Damped and Driven

Malleable Intelligence: A Case Study
December 13, 2007, 10:53 pm
Filed under: School

I remember in training in Houston one of the things they drilled into us was “malleable intelligence”, the idea that that how smart you are is not fixed, but flexible. They told us how we can build investment in our students by telling them that their brains are their most important muscle and that reading is like lifting weights for your brain. Its largely true, although TFA does not take it upon itself to encourage you to explore the anomalies or otherwise ask questions. Turns out common sense prevails- how smart you are is one part intrinsic one part how hard you work.

Anywho, today i think i saw my most compelling piece of evidence for malleable intelligence. It wasn’t some sappy personal story ” I was terrible at math and hated it, but i worked real hard and now i’m studying math in college” or anything like that. It was numerical data supporting the other logical consequence of malleable intelligence: you don’t use it, you lose it.

Students in exceptional ed (special ed) are tested, a lot; theres a lot of data on them. Usually how it works is as the accomidations help them in school, they test better. Some of the test categories are almost like how you’d spec a computer: working memory, processing speed, computation, etc. It should improve as they go through school. Today, looking at the case of a student who is chronically absent, we saw the opposite; the student had missed so much school that they had lost ground. The student had gotten older and less smart, the students specs had suffered- its a terrifying and sobering case. The kids NEED to be here and i have to do all i can.