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Current Educational Controversies in Intelligence

} Nature vs. Nurture } General vs. Specific } Measured vs. Unmeasured } Unitary vs. Multiple } Academic vs. Non-academic

Nature vs. Nurture

Nature vs Nurture Debate

} Nature: genetic contribution to behavior. } Nurture: environmental contribution to molding behavior. } There is a false dichotomy in popular discussions in which traits are considered to be genetically or environmentally determined.

According to Galton the idiom nature and nurture is a:

Convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence that affects him after his birth. The distinction is clear: the one produces the infant such as it actually is, including its latent faculties of growth and mind: the other affords the environment amid which the growth takes place, by which natural tendencies may be strengthened or thwarted or wholly new ones implanted. (Galton, 1874)

Nature vs Nurture Debate

that gene expression is modified by environmental inputs and that the impact of the environment on a given organism is modified by its genome. Genes set the boundaries of the possible; environments parse out the actual. -NATURE VS. NURTURE - WORLD PSYCHIATRY. 2005 FEBRUARY; 4(1): 38.

Nature vs Nurture Debate

} In reality, all traits are the product of gene-environment interactions. } Environmental or genetic differences among individuals can lead to differences in development and finally differences in behavior.

It is as futile to ask how much of the phenotype of an organism is due to nature and how much to its nurture as it is to determine how much of the area of a rectangle is due to its length and how much to its height.

General vs. Specific

Heres a true story: An older family friend once told me about attending a symphony performance a number of years ago in Princeton, New Jersey. Having settled in her seat, my friend was anticipating the start of the performance, but she gradually became aware of an older man shuffling back and forth down the aisle beside her. He stopped at several occupied seats, thinking they were his. The man was clearly confused as to where he was supposed to sit and, in fact, it turned out that he was in the wrong aisle altogether.

As my friend watched an usher finally show him to the correct seat, the person next to her turned and said, Thats Albert Einstein. The story points out something weve all probably realized about intelligence: you can be brilliant and yet not be very smart.

Its what were usually talking about when we identify someone as smart: having a lot of common sense, interested in a lot of things, able to learn new things quickly, capable of thinking about a lot of different things, able to make sound judgments in many situations. People who study this subject call this type of intelligence g. The g is an esoteric, scientific/technical, jargony term that refers to general intelligence.

The other kind of intelligence is almost always more specific.

} Mozart wrote a symphony when he was 5. } A man grows up in a hut in India, teaches himself mathematics, and publishes highly abstract, theoretical papers. } An autistic child carries a highly detailed, very accurate map of his city around in his head. } A woman is able to watch a train go by and tell you, weeks later, the serial numbers of all the boxcars she saw.

General Intelligence is the ability to think about ideas, analyze situations, and solve problems. It is measured through various types of intelligence tests. Currently, through research, psychologists have identified several types of mental abilities that make up intelligence: Verbal Intelligence; Non-verbal Intelligence; Concrete Reasoning ; and Abstract Reasoning. Most recently, educational psychologists have been developing further theories concerning the complexity of intelligence, as in the theories of multiple intelligences. These theories even further define specific types of abilities that fall under the umbrella of intelligence: Verbal Linguistic; Mathematical Logical; Musical; Visual Spatial; Bodily Kinesthetic; Interpersonal; Naturistic; and Existential.

Measured vs. Unmeasured

Intelligence can be measured in a number of different ways, the most common one being the famous intelligence quotient or IQ. However, like many other aspects of the field of intelligence, there is much debate and disagreement over the correct way to measure intelligence and each method has its supporters and critics.

Early Methods
Scientists first began to measure mental ability in the late 19th century and because no formal measures existed, the subjects were evaluated on their fame, judged by encyclopedia entries, honors, awards, etc. Since these seemed to run in families, it was concluded that intelligence had a hereditary component. Gradually, the assessments improved and people began to be judged on their intellectual ability via skills such as reaction time, sensitivity to physical stimuli and body proportions. While these factors seem outlandish by modern standards, they are important as they represent the first attempt measure intelligence quantitatively and study individual differences.

The Binet-Simon Test

Two psychologists, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, developed the first intelligence which accurately predicted academic success. It was developed to help teachers determine which children had true learning problems, as opposed to behavioural issues or simply poor previous education. Binet and Simon based their tests on practical knowledge, reasoning, memory, vocabulary and problem-solving and found them to be good predictors of academic success. The key premise to their test was the assumption that all children followed the same course of intellectual development but developed at different rates; thus children were given a mental age which corresponded to their ability to perform tasks appropriate for that certain age.

Alfred Binet
it was to serve as a guide to identify children in the schools who required special education. its intention was not to be used as a general device for ranking all pupils according to mental worth.

the scale, properly speaking, does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.

The IQ Test

This quotient was also first proposed for children, using the formula of the mental age divided by the chronological age, then multiplied by 100. Which would mean the 7-year-old described above would have an IQ of

[(10/7)x100] = 142

Jean Piaget, was

the father of cognitive development, to defining intelligence in terms


of the number of items answered correctly on a so-called intelligence test.

Intelligence is an encompassing term. Many people feel that intelligence includes such attributes creativity, persistent curiosity and success.

James Watson discoverer of DNA -have an IQ of about 115 (about the IQ of most college students)

We cannot measure intelligence when we have not defined it.

-Walter Lippman, journalist (1920s)

Implications for teaching

The implication for teaching is considerable, insofar as these abilities relate to different ways of absorbing information and learning: I like diagrams, for example, and find them useful and concise ways of expressing ideas, but they may well baffle others. For some people, an argument expressed in words may be incomprehensible, but express it in the notation of formal logic and it becomes clear at once. None of these people is in absolute terms brighter than another, but is more intelligent (or more responsive or more stimulated?) in certain modalities.

Another implication is that teachers should structure the presentation of material in a style which engages most or all of the intelligences. For example, when teaching about the revolutionary war, a teacher can show students battle maps, play revolutionary war songs, organize a role play of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and have the students read a novel about life during that period. This kind of presentation not only excites students about learning, but it also allows a teacher to reinforce the same material in a variety of ways. By activating a wide assortment of intelligences, teaching in this manner can facilitate a deeper understanding of the subject material.