What Is Intelligence?

Intelligence is what intelligence tests measure. 

That quote, (and its variants), has been around for a long time. In 1983 Dr Howard Gardner developed his theory of Multiple Intelligences, because he felt that defining a person’s intelligence with an I.Q. test was far too restrictive. Under a “one test fits all” model, a fish would feel quite stupid because it can’t climb a tree. Even Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences are limited to seven types, still possibly leaving a fish to feel stupid. On a positive note, Gardner opened up a pedagogical paradigm which is often known as Individual Differences. 

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and others published a framework for categorising educational goals and behaviour, known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. This framework has been used for decades by school teachers and tertiary instructors. The base of Bloom’s Taxonomy requires an individual to have knowledge. Remembering is the starting point to further learning. At this level a student would need to be able to define, duplicate, list, order, recognise and recall. The final step of the taxonomy is create. For a student to be at this level, he or she would need to be able to design, construct, develop, formulate and investigate.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow developed a model of motivation and needs. This is known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Basically this model is built on the theory that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. The five step model starts at physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep etc. Once this need is met, advancement to the next step can occur. The final step in this hierarchy is self-actualisation – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, etc. (Interestingly, Maslow stated that only one in one hundred people reach the self-actualisation step.) Since the original model was proposed, others have added three further steps to Maslow’s Hierarchy.

By combining Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences with Bloom’s Taxonomy, an educational matrix was introduced that allowed teachers to cater for each child by having forty-two different assessment tools for the one concept. Teachers have spent countless hours trying to construct meaningful lessons that combine Bloom’s Taxonomy with Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. (Refer to pictured example.) A third dimension, Maslow’s Hierarchy, deepens the complexity of teaching and learning.

Within a context of differentiation and social justice how does a “one size fits all” National Assessment Program recognise the uniqueness and ability of each and every student?

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