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Average intelligence

Posted on 2011-02-12
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If one accepts that approximately 50% of the population are at or below 'average' intelligence, does it make sense to attempt to educate them in the same way as those who are above average intelligence?
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Question by:patrickab
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by:Jerry Miller
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Teaching everyone in the manner in which they learn the best is the real challenge in education. No you can't teach everyone as if they at the same level. In my experience, if you have 20 people in a class, there will be 4 or 5 above average, 4 or 5 below, and everyone else will fall somewhere in the middle. On the first day, I gauge the knowledge and expectations of the class by asking them.

I sometimes teach adult education computer courses and generally try to teach to the middle. It is difficult to challenge the upper level people while not leaving the slower learners behind. You should have some extra work available for the faster paced students or have them tutor the slower ones. The tutor develops a stronger understanding of the subject while increasing the knowledge of the others. I use this when it seems that the middle group has trouble with a concept that must be repeated several times.
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by:Anton74
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I would observe that "average" would logically fall somewhere near the 50% mark, but it can be a moving target - if everyone gets more intelligent, the average goes up also, but still staying around 50% (not necessarily exactly 50%, which would be denoted by the median).

Second, intelligence is not the same as knowledge. I think some degree of training to increase intelligence is possible, but not to a very large degree normally. Generally people don't go to school or other training to gain intelligence, but some specific knowledge and/or skill(s).

Part of Mirriam-Webster's definition of intelligence is "the ability to learn or understand" - this logically means that those with lower intelligence can't learn in the same way (or at the same pace) as those with higher intelligence. Some things, such as advanced math or other science - may not be obtainable without having a certain level of intelligence (ability to understand it) in the first place.

So based on that I think it does not make sense to educate people with significantly different levels of intelligence in the same way.
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by:patrickab
ID: 34880607
>I think some degree of training to increase intelligence is possible, but not to a very large degree normally.

I think you must be alone in that belief. Intelligence as in IQ does not change with education and training.
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by:Observer_123
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I t is posible to increase not only the education level, but the intelligence also - with some simple exercises, koncentration and meditation - with regular practice. There is scientifically proven, that meditation can activate specific brain centers. But this kind of practice for now may be is not very applycable for wide use in schools, atleast for  most of them.
Some except is the Waldrof pedagogy - for example in Holland , Europe exists around 70 schools based on Rudolf Stainer's Waldrof pedagogy - and this - sponsored by the goverment!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_education
http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/02_W_Education/index.asp

so question is not only to the peoples and theit intelligence level, but to metodology, in which they are trained.
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by:macuser777
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I think assumptions about 'average intelligence' are a very dodgy area. The type of teaching and the way knowledge is imparted are crucial to the formation of 'intelligence'.

As an isolated example, at school I was friends with a kid who consistently did poorly in mostly lessons. Not the lowest in the class but hardly ever in the top half. He left school with poor exam results at 16. But he had a natural 'high intelligence' in other areas like music. He worked with famous pop bands for a while and then later for a career tried programming. And he took to it like really well. He moved from the UK to San Francisco where he lives and works happily, intelligently, as a software engineer. ... When we were at school it was too long ago for computer programming to be on the syllabus. If it had been he might have been one of the top achievers in that subject. Or maybe the school teaching environment wasn't for him. But he showed himself in the end to be someone not of 'average intelligence' though that is how others would probably have labeled him in his school days.

Not necessarily on =grounds of 'intelligence', but I would agree different kids sometimes need different approaches to learn and succeed.
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by:macuser777
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This was a very interesting documentary that showed how 'average' pupils could get motivated and become more successful and even how 'low' achievers could with imaginative but actually quite sensible methods in the classroom reach higher levels of achievement.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/threecounties/hi/people_and_places/newsid_9040000/9040086.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00txzwp
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by:patrickab
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The whole subject of the measurement of IQ is open to question and interpretation. If for example someone has recently already taken a specific IQ test and then re-takes it they will often do better the second time. That suggests that IQ and so measured intelligence can be improved through learning. I'd guess there's only so much of an improvement in IQ that can be achieved but I really don't know the answer to that question.
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by:WaterStreet
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It does not make sense to educate the majority of children the same way.  The only thing that IQ tests measure is IQ -- whatever that means.  The professors told us that in my first psych. class in 1961.  There are all kinds of reasons for children or people to measure differently on IQ tests.  Some have very strong inborn abilities but don't test well for various reasons.  I think a better measure would be a practical one:  Is a student performing above or below grade level?  See below.

I think a big problem with standard classroom education is that (with some exceptions for the extremes) a one-size-fits-all model is generally being applied.  I think the classes should be broken down into two:  For those who are above grade level and those who are below.  Different techniques would be used.  Most teachers would know how to do this, but they are constrained by school systems, unions, crazy new programs that are imposed upon them that come and go, and politics.
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by:patrickab
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In the UK teachers are required to prepare each lesson in such a way as to fully take into account differentiation - ie. differences in ability between the quickest and the slowest learners in the class. This is not a voluntary matter it is a professional obligation on the teachers and it must be in their written lesson plans.
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by:macuser777
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Patrick,

The documentary I linked to above was showed a public school initially operating a long way from the ideal you describe. By the end of the 'experiment' and after a host of new techniques were introduced that ideal was being met. The school chosen wasn't a failing school. It was picked as an example of the common type of schooling available in the UK.
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by:BigRat
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This is the sort of question about which Aldous Huxley wrote many books.

The first thing is not to associate the "below average intelligence" with the dumbest of the dumb, and similarly the "above average intelligence" with the brightest of the bright. There are special schools which cater for these minority groups and correctly so.

Teaching then all may bore thr bright but it will demand the slow - and I see no harm in that. There is no general solution to the problem - even individual teaching has its drawbacks - so one must strike a happy medium. There is a trend these days to be "right" to all people in all situations, as Patrick's comment about what teachers must prepare for. One needs however to see life for what it really is and not chase after fancies. I'd regularly show paedagogics Granada Television's 7Up to bring them down to earth.
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by:CCSOFlag
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When I was going through elementary school, they had a program for the "intelligent" kids.  The different schools I Went to went about this program differently, but in the end it was to challenge those who learned faster and had a higher IQ in different ways.  Then they decided to stop funding this and put us back into the normal classroom to learn stuff we had already learned with the rest of the class.  Fortunately our teacher recognized this after a bit and allowed us to study certain subjects on on our own(together with the other high IQ individuals, but apart from the class).

Jr High and High School had "Honors" classes.  This was the top students in the school who took classes that were beyond what their grade was supposed to be doing normally.  While this doesn't account for the capacity of learning faster, it at least challenges the students in learning something beyond their expected level.

I do not think there is a way to cater to everyone.  I believe something should be done for those who do have the capacity to learn faster, because otherwise they are being held back and never fulfill their potential.  Unfortunately though, in the US it is not unfair to give the more intelligent people more attention, and now there is more money going in to ESL, and low IQ learning than their is high IQ learning.  So they are trying to bring up the low end of the population while failing to improve the high end.  This is where we get it wrong and many other companies like Japan get it right.  The high end is where most of your thinkers and inventors are.  They are the ones who will bring new light to what we know and how we currently live.  Most of the low IQ population really don't WANT to get involved like that.  they are happy with blue collar jobs and just having a family or what not.  This is just general of course, I'm nto saying it's 100% across the board.

But to expect teachers to be able to teach everyone in their own way is absurd.  They do not have the time of capability to do this.  If they want to have separate classes for the same grade depending on how the students learn that's ok (like honors classes vs regular classes), but you can't expect it to happen in the same classroom.
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by:CCSOFlag
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that should say "in the US it is not fair to give the more intelligent people more attention"
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by:patrickab
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In the UK the government wants 50% of the student population to go to university (college). That means that a significant number of students who are just average go to university. To me that doesn't make sense as the only way in which those average students can get a degree is if the passmark is low or the course is inherently easy and not intellectually demanding. That in turn reduces the perceived value of a degree as it is no longer considered to be a particularly significant achievement. So much for equality - when we are not all equal. Equality of opportunity is one thing but equality of ability right across the population doesn't exist.
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by:BigRat
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There used to be a system of Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, which were issued by technical colledges. It seems that the degree is being mixed up with the European "Batchelor", which at most is/was equivalent to the UK's "Ordinary degree". And the honours to that of the masters.

When I went to university in the UK the kids had A-Levels, obtained after doing O-Levels and specializing as well. I remember meeting a girl from Edinburgh who had "Highers", which she nor anybody else for that matter could explain. She had more highers than the English girls and the latter believed that the highers were somewhere between O levels and A levels. What struck me about all of this was how you sorted out who could do what. I just had to pass an entrance examination and my father just had to cough up the fees. At the end of the first year, and each subsequent year, there was an examination and if you didn't pass that you were "sent down" a colloquial term for being chucked out. When about fifteen years ago I went with our mouse to the UK university which she had enrolled in, I was told that everything was different but without actually understanding how.  I got the impression that they had changed everything so that it would not be so stressful, so if you failed at anything you got lots more chances.  In the end she got a first and so I'm not complaining, but I'm sure that with my grandchildren it will be all different again.
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by:CCSOFlag
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Patrick,

It sounds like the UK is following suit with what the US did.  A Bachelors degree means absolutely nothing now.  Literally, anyone can attend a university now or even community colleges to help earn a degree.  The job market is so flooded with bachelors it's no longer an advantage.  It's even getting to the point where a Master's degree doesn't' mean much either.  What I have noticed is more and more companies are looking for experience rather than degrees now.  I don't blame them at all.  If I owned a business I'd rather have someone who has done the job for four years than someone who just got out of college with a degree that doesn't even teach them how to work.

Not to sound mean, but there are seriously some stupid people that manage to graduate with a bachelor's degree.  They are dumb as a rock and even more worthless than one, but yet they have a piece of paper saying they are qualified by a university to have the knowledge necessary to pursue a certain subject.  It's quite sad how the education system has been dumbed/watered down.  It's not longer an elite system of people who earn a degree, but rather those who can find the money to buy one.
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by:patrickab
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CCSOFlag,

That is remarkably similar to the UK. :((

Patrick
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by:CCSOFlag
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Before you know it you guys will be as dumb as us.  :P
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ropenner earned 10 total points
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Question from above:  If one accepts that approximately 50% of the population are at or below 'average' intelligence, does it make sense to attempt to educate them in the same way as those who are above average intelligence?

Yes, No, Yes.  Then an example of the optimal situation.

Yes, since intelligence is how adept some one is at absorbing and retaining information, the means should not vary, just the length of time that each takes to absorb it.  There may be a threshold for a piece of information that makes the length of time prohibitively long.

No, if by 'same way' you mean that the delivery of information is only using one medium (voice, textbook, example, physical repetition...).  Someone with lower than average IQ scores can possibly learn material faster than someone with extremely high IQ scores depending on the medium of delivery.  example:  if the IQ tests were on paper in room (visualizing the test, words and no auditory distraction) and the educating environment is a lecture hall with a speaker, then someone that is an auditory learner may learn the material faster (therefore be more itellegent: able to absorb and retain) than perhaps a visual learner who scored higher on the visual IQ test.

Yes, all people should be treated in the same way and in doing so will thrive.  The 'same way' is the 'really long way' (along the lines of the British education system above), which involves getting to know the subject and letting them tell you through speech, movement, feedback of all kinds how they want to access the information you wish to impart.  

The slowly growing field of assessment would then test the student in ways that are varying as well; rather than pencil and paper and multiple choice exams.  Assessing what the student has absorbed is also lacking in world education systems, because some students that can teach others highly effectively while not score well on existing tests.  The fact that they can teach others makes them valuable to society, yet that value goes unrecognized and the student is left discouraged because adequate means for expressing that knowledge is not part of the system.

example:  To teach pupil X how to dance I first need to know myself how X learns muscle intelligence (Bodily-kinesthetic) the best.  
If they are a
  visual learner,
  auditory learner,
  book memorizer,
  social learner or
  require the muscle repetition to achieve the result.  This can be done quickly:  "listen to this ... here's the textbook ... watch me ... try with your friend"  Whichever of the four they'd rather do is likely to be the one they are best at.

How well X learns in each of these ways can be improved upon but if you are simply trying to impart some knowledge then you need to know how X will absorb and retain it.  If you expect them to absorb it without first doing this then it is insanity or very hopeful :) .  I think in most education systems we just don't expect them to.  We expect them to fail if they don't learn via the medium being used to deliver.

Then to determine if they actually know the dance and can reproduce it, then you could have the options of:

a) perform at a recital in front of the school and community
b) make a personal video of the dance for submission to the instructor
c) write out the dance steps on a piece of paper describing the desired nuances
d) observe others dancing and point out all the mistakes and nuances which don't match the desired dance.

You can imagine how some students would fail miserably in each of the 4 examples, and usually students are not given a choice how they are to demonstrate their knowledge.

This last one is similar to many cases which are not tested for and there are examples where people have been highly effective at areas they would test poorly in.

examples:  

singing teachers ... may be able to teach you to sing and can recognize pitches out of tune (perfect pitch) but can't sing a note themselves, as long as you don't require their personal example as your primary medium of education.  
Many dancers are unable to dance in their older years but can teach some to dance through other means than example.


Optimal Situation:

I agree with the adages:  
1. "Wise teachers create an environment that encourages students to teach themselves"  Students will teach themselves whether you like it or not.  

(multiple intelligences) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences
Imagine a school where there is a book shelf, a movie theatre, a lab for experiments,  opportunity to observe people in real situations, audio books, discussion corners, lecturers, debates, video game corner.

And then imagine a host of teachers saying.  
"You need to know about this _____ (some topic) today, and that same topic can be learned from all venues and mediums described above.  We are here to guide you through this process.  Please choose and medium that you are attracted to and feel free to move amongst the mediums."

That is in my opinion describing an environment close to the ideal and very close to some school experiments being done across Canada (the only ones I am aware of at the moment, and not costing more than others, but require a host of educators with varied intelligences).

Some will play video games non-stop and know everything about that game.  If there is knowledge society wants to give that person, then it will be absorbed if delivered through that medium.

Some will know every lyric to every song.

Some will see and example and mimic it.

Some will read it and recite it.

Some will read it and reference it.

Some will get the gist and build up from first principles without remembering the details.

Some will touch and associate.

Some will empathize and act.

Some will try to help someone else learn it and thus strengthen their own knowledge or finally understand.

The Rub:  We have not trained our current generation of teachers to be as creative, varied, and imaginative, as may be required to guide students in this process.  One teacher may not be able to teach or guide using all mediums, therefore we need a variety of teachers using different means of delivery and assement to educate everyone.

2. "The best teacher is the one that creates the most teachers"   Whether by word or example students are valuable to society if they can reproduce their education in some way for the next generation.
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by:patrickab
ID: 34915404
>Not to sound mean, but there are seriously some stupid people that manage to graduate with a bachelor's degree.  They are dumb as a rock and even more worthless than one, but yet they have a piece of paper saying they are qualified by a university to have the knowledge necessary to pursue a certain subject.  It's quite sad how the education system has been dumbed/watered down.  It's not longer an elite system of people who earn a degree, but rather those who can find the money to buy one.

Sadly true. I have had the misfortune to have colleagues who for some unknown reason were taken on by my employers and those people were so stupid as to beggar belief - even though they had degrees. I would appear that a degree is no guarantee that the holder has any intelligence whatsoever.
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by:dhsindy
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Reminds me of the story of the boy taking an IQ test.

He was shown a picture of a man chopping work and was asked what is he doing?  The boy said relaxing.

He was shown a picture of a man reading a book and was asked what is he doing?  The boy said working.

It turns out the boy's father was a college professor who read when working and chopped wood to relieve stress.
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by:patrickab
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Attention Contributors!

How would you like this question closed? Equal share of points perhaps - even though they'll be few each - (50/x).
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by:macuser777
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As you see fit is fine with me. [it is hard to split 50 points when there are a number of reasoned contributions.)
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by:patrickab
ID: 34933673
Thanks to all for your contributions
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