Why are some more successful as learners than others

In order to consider why some children are more lucrative as learners than others it is necessary to consider how success is usually to be defined. This is an especially difficult question as a practitioner in a English secondary school, where two definitions currently persist. The National Curriculum (the statutory framework for education in England) defines successful learners as students who have got certain skills (see appendix A).

This would imply that within English schools children are deemed to be successful learners depending after whether they are suffering from the recognized skills. The skills listed are not specific to any one subject and as such there is absolutely no requirement for learners to complete any traditional academic course. However, English schools are measured and judged by the standards set by successive governments. The current government has decided a school's success will be judged based after their students' performance in specified GCSE subjects (5 A*-C GCSE's including English, Maths, Science, Modern Foreign Language and History or Geography). This evidently shifts the focus within English school from the abilities of successful learning back towards performance in traditional academic subjects.

Within this assignment a successful learner will be regarded as a student who achieves the English Baccalaureate. The writer acknowledges that the government's current definition of success is controversial, not least of all therefore of the inclusion or exclusion of specific courses of study. However this definition seems likely to be at the forefront of educational reform for the foreseeable future and therefore is of specific interest to new practitioners.

This assignment seeks to critically examine the result of theories of intelligence upon the success of a learner. It is acknowledged that intelligence research is an enormous field which therefore this assignment cannot evaluate the full scope of research. The focus of the assignment will remain firmly grounded in the implications of theories within education.

If intelligence, however defined, were the only determining factor upon the success of learners a simple test should be able to accurately predict the educational outcomes for each child round the world. That is clearly not the case. Individual students interact with the world, and therefore, the training system in a variety of different ways. There are numerous factors impacting after this interaction which fall outside of the scope of this assignment. Nevertheless it is important to remember that students' ultimate success at school can be seriously afflicted by factors such as the student's motivation, their cultural background and any Special Educational Needs. By definition, it is clear that the if students achieves the English Baccalaureate does not look at the individual distinctions between learners.

There is no universally acknowledged definition of intelligence. A simple search in the Oxford English Dictionary reveals numerous definitions, supported by quotes within written English dating back so far as the 1300's. The term itself holds a peculiar place within society, its importance is revered and yet its meaning cannot be easily defined.

So what's intelligence? At its most limited definition, "intelligence is exactly what intelligence tests measure". A person's performance on the set on unrelated specified tasks. However in order to look at this definition of intelligence it's important to know very well what it is the fact intelligence tests actually test. At the time that Boring made his statement (1932) his argument was truly circular, neither he nor anyone else at the time knew the actual tests measured.

In respect of the implications of intelligence theories on education tests started out to be developed in France around 1904. Such tests were devised by psychologists such as Binet to predict 'success' within the Parisian School system, to the extent that he abandoned the use of any test which didn't distinguish between your children regardless of its compliance along with his vague and traditional theory of intelligence. Any difficulty. Binet's work had not been based upon any novel theory of intelligence, merely the practical issue of sorting children into those who could and could not perform in a normal school setting. Binet's resulting test was weighted towards measuring verbal memory, verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, appreciation of logical sequences and an ability to state how you might solve the problems of everyday living. A person's test score age was then in comparison to their actual age. This work formed the foundation of Stern's development of the "intelligence quotient".

The success envisioned by Binet and the French Government at that time is very similar to the success required by the current UK government. Therefore such tests will continue to be a predictor of success today. Given Binet's approach to the introduction of his test, it would appear that despite being credited as the creator of the first intelligence test he was in fact the creator of an standardised assessment test.

In recent years there's been increasing concerns above the impact of national tests. Standardised assessment tests have been dropped at Key Stage 3 altogether and reduced to only tests in English and Mathematics at Key Stage 2. This year 2010 many primary schools took the additional step of boycotting the national tests, sending their students to secondary schools with Teacher Assessed Levels. Whilst many argue that teacher assessment leads to improved accuracy than tests that students are extensively prepared, how then could it be the situation that even though many teachers are arguing against the use of SAT tests in UK schools, they continue to use the info provided from intelligence and cognitive ability tests.

The use of intelligence and cognitive intelligence testing within UK schools has increased drastically within modern times. In this particular field there are two main tests which a huge range of students currently sit (CAT and MidYIS/YeLIS). These tests are often used to assist schools in the setting of target grades and ability grouping without the coaching previously experienced in preparation for SAT's. Despite this being normal practice in many schools, it remains controversial. The use of such tests within schools strengthens the view of intelligence and intelligence-style tests as only a method of deciding success in school.

The notion of 'intelligence testing' has been developed considerably in the United States since Binet's original work and is now applied in a variety of different ways, often with terrifying results. The authors from the Bell Curve sparked massive controversy with their work taking into consideration the IQ scores of ethnic groups within the United States. Their work seamed to support the view that intelligence was innate, that it could not be altered and that people with low IQ's caused the issues within society. This has caused massive concern throughout the world and the prospect of this system to be utilized to justify social segregation or worse cannot be ignored.

Whilst it is outside the scope of the assignment to totally evaluate the on-going nature versus nurture debate, it's the author's view that if students can be 'coached' to boost their results on the SAT's tests then it is conceivable that they may be 'coached' to improve their score on an IQ test.

In reaction to the publication of 'The Bell Curve' concern started to grow regarding the limited nature of intelligence, as measured by the 'intelligence quotient', and any cultural bias within the tests. What's valued within a particular culture has massive implications of the development of its people and its own idea of intelligence. The initial intelligence tests were devised with Western school success in mind and early examples contain evidently cultural and socio-economic based questions.

In light of this concerns about the US-centric intelligence research Stern berg sort to consider the implications of culture after theories of intelligence. In his article Culture, instruction, and assessment Sternberg viewed his and other researchers work regarding the impact of culture. The study indicates that; the act of assessment itself can impact upon an individual's performance as different cultures have different expectations of how they'll be assessed, that folks in various cultures may think about concepts and problems in several ways, that performance is improved when the material being assessed is familiar and meaningful to them, that academic skills aren't equally valued in every cultures particularly where certain practical skills and knowledge help them survive in their environment. Whilst researching in Africa Sternberg discovered that lots of the traditional views of intelligence, valued in western society, were often considered 'stupid' in various cultures i. e. it was not the situation that they could not sort the items as required by the test nevertheless they thought that accomplish that was a sign of stupidity. In response to this discovery Sternberg developed his theory of successful intelligence; however it is not the only theorist to critique the current system culturally-loaded approach. Gardner MI "placing logic and language on the pedestal reflects the values of the Western culture and the great premium put on the familiar tests of intelligence. "

These cultural differences can't be forgotten and could serve to highlight a failure on the part of the Bell Curve to research the reasons for the distinctions they identified. In the multicultural society how do we make certain that the tests are appropriate for the students sitting them? It is argued by the writer that without comprehensive research in to the cultural validity of tests such as CAT and MidYIS, their results may lead to students passing up on opportunities whilst could otherwise most probably to them.

Whilst there has been increasing use of intelligence testing within schools lately for everyone pupils, it has often been used to diagnose learning disabilities. What implications for ADHD etc if a wide definition of intelligence have been accepted "adaption to the surroundings". Such tests are often performed by educational psychologists using US-centric test systems. In response to the increasing need to label individuals as 'unintelligent' because of the individual differences, theories began to expand the traditional view. Sternberg the "tendency to conflate scores on tests of intelligence with some type of personal value" (2003b p13).

Many theorists have purported to adopt a wider method of the meaning of intelligence, however few have actually sort to apply this to their own actions or tests. A classic example of this can be found in the works of Wechsler, who gives his name to a very traditional style intelligence test. Wechsler describes intelligence as "the aggregate or global capacity of the given individual to act purposefully, to thin rationally and to deal effectively with his environment" (1958 p7). However his test will not reflect this view. This highlights the difficulty in devising tests which match broader theories of intelligence.

Given the problems associated with traditional theories of intelligence, which all too often focused only on skills that happen to be valued in the particular elements of society, theorists sort to encourage a boarder view of intelligence. Sternberg "enough time perhaps has come to expand our notion and everyone's notion of what this means to be intelligent" (2003b p 69). This is an interesting selection of phrasing. It means that it isn't only theorists which need to expand their notion 'of what it means to be intelliegent' but the public as well.

Sternberg proposed his theory of successful intelligence, backed by international research, to explain why some of the most successful individuals on the planet are not regarded as traditionally intelligent. "An integral aspect of the idea is that success is defined in conditions of someone's individual goals with the context where that person lives, rather than in conditions of more generalised goals that somehow are supposed to apply to everyone. " TFSI

"no matter how well traditional psychometric or cognitive theories take into account performance on intelligence tests, they seem to be not to go much beyond the tests in terms of the ability to take into account intelligence in the everyday world" p. 317

"The triarchic theory is an attempt to take into account, within a theory, what in the past has been accounted for by multiple theories often perceived to be in conflict with one another. " P. 325

"The idea to be produced, then is the fact intelligence is not a single thing; It comprises an extremely wide array of cognitive and other skills. Our aim in theory, research, and measurement must be to define what these skills are also to learn how best to assess and train them, never to figure out ways to combine them into a single, possibly meaningless number. "p. 327

p. 335 beyond IQ "many existing theories of intelligence are incomplete rather than incorrect"

p. 328 "each one of the three subtheories of the triachic theory has received at least some empirical validation and elaboration, although more empirical research and theory development are evidently needed. "

p. 334 " Our research, like that of others, is hindered by having less wholly satisfactory exeternal conditions against which to validate our theories and measures. "

The difficulty with creating a wider theory of intelligence is at what point would you stop? What's included and what is not? Where is the line to be drawn? It would appear that Sternberg believes that within the united states the widening of intelligence has gone too much. "In U. S. society, cognitive skills have grown to be practically equated with intellectual skills- the mental bases of intelligence. This equation is a mistake. " (Sternberg, wisdom, Intelligence and Creativity synthesized 2003b)

On this aspect there exists one theorist who may have been heavily criticised for expanding this theory too far. Howard Gardner seems to have an ever growing list of 'intelligences' each yet another vague and abstract that another, many overlapping along with his previous categories. The main objection which many people have of Gardner is his use of the word 'intelligence' to spell it out what many would prefer to be known as abilities, skills, talents or capacities. In response to such criticism Gardner explained that he realised, "that every of these words harboured pitfalls, I finally elected to use the bold step of appropriating a word from psychology and stretching it in new ways I was proposing an expansion of the word intelligence such that it would encompass many capacities that were considered outside its scope" (1999 p33, 34).

"You can find nothing magical about the term "intelligence". I have purposely chosen it to join issue with those psychologists who consider logical reasoning or linguistic competence to be on another type of plane that musical problem-solving or bodily-kinesthetic aptitude. " (Multiple intelligences) "To call some "talent" plus some "intelligence" displays this bias. Call all of them "talents" if you want; or call the all "intelligences". " "I think of any intelligence as a biopsychological potential. That's, all members of the species have the potential to exercise a couple of intellectual faculties which the species is capable. "

"AFTER I wrote Frames of Mind, I got too promiscuous in the utilization of the term intelligence, and I applied it in areas where it would have been preferable to deploy other terminology. "

Validity of MI "it surveys a multitude of independent research traditions: neurology, special populations, development, psychometrics, anthropology, evolution, and so forth. The theory is a product of the formation of this survey. " "the contention that MI is not theory until the experiments are performed is unwarranted. "

"If other researches, looking at the same empirical data or at new empirical data, were to come up with a list of faculties that were better supported, the existing versions of MI theory would be called into question. If there turned out to be a substantial correlation among theses faculties, as measured by appropriate assessments, the supported independence of the faculties would be invalidated.

Moreover, the idea could be partially disconfirmed on any number of finer points. Perhaps a number of of the prospect intelligences will be found to be inadequately justified predicated on further review. Perhaps there are candidates that I have not considered. Or simply the intelligences aren't practically as independent as claimed. Each of these alternatives can be empirically verified and provides opportinity for disconfirming or reformulating the theory, although regarding certain revision, there might be some utility to the theory itself. "

The author would go as far to convey that Howard Garner has not created a list of intelligences, but yet another set of learning styles. This assertion is supported by the plethora of articles and books written about them in america and throughout the world. The application of the theory to the classroom setting reads in the same way any text on learning styles, talking about having a knowledge of children's individual pattern of intelligences, of teaching in such a way that pupils have access to the information in their preferred way and of developing areas where children may show a weakness.

Sternberg's work is also not immune from such criticism, in his work regarding teaching for successful intelligence also describes the theory in a very similar way to that of learning styles. "The idea of successful intelligence holds that some students who do not prosper in conventional courses may, in fact, be capable of succeed, if they're taught in a manner that is a much better fit with their patterns of abilities. " Teaching for successful intelligence. "One of the most useful things a teacher can do is to help students figure out how to make the almost all of what he or she does well, also to find ways around what he or she does not achieve this well. "

Coffield's work in this area has found that there are too many explanations of learning styles.

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