Intelligence Theories in Education

What is a theory? [A hypothesis to explain something]

Deficit Theorists of the Past (Cultural &Genetic)

Genetic Theorists claimed some people are less intelligent. Studies cited the poor and immigrants as those less intelligent. (Darwinian Theory)

Original Scholastic Testing proved the point that certain groups were less intelligent and justified social status and placement

Cultural Deficit Theory blamed social, cultural or economic environment (Engelmann & Bereiter)

Modern Deficit Theory: "The Bell Curve"

STATS from the Bell Curve

Richard J. Herrnstein, Ph.D. Psychology, Harvard University

Charles Murray, Ph.D. Political Science, M.I.T.




Criticism of the "Bell Curve"

It is irrational to consider the differences in IQ scores between [cultural] groups relevant... In other words, within a group everyone faces similar things (cultural teachings, traditions, and values) and so is expected to perform similarly. Between groups, there are differences in the things they face. Each group has own traditions and values.

For example, Eskimos are highly educated on differences in snow types. They consider this an essential thing in their culture and way of living. Does it mean that, because they give more importance to snow types than to solving arithmetic problems, they are not intelligent?

Each group gives different values to individual things.

It’s like comparing apples and oranges

Cultural Difference Theory (Erickson)

Micro-ethnography: micro elements that affect learning

Cultural Ecological Theory (Ogbu)

Macro-ethnography: focuses on the larger social influences which create differences. (ie. social class, immigration, historic oppression, etc…)

Autonomous Minorities: culturally distinct, but culture is not devalued in society.

Cast-like Minorities: Brought to the U.S. involuntarily, such as through slavery or colonization. May experience what is called "secondary cultural differences" from prolonged contact with a dominant culture that is different. This can create resistence.

Immigrant Minorities: Came to U.S. voluntarily and may experience less hardship or need for resistence.

What do you think?

Multiple Worlds Theory

Idea that every student exists in multiple worlds of values, norms & beliefs

Each student has a different level of negotiating or not negotiating the differences in each world

Takes a macro and micro approach

Multiple Worlds Theory (Phelan, Davidson)

Ways Students Cope with Multiple Worlds

Type 1 - no cultural differences, no negotiation needed

Type 2 - some cultural differences, negotiation easy

Type 3 - major cultural differences, negotiation hard, but managed. May become bi-cultural or assimilate.

Type 4 - major differences, negotiation hard and not managed. May drop out.