competencies, which are often unconscious but indispensable for successful teaching. These skills are mobilized during the teaching and guidance process and are crucial for Science Education (Gil-Pérez & Carvalho, 2001; Borges, Rita, & Vitérico, 2022).

Thus, AI applications like ChatGPT, when used appropriately, acting as technological mediators, allow students to advance beyond their individual abilities, expanding their ZPD. Through interaction with ChatGPT, students can approach more challenging topics, explore new perspectives, and expand their understanding.

Santos et al. (2020) discussed the difficulties faced by teachers in attempting to implement active methodologies such as Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in public schools. Two of the main obstacles identified are the lack of time for teachers to plan their actions using these differentiated methodologies and the need to guide students on topics beyond their expertise.

When asked, ChatGPT itself highlights some of the reasons why teachers may feel uncomfortable with this pedagogical practice (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Initial dialogue exploring challenges in scientific guidance in primary education.

Translation Note:

The primary challenges faced by teachers when conducting scientific research include:

  1. Access to resources: One of the main challenges is access to basic resources for conducting research, such as equipment, materials, funding, and access to relevant data sources.

  2. Specialized knowledge: To conduct quality research, teachers need specialized knowledge in their area of study, which can demand years of academic training and practical experience.

  3. Time management: Scientific research requires a significant investment of time and energy, which can be particularly challenging for teachers who need to balance their teaching duties with their research.

  4. Collaboration and networking: Scientific research often requires collaboration and networking, which necessitates efficient communication and coordination among colleagues.

By integrating ChatGPT with Vygotsky's ZPD, a dynamic platform is created where students are guided toward deeper levels of understanding. However, this approach not only benefits the students. It also reflects on the development of the teacher, resulting in a symbiosis of learning.

Nevertheless, it is notable that in some situations, teachers manifest resistance to guiding research groups that exceed the limits of their training area. This challenge is further heightened when discussing the incorporation of emerging technologies, such as ChatGPT, into education.

However, amid this discussion, the figure of the teacher as a technological mediator emerges as a vital bridge between technology and student learning. This teaching role emphasizes Vygotsky's ideas, reinforcing the importance of pedagogical support in merging AI with educational practice. By adopting and integrating technology as a co-advisor, the teacher not only overcomes initial barriers but also enhances their teaching methodology. The ability to learn to learn, intrinsic to the teaching profession, assumes a central role in this context. This learning to learn is, therefore, also a learning by doing, in John Dewey's classic formulation of pedagogy.

This perspective is also supported by Perrenoud (2000), who emphasizes the need to work through problems and projects, proposing complex tasks and challenges that incite students to mobilize their knowledge and, to some extent, complete it. This presupposes an active, cooperative pedagogy, open to the city or neighbourhood, whether in urban or rural areas. Teachers must stop thinking that teaching is the core of the profession. Teaching today should consist of designing, fitting, and regulating learning situations following active and constructivist pedagogical principles.

By embracing technology as a co-advising partner, the teacher demonstrates an openness to constant improvement and professional development. This ability not only reflects the essential adaptability of modern educators but also fosters the idea that education is a joint journey, where teachers and students evolve together.

The collaborative interaction and pedagogical mediation, central to Vygotsky's ideas, take on a new dimension in the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach with the aid of ChatGPT in guiding independent study. As students work in teams to solve complex issues, ChatGPT takes on the role of co-advisor, offering insights and encouraging the teacher and students to explore beyond their individual capacities, expanding their understanding through interaction with technology.

In summary, at the confluence of these approaches, an environment emerges where pedagogical mediation, both by the teacher and by ChatGPT, becomes essential for the active construction of knowledge. Vygotsky's principles, when incorporated into the PBL methodology and interaction with ChatGPT, not only guide the investigative journey but also highlight the importance of the teacher's intentionality in creating a space for discovery, collaboration, resilience, and mutual growth.

This paper is available on arxiv under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 DEED license.