A broadened view of intelligence

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has given high priority to a broadened understanding of intelligence and found that problem-solving skills broader than the traditional conception of intelligence are markedly different from the traditional proficiency in maths, science and reading.

Looking at the broader implications of this on the existing education systems, teaching and instruction should focus more on cognitive flexibility, problem-solving and aspects of intelligence that are amenable to change.

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Problem Solving

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Conflicting definitions of intelligence

For decades, scientists have investigated intelligent and less intelligent behaviour. Many definitions of intelligence, sometimes even contradicting each other, have emerged as a result.

Despite the differing views among scientists, we do know that intelligence affects life outcomes. In education, several programmes have aimed at increasing intelligence among students with disappointing results.

The fundamental question is if one can teach intelligence. If we view intelligence as using some basic cognitive abilities for efficient information processing, it is probably impossible.

Other definitions of intelligence include problem-solving and decision-making, planning, strategic exploration, testing hypothesis and correcting them.

  • Teaching students strategies to increase self-monitoring and evaluation when problem-solving.
  • Using teaching methods that help with a deeper understanding of the structure that underpins new problems.

The methods boil down to providing students with as many active problem-solving learning opportunities as possible.

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There is no standard definition of intelligence

Present approaches suggest that intelligence means having the capacity to:

  • Learn from experience: this relates to the acquisition, retention, and use of knowledge.
  • Identify problems: to use your knowledge, you should have the ability to identify possible problems that need to be approached and solved.
  • Solve problems: you need to be able to use what you have learned to come up with a proper solution to the problems you have identified.

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IDEAS

Learning theories develop hypotheses that describe how learning takes place.

The major theories of learning are the following: 

  • behaviorist theories 
  • cognitive psychology 
  • constructivism
  • social constructivism 
  • experiential learning 
  • multiple intelligence
  • situated learning theory and community of practice.
Fluid vs. Crystallized intelligence

In the intelligence field, there is a distinction between:

  •  "fluid" intelligence (indexed by tests of abstract reasoning and pattern detection);
  •  "crystallized" intelligence (indexed by measures of vocabulary and general knowledge).

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