The role of intelligence in education: What we know and what we’re still learning

What sort of role does intelligence actually play in education?

It’s a question that people have been trying to answer for some time…

So what do we know about it already and what are we still learning?

Here’s all you need to know! 

What is meant by intelligence? 

Let’s start by exploring what is actually meant by ‘intelligence’.

First things first, have you ever called someone intelligent or been called it yourself?

Maybe someone told you that you have a high level of intelligence when you were younger, or maybe it was the opposite.

It’s generally seen as something people either have or they don’t. 

You see, we like to label people as intelligent or not… and it’s a label we usually give to people who have contributed great things to society.

Steven Hawking, Leonardo de Vinvi and Isaac Newton are among some of the people who are considered the most intelligent to have ever lived.

It’s fair to say they’ve all contributed great things that have advanced society and changed the course of history. 

But what is intelligence?

Simply Psychology offers one definition of intelligence. They write:

“Intelligence has been defined in many ways: higher level abilities (such as abstract reasoning, mental representation, problem solving, and decision making), the ability to learn, emotional knowledge, creativity, and adaptation to meet the demands of the environment effectively.”

Meanwhile, Your Article Library adds that intelligence isn’t easily defined in terms that are universal. In a post about intelligence, they add:

“According to dictionary definitions, intelligence may mean either the power of understanding, the intellect as endowment, the capacity to know or comprehend, or mental acuteness.”

As if that’s not enough, Britannica suggests:

“Much of the excitement among investigators in the field of intelligence derives from their attempts to determine exactly what intelligence is. Different investigators have emphasized different aspects of intelligence in their definitions. For example, in a 1921 symposium the American psychologists Lewis Terman and Edward L. Thorndike differed over the definition of intelligence, Terman stressing the ability to think abstractly and Thorndike emphasizing learning and the ability to give good responses to questions. More recently, however, psychologists have generally agreed that adaptation to the environment is the key to understanding both what intelligence is and what it does.” 

And one more just for luck, ScienceDirect explain:

“The concept of intelligence goes back to the Latin verb intellegere, meaning the acquirement, processing and storage of information. From this point of view, intelligence is restricted to the cognitive, mental abilities of the human being.”

So, we know there are multiple understandings of what intelligence actually is…

…But there are patterns in what is being said. 

From these definitions, I understand intelligence to be rooted in being able to comprehend, problem solve and make decisions, and, as Simple Psychology says, for the ability to learn.

In terms of learning, let’s take a closer look at the role between intelligence and education. 

What is the relationship between intelligence and education?

Now, this is not the first time someone has asked what the relationship is between intelligence and education…

…And it won’t be the last!

While there are things we know about the role of intelligence in education already, there is a lot that is unknown. 

Wikipedia explains that this relationship has been the subject of study for a long time. They explain:

“The relationship between intelligence and education is one that scientists have been studying for years. It is correct to say that higher level of education leads to greater level of intelligence and also true the other way around, however, it does not apply for every situation.

“So what sort of studies have been conducted and what have they shown?

“A study done in Germany proved how education did affect the intelligence of students and proof of intelligence affecting education was seen in the military, where people with lesser intelligence were observed to have a slower learning speed and benefited less from education. 

“Typically if maternal and paternal IQ is high, it is very likely for the child to have a high IQ as well. A study conducted by Plug and Vijverberg showed that the environment that a child grows up in also affects his or her future academic performance. The children that were raised by their biological parents had a greater similarity in terms of intelligence and academic performance to their families than those raised by foster parents. Another study was conducted by Campbell and Ramey to test the socioeconomic effect on intelligence and it showed promising results for children at high risk of academic failure when there was an early intervention.”

It’s fair to say that, from the studies, we can see that there is a correlation between education affecting the intelligence of students. 

…And that a person’s environment affects them along with their parents’ IQ scores. 

In my opinion, it’s interesting to consider that intelligence leads to higher levels of education, while education also leads to more intelligence. 

It seems as though it is incredibly dependent on the individual, and the factors that surround them.

The studies aside, I personally feel like through my desire to pursue higher studies, I’ve expanded my intellect. 

These days, I feel like I can retain more information and get my head around concepts that I would have never imagined I would have!

I would say that higher studies have had an effect on my intelligence – if intelligence is defined as abstract reasoning, problem-solving and the adaptation to meet the needs of the environment effectively.

You see, I feel like I have expanded my ability to make sense of abstract frameworks and ideas, and to wrap my head around complex topics. 

I feel like I can solve problems like never before.

Now, these weren’t things I was doing before going into higher studies…  

Of course, this is just my personal experience and I didn’t measure my intelligence before studying… But it certainly feels like it has expanded since enrolling into higher studies.

What is the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and education?

Something that people are now turning their attention to and learning about is the role of AI in education. 

You see, this is still a pretty new thing to the landscape of education so there’s a lot that people don’t know. 

However, Unesco explains

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to address some of the biggest challenges in education today, innovate teaching and learning practices, and accelerate progress towards SDG 4. However, rapid technological developments inevitably bring multiple risks and challenges, which have so far outpaced policy debates and regulatory frameworks.”

What this will look like in practice is still unknown… Yet there is no doubt that it will radically change the landscape for education.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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