Is IQ really a measure of intelligence?

For quite a number of years, as a Further Education lecturer, I have had to deliver “Functional Skills” subjects (Maths / English / Employability) to students who have few or no academic achievement. Many have been socially discfunctional and often have had behaviour issues.

In most cases, they have very few skills to offer a potential employer and, as a result, have experienced long periods of unemployment which has further undermined their feelings of self-worth. Perhaps due to social conditions (but not always) they performed poorly at school and this has deterred them from considering further education. Now, that’s fine if you have practical skills you can build on: academia is not necessary for everyone. But, I have found that the hardest thing for these students to grasp is the notion that you can plan for, and take some control of, the future. Setting short / medium / long term goals is an incredibly hard concept for them to grasp, and a study of their time management skills demonstrates that large parts of their daily and weekly schedule is empty, or filled with menial and pointless tasks. The result is very poor planning and problem solving skills. Worse, they cannot identify possible opportunities and feel helpless to improve their own situation.

However, I have come to the gradual conclusion that what hinders these individuals most is their attitude towards themselves and the world in which they function. Quite often, it is their own behaviour and inability to take personal responsibility for their actions (and learn from their own mistakes) which results in low self-esteem and withdrawal from any effort to participate constructively in society. These behaviours and attitudes are often reinforced within their own peer groups, and sometimes through an abusive partner.

My observation is that very few of them have the type of mental disfunction which would prevent them from achieving far higher things should they desire to do so. The main task for me as a lecturer / mentor / facilitator has been to attempt to raise their self esteem and help them see the world as a place they have some degree of control over, and to seek out positive solutions to barriers to their own pesonal growth. This is sometimes referred to as “Emotional Intelligence”.

My point is that I can see that the potential exists, and that they are as capable as any other person who walks this earth to have successful and fulfilling lives (in whatever form that may take). It is how they feel about their place within this world which makes the biggest difference.

So, does having a better than average IQ make me confident, or the other way around? I am passionate about the world around me and love to learn new things all the time. But I don’t think there is any thing I know which I could not teach to my students. It’s how I feel about it that seems to explain the gap.

Now, I think that perhaps there is very little proof of varying intelligence from one person to the next. Many studies have proved that if you want to be an expert at something, then hard work is the answer, and talent has very little to do with it. And yet we continue to lable individuals as “clever”, “stupid”, “gifted”, “slow”, etc, which then impacts the students behaviours and attitudes for the rest of their lives.

Is it possible that someone who records a high IQ in tests has already “learned how to learn”? In almost every case, students I have observed who have failed exams have done so due to lack of study, or through fear and anxiety. Not because they are intellectually incapable. Had they adjusted their attitudes and behaviours, there is no doubt they could have passed. So, failure is no indicator of intelligence, but of behaviour and attitude.

If we put a far higher focus in school curriculums on time management, setting targets, and (perhaps) sociology, then we could see better results. If we acept that we all have similar abilities, and stop using words such as “talented” and “clever” then we can cease brainwashing young students into believing that learning is beyond their ability and take more control of their lives.

Please understand that I am speaking in quite general terms, and that I accept that there is a variation in brian function between individuals, but this is not the same as realising your potential. Our mind is an amazing and flexible tool, which through mental exercise can be made to perform in superior ways. Am I achieving my intellectual potential? – no. Given the right environment and opportunities, could I do better? – yes, of course!

Could you? Do you feel that you are at the limit of your intellectual ability? And if you accept that you have limits, does that then become a self-fulfilling prophesy?

Don’t be so quick to judge others. Don’t limit yourself. You don’t know what you are capable of untill you try, but you need to apply problem solving skills, logic, planning and energy in order to achieve it. These skills can be learned, and are hugely empowering, by anyone who desires it.

Until next time…

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1 Response to Is IQ really a measure of intelligence?

  1. Pingback: Are “high standards” the same as “high achievement”?: part one | Quinn Rose

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