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Intelligence and Learning in the classroom

Posted by Stephen on February 22, 2007

What does it mean when people say a person is intelligent? What makes one person more intelligent than another? Is it because a person can quote Shakespeare, or add ridiculously large numbers in his head? Is she a great communicator with an arsenal of vocabulary words at her disposal?

Researchers have not provided simple answers to these questions. Research has shown that there is a link between learning and intelligence. Dr. Howard Gardner is an American psychologist who believes that humans have a number of different intelligences that provide incite in defining who a person is. Dr. Gardner feels that, “We have some intelligences that are more developed than others. We also have the potential to develop some of these intelligences more than others.”

It is very important for teachers in today’s classroom to be aware of Intelligent Quotient’s (IQ’s) and the impact of testing, and intelligence levels of students, while working to understand the learning processes that effect a student’s needs.

Intelligence testing is more then 100 years old. In 1904, Alfred Binet was summoned to find a method to differentiate between children who were normal and those that were lower in intelligence. Binet created the Binet Scale. He was specific in noting that the scale was “a general device for ranking all pupils according to mental worth,” and, “The scale, properly speaking, does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities…cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.”

In the early 1920s, journalist, Walter Lippmann felt that intelligence had not been defined, so it could not be measured. The definitions that have been formed say intelligence is made up of the skills of logical reasoning, problem solving, critical thinking, and adaptation.

Unfortunately, Binet’s warnings are being ignored. IQ tests have become so popular that in 1989 the American Academy for the Advancement of Science listed the IQ test among the twenty most scientific discoveries of the twentieth century.

While IQ tests can be a great assessment tool, they should not be the only criteria used to define the intelligence of a student. An

IQ test measures what a person has already been exposed to, not what the capability of the future holds for that person. Dr. Gardner breaks down the perception and understanding of the world in seven different ways, as seen below, each is a distinct intelligence:

Multiple Intelligence

Types of Intelligence=Definition of Intelligent Types

Verbal-Linguistic=Use of words and language

Logical –Mathematical=Inductive/deductive thinking

Visual-Spatial=Visualize images, pictures, and dimensions internally

Body-Kinesthetic=Ability to control body movements

Musical-Rhythmic=Recognize patterns, sounds, rhythms, and beats

Interpersonal=Relating and communicating with others

Intrapersonal=Ability to self-reflect and being aware of ones inter beings 

There are some students that have considerable academic ability, yet fail at subjects in which they should succeed. Other students might not be considered academically bright, but may excel at the challenging game of chess.

It may be impossible to create an educational production-line that will reliably manufacture geniuses, but it is possible for teachers to improve students’ intellectual development. A student with a low IQ, or who is considered an underachiever, may need an open learning environment that is accepting and challenging. Within each specific classroom a teacher needs to involve all students’ intelligent strengths by supplying the opportunity of role playing, musical performance, cooperative learning, reflection, visualization, story-telling, and more.

Teachers need to recognize and understand the different levels of intelligence, and the factors that may influence students learning. Dr. Gardner proposes that in order to have a balance of these multiple intelligences, schools need to require an equal balance of arts, self-awareness, communication, and physical education.

Teachers can help students with a lower intelligence level by developing a set of goals for each classroom activity. Goals propel students to a higher level of educational potential, and build confidence. Learning Stations are a great tool that teachers can use to allow a student to enhance their development.

These working environments are comfortable and effective and supplied with materials that help students complete projects. Stations may be set up for each of the different intelligences. A reading station would be appropriate for the Verbal-Linguistic, a math station for the Logical-Mathematical, music station for the Musical-Rhythmic, etc.

Role-Playing is another example that would be useful in the classroom for different types of intelligences. This example allows the students to understand the different aspects of an event by involving research and presentation. The students use visual aids or create certain characters to explain a lesson. This activity is engaging and it embraces a range of intelligences.

On the other hand, students that are labeled gifted or talented are often bored with the lesson, and may begin daydreaming in class if they are not challenged. It is important for teachers to keep a constant flow of activities and projects. Teachers should encourage students to work together, and individually, to support both their interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences.

Learning Stations would also be a great opportunity for students to enhance educational development without losing interest. For example, the Music-Rhythmic station is an opportunity to listen to music, write lyrics, or interpret what the music means to the individual. The results will vary from student to student, but the teacher will have succeeded in creating a learning environment suitable for all levels of intelligence.

Everybody has the ability to learn. People are learning every day and don’t realize it. It is vital that an educator acknowledge different intelligence levels that exist. It is equally critical that teachers utilize several different approaches to teaching that are new and effective. Educators should accept the fact that there is no such thing as a better or worse approach to learning.

A teacher needs to be aware of their personal approach to learning while still experimenting with different forms of development. Teachers need to encourage students to do the same thing. A student will let educators know what the right techniques are for them.

Teachers can place students in the best position to succeed by realizing that each individual in a classroom, though very different from one another, has the ability to learn effectively.

Stephen Winslow holds a MAEDS and is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.

Copyright 2007 by Stephen Winslow. All rights reserved.

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