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Intelligence and Learning

This week Elly Vandegrift is a guest blogger. She’s  a new TEP staffer who is also a study skills instructor with the Teaching and Learning Center here at the University. Her dual appointment gives her great insight into the student side of the teaching/ learning relationship.

How do you define the “smart” students in your class? What characteristics do you associate with this label? Is this label necessary or appropriate? Do students ever surprise you with their abilities? Carol Dweck, a research psychologist from Stanford, argues that intelligence is not a fixed trait. The Chronicle of Higher Education reviewed some of her educational studies over the past 40 years where she has demonstrated that in many instances a student’s “intelligence” is malleable and can be affected by a variety of circumstances beyond the content in the classroom. She is continuing her research looking at students in higher education and the factors that may affect learning.

How can you apply these ideas of malleable intelligence in your courses? Your classroom can be designed as a place where students can explore their abilities, face new challenges, and better understand the ways that they learn. In many of the courses in TLC, we ask students to learn about multiple intelligence theories and start to explore their preferred ways to use information and solve problems. When students learn how they best learn material, it helps them to feel empowered to take control of their own learning in and out of the classroom. In your course design, it is helpful to remember that our courses are filled with a wide diversity of students who each learn, process, and present information in different ways. Providing opportunities for a diversity of students to shine by including a variety of activities throughout the term can create a powerful and positive learning experience for everyone.

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