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1 March: Intelligence etc.

3 March 2011

From the Reading groups:

Some of the reading you had done was about re-visiting themes we had already touched on, so the nature/nurture debate came back, with particular reference to intelligence, and you had discussed whether “intelligence” is a single quality (general) or whether it is multi-factorial with components which can vary independently of each other–a view which is most clearly represented by Gardner’s “multiple intelligences”.

The more general point which arose, however, concerned individual differences, and their extent. This is of course central to the “inclusivity” agenda which LLUK made so much of. It took us into the realms of aptitude testing and neuro-diversity, including dyslexia, and back again to multiple intelligences.

The presentation:

  • Most of what I said is touched on at: whereyou will also find a range of onward links, specifically including the Flynn effect, and a brief mention of Gardner.
  • the “Flynn effect”; discussed at and in this more popular account
  • The two different forms of thinking identified by Hudson–“convergent” and “divergent”–are discussed here.
  • The distinction between Gf (fluid intelligence) and Gc (crystallized intelligence) originates from Cattell in 1967. As the initials suggest they are both seen as aspects of Spearman’s g factor. There is a brief summary here (which should address the query on one of the post-its). At the time of writing  the Wikipedia article was pretty sound, but of course you can’t rely on it. The original reference is Horn, J. L., & Cattell, R. B. (1967) Age differences in fluid and crystallized intelligence. Acta Psychologica, 26, 107-129.


In terms of ideas to use, one of you mentioned using Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence on parenting courses. Yes indeed; I’m a little doubtful about the “branding” of fairly common-sensical qualities such as self-control, self-respect, deferred gratification and the like as EI, and the invention of the so-called EQ, but the idea does provide a hook to hang lots of observations on, and to inform practice in such teaching areas. Of course, how to share the idea is a little problematic–it’s not generally a phrase I would use directly. “You know the trouble with you is, you’re lacking in emotional intelligence!”…

There were a couple of notes about convergent and divergent thinking, and how to strike a balance between them. I’m not sure that it is a matter of that; if you use Kolb’s cycle as a model of the learning process you will see that he links divergent thinking with the reflection stage of the process, and convergent thinking with moving towards experimentation, see here. Allowing for greater use of one or the other approach according to discipline, that suggests opening up and encouraging divergent thinking in the early part, and closing down with convergent thinking as you get to the stage of actually doing something different. We may want to return to this next week.

Devising ways of promoting divergent thinking in class is not always easy; some of my preferred techniques, you have been subject to, such as these. By their very nature, however, such exercises do not have predictable outcomes, and therefore tend to fall foul of the obsessional compliance-mongers who pass for managers and inspectors in education nowadays. (And, to be fair, always have.)

For next week:

Before we move on to humanistic approaches, there is the little matter of “learning styles”. You already know where I stand on them–if not, it’s here. But there is one body of useful and respectable research on learning strategies which we should take seriously;

Deep and Surface Learning

  • See for a quick outline with further links.
  • PROSSER M and TRIGWELL K (1999) Understanding Learning and Teaching: the experience in higher education Buckingham: SRHE/OU Press. (They argue that a teaching style focused on information transmission is more likely to promote surface learning.)

The Humanistic tradition

One of the most plugged humanistic models, for adult education, is Malcolm Knowles’ notion of “andragogy”: literally “teaching men”, see;

Back at the ranch, have a look at this article by Knowles himself; don’t you find it deeply patronising?

If the radical approach is taken seriously, then it suggests that adult education can transform lives, and that is indeed what Jack Mezirow and his followers explore; see

And for an overview of adult learning theory in context, see

Guidance for the assessment:

We discussed how you might tackle the assessment, and covered a fair amount of ground. But among the point which came up were:

  • This (and all subsequent Units) is different from Unit 1. It has less ground to cover and more opportunity to engage with the material in more depth.
  • If you look at the LLUK outcomes, they are all variations on the theme of using ideas about learning and communication to inform inclusive practice in a) preparing b) “delivering” and c) evaluating teaching.
  • Do take the Submission Proposal seriously; it can avoid serious hassle later. And do see me to discuss it; e-mail is acceptable but it is second-best.
  • Start from what you do. Tell the story of your practice, with your learners in your setting; discuss how you arrive at what you do. Dig beneath the surface a little and you will find the ideas we have looked at, just ready and waiting to illuminate your practice.
  • Don’t on the whole start from the theories and then try to force them on your account of practice. Sadly, I know that for some of you that is how your curricula are constructed and you are stuck with them. You know that doesn’t work–you don’t have to adopt that model here.
  • If a theory or idea is not relevant or doesn’t work, explain why and move on. There is no obligation to cover everything we have talked about.
  • See
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