What is intelligence?

In response to this week’s task, in the online course, What future for education, I have responded to the following questions:

· During your own education, how has your “intelligence” been assessed?
· How has this affected the educational opportunities you have been given?
· What judgments have people made about you that have been affected by an assessment of your “intelligence”?
· Do you consider yourself to be a “learner”? why?

I can remember, upon starting high school in the mid-70s, that we had to sit an IQ test. Our result determined the level we went into for the rest of our schooling. I was judged to be at a B level (there was A, B, C, D and possibly some ‘lower’ classes as well), and while it was possible for some students to be at the A level for some subjects and B level for others, I was a pretty bog-standard B all round.

My sister was in the year above me and she was in A for most of her classes. She had to work really hard to maintain that A level, so for me, being in the B level was great because I could coast along, getting by without having to do much work or work under any kind of pressure. My teachers all wrote ‘Sharon could do better’ on my reports each year, but I didn’t feel the need to do any better.

One way being in the higher classes affected my educational opportunities was through the teachers we had. Those students in the ‘lower’ levels had the poor teachers, the ones who resorted to yelling, or who took students outside a lot, or who didn’t have to plan much work for their students because their students were thought to not be capable of doing much academic study.

The teachers those of us in the A and B classes had were switched-on teachers, teachers who knew their stuff, teachers who were invested in our academic learning. It meant that we did more academic work and therefore were more prepared for university or further study than those in lower classes, who were destined for trades and the defence force.

One group of people who have judged me as intelligent is my students. For some, that intimidates them. This disturbs me greatly, but I have never felt the need to dumb myself down, for students or for those men who are also intimidated by my ‘intelligence’.

I do consider myself to be a learner. I love to learn — to explore ideas, multiple perspectives, philosophies, how things work. I am curious about the world, particularly the world of ideas, and read widely, like to discuss and share ideas with others, and ask (lots of) questions. I like to make sense of things … and in that way I learn.

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