Of Intelligence and Success
“Eh ano ngaun kung UNO ka, Engg ka ba?” says one of UP Yabang shirt. I was riding a jeep on my way to class and I happen to read such a ‘strong’ statement. It brings back memories of the time I was struggling as an engineering student. We have this dreaded subjects that to get a grade of 3.0 makes you the above average student. To get a higher grade means you are ‘out of this world’ and to fail is just normal. Looking back, I realized that it is not all about grades. What actually matter is the ‘better’ person that you have become as a result of your learning experience. Surely, grades will give you an advantage, but it will not define your success forever! J
So we ask, what is intelligence? What abilities constitute it and how is it acquired? Many authors tried to define intelligence but I come to an agreement with the composite definition from Perkins. He says that intelligence is a combination of the ability to 1) learn, 2) pose problems, and 3) solve problems. Moreover, he argues that each of us can become more intelligent through study and practise, through the use of appropriate tools, and through learning to make effective use of these tools.
We can say that a person is intelligent when he is able to use his brain while learning from experience, education, and training. I do think that to recognize problem situation indicates higher intelligence as concepts or knowledge are transformed into meaningful relations. To integrate all these learning and come up with a ‘product’ or solving difficult problems will again indicate high(est) intelligence. However, I am not yet convince that one can measure intelligence accurately. A high IQ test result does not necessarily mean high intelligence but only an indicator of academic success.
I too believe that intelligence is acquired from both hereditary genes and environmental factors. The debate on nature versus nurture is still on-going. But for me, I say that gene (nature) plays a role in determining intelligence up to a certain level. The remaining influence will have to be that of the environment (nurture). Like I said, I agree with Perkins that one can enhance intelligence, and that is through having favourable environment for learning. A nurturing environment would mean having the resources to have quality education, loving and caring family, well provided needs and even wants, healthy lifestyle, to name a few.
How do theoretical perspectives on intelligence vary?
Binet and Spearman were among the first to develop mechanism for testing intelligence. They believe that a person’s intelligence can be measured. Hence, Binet introduced the concept of mental age that was used in evaluating children that were in need of academic assistance; while Spearman used factor analysis to examine mental aptitude test. He found out that people who perform well on one cognitive test tended to perform well on other tests. Hence he concluded that intelligence is a general cognitive ability that could be measured and numerically expressed as a single factor, a.k.a g factor.
On one hand, both Thorndike and Stenberg associate intelligence with adaptation or our ability to change in response to our environment. For Thorndike, he suggested that behavioural associations (connections) could be predicted by that he describe as the Law of effect and Law of exercise. These laws basically talks about behavioural responses a result of a stimulus applied. As for Sternberg, he also defined intelligence as a form of purposive adaptation to real-world environment. Moreover, he proposed that three different factors make up what he calls ‘successful intelligence’. These factors are: 1) analytical intelligence, 2) creative intelligence, and 3) practical intelligence. The last factor refers to the ability to adapt to changing environment.
On the other hand, there are those who proposed that intelligence cannot be expressed as single factor but there is actually different (distinct) form of intelligence. Among those were Stenberg (successful intelligence, 3 factors), Perkins (IQ has 3 dimensions), Gardner (multiple intelligence, 8 distinct), and Goleman (emotional intelligence).
Now, here is what I have to say. I agree with the importance of devising a test that can give measurement of certain abilities like that of IQ and g factor. The intension (to help identify those who need extra assistance, or to evaluate mental development) of such test is noble. However, test result should only serve its purpose and not be misused.
Among these theories, I am inclining to follow and support Perkins. I also believe that our intelligence is made up of three components namely 1) neural, 2) experiential, and 3) reflective intelligence. I like how he mentioned that our neural intelligence is affected while in the womb (pre-natal care). And that experiential intelligence is the accumulation of one’s expertise. He said that people who live in nurturing environment have higher intelligence. And lastly, reflective intelligence makes effective use of both the neural and experiential intelligence. I think this reflective intelligence is the most important because a person can actually develop a habit of mind. What more? It can be learned and be improved. I think this is what we call critically reflective practice that is useful for both learning and teaching.
How do different theoretical views about intelligence affect the ways we teach or learn? As a learner, our views and beliefs about intelligence affect the way we approach learning. If we believe that through disciplined study and rigorous practice, and the use of appropriate tools and different learning strategies, we can do better at understanding concepts and enhancing our knowledge, skills, and aptitudes. Similarly, as a teacher, our belief that intelligence can be enhance will make us more creative and innovative in finding ways and means to provide for a nurturing learning environment for our students to optimize their learning experience.
Eh ano ngayon kung matalino ka, maligaya ka ba? This question I think is more appropriate for me. Intelligence is important in our learning journey but it should not define our level of success. Instead, we always strive to do better every time we study or seek to learn. This brings more joy and contentment as we continue to embark on our learning expedition. 🙂