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Must We Measure Intelligence?

Must We Measure Intelligence?

Children learn in their own way. I strongly support this theory.

As an integration aide, I concentrate on individuality. I promote persistence to my struggling learners and motivate them to try their best.


Like Howard Gardner – who promotes eight types of intelligence in his Multiple Intelligence Theory – I believe intelligence is unique in every person. Unfortunately, our learning standards often expect a particular intelligence that some children just don’t have.

Sure, we create individual learning programs for struggling learners and of course it is necessary to teach them the fundamental aspects of writing and arithmetic. I also concur with measuring their progress in order to create new strategies for them to learn. At the same time, I believe we should look for their gifts and remind these children as often as we can, that they have them.


Since 1869, we have measured intelligence by Hereditary Genius, Mental Age, Intelligence Scale and Intelligence Quotient (IQ)


How sad for the world if future John F. Kennedy’s, Richard Branson’s and Albert Einstein’s lose their determination before they can succeed? These men collectively experienced learning difficulties like Autism and ADHD and would have probably scored poorly had they been intelligence tested; fortunately they were exceptionally determined people. This validates the concern that our fixation on measuring intelligence can have a detrimental affect on our children and their motivation.


Teaching to children’s learning types is being implemented in Australian classrooms. Fortunately, we realise that children can be visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners. However, for some purposes we still use a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring intelligence. Unfortunately, this has the potential of killing the spirit of struggling learners who hold less information than our testing methods deem acceptable.


To realise the talents of struggling learners, we must first stop expecting an unrealistic result. However, it’s important to acknowledge what they can do, which is often very impressive. I can recall several occasions when the children I was teaching taught me a thing or two. They are generous, funny and they have a nurturing ability that other children relate to. It’s essential that we question their abilities, but it is imperative we remember that each child is unique in what they can do.


Children are ideal teachers for children, as demonstrated by Mildura West Primary School during their kids teaching kids days – a whole school project that underpinned the contribution of school children to environmental care. Surely, we recognise that children have power to influence others, and struggling learners are no exception. Perhaps I dream too large, but I believe that by encouraging the unique talents of struggling learners and nurturing their determination to try, they will pay it forward to struggling learners. Eventually, a new genre of intelligence will manifest itself.

The teaching world is full of useful techniques, strategies and measurements – Cognitive Behavioural Training and MAPS, to name a few. These methods have proven successful in developing learning goals and tactics. However, each child has their own experiences, psychological makeup and competence; yet the ‘all rounder’ intelligence test – Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – has cemented itself into our society. How important is it anyway?

It takes a village to raise a child – parents, teachers, relatives and friends, all have the power to make a difference. Together, we can make the ultimate difference, by measuring what is really important, the essence of our children to discover it is multifaceted. And yet, we continue to determine intelligence based on the Wechsler Scales: verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed. This leaves children who do not fit this model feeling like failures.