該如何讓自己變得「更加聰明」?How do we become “smarter”?

“How can one become ‘smarter’? This is a question that some students have posed to me. The answer, in my opinion, is rather straightforward: Learn from others. If we persist in solitary efforts, how can we possibly enhance our intellectual capabilities? Without guidance, challenges, or a collective pursuit of greater objectives, growth is unlikely. If your aim is to become more intellectually adept, consider collaborating with those who can facilitate your progress.


The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), a concept introduced by renowned Soviet psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky (1896-1934) in the early 20th century, underscores the importance of learning from and with others. The ZPD refers to the range of tasks an individual can accomplish with guidance and assistance, but not independently. It exists between what one can achieve independently and what one can achieve in collaboration with others.

「近側發展區」(ZPD)是一個強調學習他人並與他人一起學習的重要概念,由著名的蘇聯心理學家維高斯基(Lev S. Vygotsky,1896-1934)於20世紀初所提出。ZPD係指個體於指導及幫助下所能完成(perform)的任務(tasks)範圍,惟仍無法獨立完成(complete)。其介於主體在獨立作業下所能完成者(實際發展程度)以及在他人協作下或將達成者(潛在發展程度)之間。

ZPD emphasizes the significance of social interactions and collaborative learning. Vygotsky contended that interpersonal relationships, cultural tools, and social contexts heavily influence cognitive development. In this context, adopting the following four actions can facilitate transcending one’s ZPD and consequently becoming ‘smarter’:


📌 1. Scaffolding: This is a teaching method that provides temporary support to learners, enhancing their understanding or skills. As learners become more proficient, the support is gradually withdrawn, allowing them to complete tasks independently. This technique enables learners to surpass their own ZPD and enhance their cognitive abilities.


📌 2. Collaboration: Working with peers or more knowledgeable individuals helps learners extend their own ZPD. Through interaction and exchange of perspectives, all parties can acquire new knowledge, skills, and strategies. This kind of collaboration fosters active learning and enhances understanding.


📌 3. Mentorship: A mentor plays a crucial role in helping learners transcend their ZPD. They can be a teacher, a parent, or any experienced individual. Through feedback, encouragement, and suggestions, mentors assist learners in building on their existing knowledge and developing new skills. This mentor-mentee relationship promotes personal growth and cognitive development.


📌 4. Purposeful Practice: Undertaking challenging tasks—those slightly beyond a learner’s current abilities—can help extend their ZPD. By intentionally performing these tasks under guidance and with assistance, learners can gradually develop the skills needed to complete these tasks independently, thereby boosting their overall intelligence.

有目的的練習:執行具有挑戰性——略微超出學習者當前能力——的任務,有助於他們拓展自身的ZPD。在指導與協助下有意地執行這些任務,學習者得以逐步發展出獨立完成這些任務所需的技能,從而提升自身的總體智力(overall intelligence)。

However, the concept of ZPD is not without criticism. Some critics argue that it is difficult to assess and quantify ZPD in practice. The boundaries of the ZPD might be blurry, making it challenging for educators to assign appropriate tasks to learners.


While these criticisms have merit, as a general principle, ZPD can provide a useful framework for supporting and assisting learners. By focusing on tasks that are just beyond a learner’s current abilities and providing appropriate assistance, educators can help learners surpass their ZPD. Through this research, learners can also understand the importance of learning from and with others. By scaffolding, collaborating, receiving mentorship, and practicing purposefully, individuals can effectively transcend their ZPD and become ‘smarter’ over time.

這些批評確有道理,但作為一個泛論(general principle),ZPD仍可在支撐與協助學習者等議題上提供有用的架構。藉由聚焦於恰好超出學習者當前能力的任務,並提供適當的協助,教育者得以幫助學習者突破他們的ZPD。透過這些研究,學習者也能意識到向他人學習以及與他人一起學習的重要性。透過腳手架教學法、合作、指點迷津以及有目的的練習,個體可以有效地突破自身的ZPD,並且隨著時間的推移而變得「更加聰明」。

In my personal experience, while independent learning and work are absolutely necessary for success, working with others—especially those who challenge me—is equally important. I can gain new knowledge from them, learn different ways of completing tasks, and view the world from various perspectives. If I were to stick to my solitary efforts, these gains would not be realized.


So, let’s move forward together in the pursuit of collective learning!”


Image credit: UW 華盛頓大學圖書館