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The Truth About Intelligence


Have you ever had a moment when you have had to do a double take? When you’ve had to say to yourself “did that really just happen?” A moment when the shock of what you have just discovered makes you doubt yourself? What about those moments when you feel an overwhelming sense of relief about what has just happened? A moment when the clarity of the world is that little bit sharper because of what you now know?

It happened to me recently and, whilst it felt amazing, it was also accompanied by a huge sense of frustration that this piece of information should ever be a surprise to me or anyone else.

Let me start from the beginning. I am, as those who know me will confirm, a self confessed training geek. I love creating those ker-ching moments when a learner just ‘gets it’; like a lightbulb going off. I am also a Mum of three children who all learn in markedly different ways. Two of my children thrive in a school environment and love going to school. But the other just endures it and comes home to learn at the end of what, to him, is often a tedious day.

Throughout his school career his teachers have described him as very bright, but definitely lacking in focus and not academically gifted. Knowing that he was born missing the part that connects the two hemispheres of his brain, they ‘accept’ that this explains his poor performance. Yet they will also tell me how entertaining he is, about the amazing amount of knowledge he has or the latest joke he has made up (one teacher went so far as creating a little book of Finn’s self-penned Jokes). But very few have ever appeared to question why they struggle to harness that intelligence in his schoolwork.

Amongst the many tests Finn has undergone by the medical people fascinated by his condition are IQ tests. He scored 74 when he was three and 75 when he was 7; so pretty consistent results. Yet if you ask his teachers to guess his IQ level they all put it in the 125-130 range and are gobsmacked to hear his actual score.

So imagine my surprise, my relief and my frustration when I recently read about the origin of IQ tests. Their inventor, Alfred Binet (a French gentleman), did not create them to give us all a mark that defines how clever we are and always will be. Instead he created them to help schools to identify which of their pupils were not benefiting from school so that the schools could design a different approach to teaching them to get them back on track!

Or in other words, IQ tests are there to help teachers to get the best out of all their pupils. 

Be honest, did you know that? I am guessing that those who did are in the minority.

Somehow someone’s perceived level of intelligence has come to be seen as fixed; immoveable. It is almost like the very tool that was created to help people grow their skills and abilities has been hijacked and instead simply labels them.

Yet, just as with Emotional Intelligence (EQ), so IQ can be developed and improved upon. A big part of this is finding the way to learn that suits our skills and abilities. But more importantly is that belief that it is indeed possible; we need to believe that we can learn and improve. If we do, we can quite literally become more intelligent than we were before.

So I will leave you with a question to ponder: How much more effort would organisations put into L&D if everyone knew this to be so? Think about how much easier our jobs would be if they did. My advice? We all need to spread the word!

April 29 2016Frances Ferguson



Frances Ferguson





Comments:
Hello Frances
This was quite an insightful read :)
October 4 2016 Suman Tarway
Hi Frances, this is a very interesting blog. Could you cite your source for Binet, please? I'd like to read further. Thanks, Kathy
July 21 2016 Kathy Rodgers
Hi Frances

This resonates with work of Carol Dweck; been reading recently about an project with 2 groups of school kids. One group A (the ones perceived as more able) were told that intelligence is fixed and another group B(those perceived as less able) who were told that it can develop. Group B performed better.

Deborah
July 6 2016 Deborah Steel

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