Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I Learned Today: What if Intelligence is not Fixed?

Many of us grew up with the notion that intelligence, being smart, is a set thing in our brains.  We're either smart or we're not.  We look around us and see some people are smarter, some can do math easier than us, some seem to do well in all subjects.  We had the notion that if we had to work harder, then we weren't as smart as someone who didn't need to work like we did.

But what if this is wrong; what if we can get smarter?  What if I helped my students see that if they get something wrong, it isn't because they are stupid, it simply means they need to work harder, ask for help, practice more.  If students accept this notion of intelligence, then getting smarter is under their control.  Intelligence as a set characteristic is a tendency of the West, while intelligence as pliable is an Eastern tendency (Japan, China, Korea, etc.).

Here's how I've adapted Willlingham's cognitive principle: [Students] do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work (p. 170).  Willingham blends both Eastern and Western notions of intelligence.

Why do intelligent people not succeed? (lack of motivation is one reason....).