As I said yesterday, Robert Sternberg was the keynote speaker for the National Assocation for Gifted Children conference parents day. (“parents day” means that there were sessions targeted to parents and parents could come at a lower rate, though regular “professional” sessions were also scheduled for that day, and the keynote was for all attendees)
Some points from the speech. I must apologize in advance, as I am sure there will be times that I do not get a point exactly right, or when I have already melded my thought to what I heard in the speech without being aware. I should also say what I wish I had recognized from the outset of the speech, which is that Dr. Sternberg speaks from the perspective of a university dean, which is to say that he has been most concerned with identifying those students most likely to do well in college and after college.
And another thing: I felt that Sternberg moved back and forth from “standardized tests” like SAT, GRE, ACT, to IQ test without a lot of differentiation, which makes some of his remarks problematic. I don’t think anyone considers the SAT an intelligence test, do they? In any case, I can’t really correct for that slipperyness in my notes, so I’m raising the flag and plowing ahead with his words.
— All societies find ways to measure, create standards, and stratify. In US society, for a long time, money and “last name” were the means for stratifying in education. Standardized tests were developed as a response to this unfair system, so that potential university students could be judged by something other than money or family.
— Problems with standardized/intelligence tests: we don’t know for sure what we’re measuring. There is no single definition of intelligence, so it is hard to measure.
Sternberg did an extended and funny bit on making height our new social stratifier, because we know what it is, it measures the same way on every instrument, you can’t cheat or buy it, and it’s the same every day
He used this analogy to lead into his point that whatever we make our standard for measurement, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we adopted the “height standard,” soon short people would be poor and hopeless, and the president of Harvard would be 7 ft. tall. He said that this problem was behind ideas like the Bell Curve
–Sternberg and his collaborators worked to develop a different instrument to measure a broader definition of intelligence. His project, the rainbow project, is not an alternate IQ test, but was developed as a supplement to the SAT/ACT for college admissions. The hope was that the test would identify a broader swath of able students from more diverse backgrounds.
— Sternberg model identifies three skill areas: analytical, creative, and practical. (click on rainbow project above for more detail on how each is tested.) Among the interesting parts of this discussion that made me think of Patience’s post on valuing different forms of intelligence:
— One aspect of the creativity section was oral (not written) storytelling, a section that tended to favor Native American students.
— Different cultures have different values that are born out in the skills that people develop. According to Sterberg, Asian cultures tend to value cognitive competence, while Hispanic cultures tend to value social competence (“practical intelligence,” on Sternberg’ test). That is, a “smart person” in each culture would be one who demonstrates high skills in the valued area.
— Often tests that show increases in predictive ability (tests where the score is an accurate prediction of how the student will fare in school and in the workforce) also increase the differences between races as well, because of that “self-fulfilling prophecy.” The Rainbow Project, on the other hand, not only showed an increased predictive ability over the SAT (as far as success in college) but also decreased differences among racial subgroups.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? I think I’ll save my concerns for the next post, as this is long enough!