May 4, 2014
Intelligence is a much more interesting, democratic, and dynamic process than a lot of people realize.
There’s a dangerous but all too prevalent misconception that some people are born intellectually gifted (and the rest of us aren’t). From this perspective, traditional models of gifted education make good sense. All one has to do is figure out who has the extra dollop of intelligence, call them ‘gifted,’ and segregate them with each other in order to give them special educational experiences. Under this misconception about the nature of intelligence, the best way to ascertain whether a person belongs to the gifted category (or not) is to administer an intelligence test. The resulting score—an intelligence quotient or IQ—is then interpreted as being stable over the person’s lifetime.
The more that’s being learned about the brain, however, the more that cognitive scientists and neuropsychologists are emphasizing the dynamic nature of intelligence and the diversity of developmental pathways that lead to gifted levels of competence and achievement. Ability is spread much more broadly across the population than the demographic distribution of IQ scores would suggest, and is much more amenable to environmental influences like family life and day-to-day experiences.
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April 24, 2014
Spending more time outdoors, preferably in natural settings, may be the simplest, healthiest, and most economical remedy for the terrible increase in numbers of children diagnosed with social, emotional, and learning problems over the past two decades. It may also be the answer to many problems suffered by adults in our increasingly rushed, technology-focused lives. And on a global scale, there’s evidence that more people spending more time in natural spaces would contribute to solving the environmental challenges that are increasingly disrupting our lives.
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March 18, 2014
Parents can help their kids find their own particular kind of genius by encouraging their sense of wonder in the ordinary. You may or may not want your child to be a genius—an exceedingly rare and extraordinarily high achiever in a particular field—but you can help him develop his intelligence, creativity, and talents, by ensuring he has enough time for unstructured play and daydreaming.
In The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents, William Martin wrote, “Do you have agendas for your children that are more important than the children themselves? Lost in the shuffle of uniforms, practices, games, recitals, and performances can be the creative and joyful soul of your child. Watch and listen carefully. Do they have time to daydream? From your children’s dreams will emerge the practices and activities that will make self-discipline as natural as breathing.”
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March 1, 2014
We all know people who can’t do math. They’re better to take the easy math courses and drop out of math as early as possible. That’s what most North American teachers and parents think should happen, and that’s what usually does happen. The kids become adults who ‘can’t do math,’ avoiding careers they might otherwise be interested in, often passing on their ‘poor math genes’ to their kids.
In his Junior Undiscovered Mathematical Prodigies (JUMP) program, John Mighton has demonstrated that everyone can do math, even kids labelled ‘slow learners’ or ‘learning disabled,’ even those who are many years behind their age and grade in mathematical achievement.
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April 6, 2013
Unstructured playtime is an essential part of developing many dimensions of intelligence and creativity. And if that playtime happens outdoors—preferably in a natural setting, even if it’s a small urban park—that’s even better. Outdoor playtime opens up a world of possibilities for kids that can expand their imagination, stimulate all their senses, and free their spirits in ways that structured indoor activities and screentime can never do.
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November 26, 2012
Neuroscience is one of the most exciting frontiers in our world today. Discoveries are being made that can transform our understandings of learning, teaching, resilience, and recovery from trauma. The concept of neural plasticity, for example, with discoveries of the extraordinary capacity of a brain to find work-arounds and continue developing across the lifespan–in spite of any previously diagnosed limitations of a person’s potential–supports optimism and continued efforts for parents and educators committed to the optimal development of all children.
But there’s a lot of opportunistic misinformation, toys, electronic games, and gimmicks for sale being dressed up in the guise of neuroscience. Daniel Willingham suggests care in buying into stuff and educational practices that proponents describe as supported by neuroscience–currently there’s a lot more junk than treasure out there being called ‘neuroscientific’:
October 24, 2012
Geneticists have been working for years to identify the genes that account for intelligence, but have so far been able to account for only 1% of IQ differences among people. In a New York Times article called, ‘If Smart Is the Norm, Stupidity Gets More Interesting’, David Dobbs suggests genetics researchers may have been looking for the wrong thing. Instead of intelligence reflecting more or better genes for intelligence, high intelligence might instead be a lack of stupidity.
Dobbs cites Kevin Mitchell, a developmental neurogeneticist at Trinity College Dublin, who has proposed that instead of thinking about the genetics of intelligence, we should be trying to parse “the genetics of stupidity.” His argument is based on the premise that the genes for intelligence are fixed, and that what actually varies is individuals’ ‘mutational load’–the number of mutations each person carries, which varies widely. The fewer the mutations, and the higher the developmental stability (the accuracy with which the genetic blueprint is built), the better an individual person’s intelligence is able to develop.
From this standpoint, the genetics of intelligence are better stated this way: the less unstupid a person, the smarter she is.
David Dobb’s New York Times article:
Kevin Mitchell’s blog, ‘Wiring the Brain’:
Thank you to Rebecca McMillan and The Brain Cafe for posting David Dobbs’ article!