Traditional Intelligence in Education

BECAUSE THE TRADITIONAL understanding of intelligence assumes that our ability to learn and do things comes out of a uniform cognitive capacity, some researchers began to experiment with the possibility that such an intelligence would be fairly easy to measure - and thus be very useful in assessing students in order to place them at an appropriate academic level. At the turn of the century, the educators of Paris asked psychologist Alfred Binet to formulate a test that could be use to analyze a child's intelligence in order to uncover his or her weaknesses. The Intelligence Quotient, or IQ test, was thus born.

Though Binet's IQ test (now known as the Stanford-Binet Test) was originally used to discover a student's intellectual shortcomings (and thus used as a guide to tutor them appropriately), it quickly caught on in the US as a way to rank students as more or less capable in school. With an average score of 100, a student who scored a 131, for example could be placed in a gifted program, while another who scored 81 could be placed in special education. Though there was some reservation about coding students by a test-determined score (why, for instance, was a 131 acceptable for a gifted program, while a 127 was not?), the IQ test went on to become a near-national standard.

The measuring of raw intelligence with tests continued in all areas of education. One of the most famous examples is the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT. The SAT, which analyzes a student's mathematic and gramatical abilities as well as reading comprehension and vocabulary, is used by nearly every college in America to help determine whether a student is qualified to enter that institution. Because it is assumed that the SAT can predict future achievement, certain scores could automatically dictate whether a student was in or out of a prospective program.

To this day, American education is dictated by the student's scores on a battery of intelligence tests, from kindergarten through university. Advocates of traditional education continue to push this paradigm of Uniform Schooling - an educational system based on national standards and efficient, cost-effective assessment in the form of multiple choice, number two pencil exams. Against this long-lived convention, though, many researchers, educators, even parents, have expressed reservation that such tests do nothing to judge a student's potential - they merely demonstrate that a child is or is not good at standardized tests. Students should not be judged by what they cannot do, but what they can do, and education should focus on bringing out the individual's potential. Until recently, this view was considered utopian and unrealistic, but now a new theory of learning and intelligence has finally forced educators and policymakers to reconsider the pedagogical methods of the last century - the theory of Multiple Intelligences.

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