Step 1B: Reflection on Intelligence


Take a moment to reflect on your answer to the poll in the comment section below. Explain how you think about learning new things and the idea of intelligence. Then, read through a sampling of responses from your colleagues to get an idea of how others think about learning and intelligence.


1,329 thoughts on “Step 1B: Reflection on Intelligence

  1. San Fernando High - Mettlen says:

    I am a firm believer in the amount and quality of hard work that you put into something is what you will get out of it, and I apply this logic to learning new things and to intelligence. The more we work at a new skill or idea, the better we will get at it, and the smarter we can become.


  2. Andrea Smith says:

    In my opinion we need to dissect what intelligence is and what is knowledge. A student may seem intelligent, but is not growing in knowledge, or growing in knowledge but not reaching higher DOK levels or Blooms Creativity and Analysis. Is it that learning is to intelligence as ability is to knowledge? I believe there are many factors involved in learning and intelligence. It seems on any other day a student may be on their game answering all the questions, developing analogies, supporting others and the next day questioning how you came that conclusion. We all learn at different paces and different ways. One lesson may be easier because of a certain strategy, or more difficult because the student is not a linear thinker.


  3. Loyda Ramos says:

    I am a strong believer that every human being is able to learn anything they put their effort in. Sure, there are those times when what comes naturally and easier to some may be difficult for others to learn. I strongly believe however, that our brain is a muscle we can train to become stronger. We never stop learning. If someone has a strong sense of a growth mindset, that individual is able to learn anything they set their mind to.

    As educators, it is crucial that we instill in our students the importance of having a positive mindset of growth in all academic areas. Teaching our students that there is always room for improvement is a culture we can implement in our classrooms.


  4. S Duran says:

    A person’s intelligence is innate, and what that person chooses to focus and to practice makes him/her successful at any given task. This might be the reason why some people “get it”, while others struggle when learning new skills. If the person is engaged and motivated, eventually, after practicing some more, then we will hear: “I get it now”.


  5. I put that I somewhat agree with the comment. The reason is because I believe that everyone is born with certain attributes that makes them more successful in some areas than others and though I do believe that anyone can do anything to some extent, that natural talent is a real thing. I also do believe that everyone can learn new things and be able to for example learn how to draw a picture, but my picture is just not going to compare to a professional or someone with a natural ability. I am very musical and though someone else could learn to play a piece on the piano that I can play, mine will sound different because there is just something in me that comes out when I play, but the other person could still learn the piece so I think that we need to show kids that anything is possible but within reason.



    I agree with Allison and Rasheda that while we are born with a certain level of intelligence, we have the power to develop and nurture it to grow further. Neuroplasticity is REAL! It makes new connections and learning easier for people who are encouraged daily to grow and take risks. People who have a growth mindset have more neuroplasticity and vice versa.


  7. Irineo Yanez says:

    I believe that we all have the ability to learn new things. I disagreed with the comment because of this. I also didn’t strongly disagree though. This is because even though we are capable of learning new things, I also believe that we all have a talent that we are inherently good at. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have the capability of mastering any other skills but rather that there is something that we have been brought up with that we are strong at. The problem with this is that many people stick to these strengths and never grow as individuals.


  8. M. Seestedt says:

    Previously I believed that we were born smart or not smart. You had it or you didn’t. I thought that some people were just smarter than others. Often times I had classmates that would understand concepts easily while I struggled to understand certain subjects, especially mathematical reasoning and science. This caused me to sometimes not try because I didn’t want to seem dumb. However, if I had tried and practiced I might have understood it back then.

    More recently my view on this topic has changed. For instance, when I became a teacher I saw through my students that some struggled but with encouragement, lots of small group instruction, and practice they could understand things that they didn’t before. Additionally, with the recent conversation on growth mindset I see that intelligence can be developed.


  9. Rasheda Young says:

    I believe that general intelligence is innate, however it is up to the person to develop the intelligence that they have. Knowledge and experience is in abundance, and the more a person chooses to learn, experience, and practice in an area, the better they will be. Attitude also affect one’s ability and desire to learn, so for some who have already been told repeatedly that they are not able to learn, they are not learning due to that belief.


  10. laurenvaron says:

    I believe that all people have the capacity to learn new things. Plasticity allows the brain to grown and develop. Intelligence is something that can be developed and can change. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence cannot be changed and that you are born intelligent or not. Someone with a growth mindset believes that intelligence can be developed.


  11. Rick G says:

    I like the idea that intelligence is fungible. But then I realize I’m not entirely certain what “intelligence” means, or that we teachers are working from a shared definition. Until then, I believe, as one of the above teachers stated, that given various life circumstances, we can all learn most anything.


  12. Noe Solares says:

    I always assumed that intelligence is something that you are born with and it is probably inherited from your parents. I had no reason to think about this until I started hearing about growth mindset. When I look at the results of the poll, I assumed people changed their minds about what they thought about intelligence. When our students make assumptions about their intelligence, they are already made up their minds about how successful they will be in a particular class, and unless the teacher does something to change that perception, students will not be successful.


  13. Angelique McNiff says:

    We can all learn new things but it is our ability to process that information in a novel way that equals true learning. I can read every article on how to bake a pie. When I actually do so I have learned something in a stronger manner. My ability to keep making pies and then make tweaks to improve the methodology, ingredients, and to teach others is somewhat based on my ability to problem solve and think in a novel manner; how much of these two is learned and how much is based on overall IQ levels – this I would like to see research on.



    Recent research has shown that the brain and intelligence have elements of plasticity, meaning they can be changed over time and are more flexible and adaptive than we previously believed. When we tell students they can increase their intelligence, they have more motivation to work hard and persevere. The brain is like a muscle and we can strengthen the quantity and quality of connections we make if we try.


  15. Rick G says:

    While the point this article makes about the importance of having having and encourage a growth mindset is essential in our classrooms, this author is provoking our preexisting attitudes about the word “intelligence.” Seems like a long way around to make this point .


  16. Allison Conant says:

    It’s interesting to think about intelligence as capability and capacity. We have to encourage our students to view their own experiences in this way and to encourage them to take risks in order to expand their capacity. I know that as an adult I’ve shut down to learning certain things — that’s by choice and I also know that it is up to me to open up those avenues again. I’m not sure that my students understand that.


  17. Jenny Burman says:

    What you learn most from are the times when something is new or different. SOmetimes you can arrive at work having been on auto-pilot and not remembered one thing about your drive. If you replace your bike tube and pops during the same ride you will be sure to learn from that mistake. It is when something different happens that we can grow. Challenges and mistakes are important to that growth.


  18. Sophia Kang says:

    Take a moment to reflect on your answer to the poll in the comment section below. Explain how you think about learning new things and the idea of intelligence. Then, read through a sampling of responses from your colleagues to get an idea of how others think about learning and intelligence.

    I agree with Jill Hagan and Jennfier Bower’s points about the hippocampus and environment. Although learning is possible at all ages, our environment and stress factors affect how much information we can take in. If a student’s basic needs are not met, it will be more difficult. Also, a person with more exposure to information at a young age will take less time learning because their prior knowledge is being activated. However, given the right conditions and circumstances and catered to a person’s learning styles, I believe everyone has the potential to continually learn.


  19. Brenda Casanova says:

    Take a moment to reflect on your answer to the poll in the comment section below. Explain how you think about learning new things and the idea of intelligence. Then, read through a sampling of responses from your colleagues to get an idea of how others think about learning and intelligence.

    I think that human beings have the capacity to reach their full potential. When we believe in ourselves and have the support of others, especially educators that believe in the realization of our full potential, we can learn and accomplish so much. Human beings are always learning and taking in information, and with equitable access to knowledge and resources we can keep growing and learning.


  20. Jill Hagan says:

    It is important to have a growth mindset. At the same time, constant stress can really impact the brain. Understanding both the amygdala and the hippocampus and how this relates to the fight or flight reflex are important. I am not an expert on the brain, but it is my understanding that when there is stress, the messages do not flow the same say as when we are not stressed. I know that I had trouble concentrating and doing curriculum writing when my foster daughter was doing drugs. I felt like I was losing my mind. I’ve never had trouble writing, but I literally could not get words on the paper at that time.

    I can imagine how that stress would impact a small child attending school and not being able to concentrate or produce in the classroom. That could definitely impact a child so that the child would not “feel intelligent.”


  21. AmberK says:

    Acquiring new knowledge is always possible and learning new things may take time, but if one is persistent and has the desire to gain new knowledge, this can be done at any age and/or under any circumstances. The new philosophy spreading about fixed and growth mindset is so important.


  22. Stefnie Evans says:

    Intelligence is something that can grow with effort and intention. The key is the willingness to put in the effort to learn something that we already do not know, and may not understand. As we get older, I think there is an unwillingness to “try”, but that is not because we are incapable of growing our intelligence, we just don’t have the will to do it.


  23. Michael Dang says:

    I believe that there are various types of intelligence and we are able to grow our intelligences with learning and practice. Intelligence is not fixed and static. Instead, it is very dynamic and can be developed with effort and exposure.


  24. Sonya Kinsey says:

    I think that learning new things is a process in which we can all accomplish.I agree with Howard Gardner’s belief that people may learn differently through various multiple intelligence. He suggests that learning may take place through the following intelligence: mathematical logical, musically- through songs/patterns, kinesthetic – hands on, and verbal linguistic-through reading/ writing/and speaking, are a few. In agreeing with Gardener, I have several students who learn through musically and kinesthetically. I think we all have a favorite way to learn.


  25. Jennifer Bower says:

    Environment plays an important role in our ability to learn something new. As public school teachers, we are handcuffed with numerous circumstances beyond our control. I make it my job to focus on that over which I do have control , trying to provide an optimal learning environment that supports all students. I am so proud of my students, those who’s families struggle to keep the gas, water, and electricity on, those who share a one bedroom apartment with a dozen family members, yet still come to school eager to learn, ready to try new tasks and able to maintain a sense of control of their own futures in what can often be a constant uphill battle. Sometimes they do not eat, yet they learn. Sometimes their homes sit dark at night, gunshots in the neighborhood, parent(s) not their to support them, yet still they learn. Imagine the learning that could occur if basic needs were met for all!


  26. Susan Enman says:

    I believe intelligence is both acquired knowledge and the application of that knowledge. Anyone can learn(acquire knowledge), and anyone can LEARN how to apply that knowledge. This is a growth mindset.
    Some people are fixed with what they feel they can learn. Some elderly people for example, are resistant to learning new things, and have a fixed mindset. “I have done this way all my life and this is how I do it. There is no need to learn anything different.”
    The difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset is motivation to learn. Motivation can stem from pleasure, necessity or both.


  27. Shauna Segal says:

    I have seen research that shows students can increase their IQ based on rigorous learning experiences. Just like musicians and athletes, students can enhance their ability through targeted practice and master classes facilitated by excellent coaches/teachers. I tell my students their brain is like a muscle, and if they give it a workout everyday, they are getting smarter.


  28. ISELA DE LA TORRE says:

    I am a firm believer in that you get what you put into it. Every human being has the ability to learn and grow intellectually, and as long as you are making a conscious effort to grow in that particular area, I believe you will be successful at learning it. I see it all the time, every day. I think as educators it is our job to continue to reinforce and model a growth mindset for our students. Sometimes they are defeated by the fear that it may be something unattainable, or foreign, but if we continue to remind them that they all have a powerful brain capable of so much learning, they will eventually buy into it. That’s why I think it’s important to celebrate progress at every level so we are calling out those instances to say, “Hey, you see what you can do when you set your mind to it. Anything!” This is empowering for our students and we need to promote this growth mindset, every day, as often as possible.


  29. C Bakewell says:

    Synonyms for intelligence are brainpower, judgment, reasoning, understanding, and comprehension. I feel that every individual has a different capacity for intelligence. We all have the capacity to learn new things, and we should strive to keep learning. We are unique and have different strengths and types of intelligence, however, I may be interested in a subject and learn about it, but I will probably always be able to find other people who know and understand more about that same subject than I, because their ability to absorb and comprehend the subject is greater than my own.


  30. Lucrecia Apanay says:

    We can definitely learn new things. With enough practice and effort, one can learn anything! But if we take a look around us, we can see that some of us are particularly good at different things. We are not all born with the same ability or capacity.


  31. Shareen Gochoel says:

    I think that we are all unique individuals with different abilities. I think some people learn new things quicker and easier than others and that some people are better at some things than others. There are so many facets of learning and intelligence but I think that you can improve at anything you desire to improve on. There must be a desire to learn and willpower to do the work that learning requires.


  32. David Garringer says:

    A growth mindset reduces effective filter when learning new concepts and ideas. Unfortunately, too many people maintain a fixed mindset and anxious when faced with new and difficult situations. Individuals who maintain a growth mindset typically maintain a positive attitude towards learning new things, may get frustrated, but continues to strive to learn new things.


  33. Alison Gillis says:

    You can learn new things, but you can’t really change your basic intelligence.

    I absolutely disagree that you are unable to change your intelligence. I believe intelligence is something that can be grown and cultivated. Some topics may be harder for a person to understand and learn, but I do not think it is impossible. I don’t think there is just one intelligence, but I think there are many for the many different types of information that can be learned. I think a person’s intelligence can be grown in many different areas. I think cultivating this growth mindset is important to have as an educator because it can then be modeled to our students.


  34. Learning is like exercise. The more effort you expend toward learning, the better and more efficient you get at it. People who are learning new things may be awkward and slow at first, much as a baby is when first learning to walk. The baby falls, gets up, falls again, gets up, and so on until s/he is more or less walking. Somewhere along the line, some students forget that early lesson and give up much too easily often with the excuse, “I’m no good at XXXXX.” One of my jobs as a teacher is to encourage students to press on, though the naysayer part of their brains is telling them to take the easy route and give up.


  35. Sonya Cole says:

    Acquiring knowledge is an ongoing process. Even when one is in their old age, they are still learning. Whether we are learning content in academic education, how to interact with other members of society, or how to navigate our world in general, we are constantly expanding our knowledge. Mastery grading is designed to assist students in understanding their learning and what tools are needed to increase their knowledge. It clearly maps out what is needed to demonstrate knowledge and this gives students the confidence in recognizing what they already know and the path to full mastery.


  36. Ronald Arreola says:

    The idea that “you can learn new things, but you can’t really change your basic intelligence” is kind of a contradiction. If you take the general definition of intelligence as the ability to learn new things and the ability to apply them, then how can you learn new things and not change your intelligence? Unless you’re saying that they cannot apply the new knowledge. In which case have they really learned it? I think this is what mastery learning and grading is addressing. In education we give homework as a guide of what the students should learn. In an effort to get the students to do the homework and therefore learn, we give them “a carrot”, points. It has gotten to the point where students complete the homework but have not learned the material yet they are able to pass the class because they have accumulated enough homework points. Mastery learning and grading is trying to ensure that the students are able to apply the new knowledge that they have learned.


  37. We have come so far in understanding human intelligence. The integration of growth mindset into our work, and more specifically, the tenets of cognitive neuroscience, allow us to go above and beyond our introductory schooling on Vygotsky’s ZDP. What stands out to me about mastery learning and grading is the empowerment of the student: each student is expected to develop the metacognitive skills necessary to achieve and succeed. Ultimately, I hope that all of us come to realize that a fixed mindset is simply a self-defeating and self-protective framework.


  38. Elizabeth Onyango says:

    Learning new things increases our intelligence. This is also true for our students. We should therefore allow them to embrace a growth type of mindset each day they come to class. As we assess what they’ve learned there should be some type of reward to encourage them to keep on learning new things.


  39. Mersedeh Vahdat says:

    It’s great to see so many people believe that you can learn new things, and you can really change your basic intelligence. Our intelligence changes when you are exposed to different settings/ environments, given many opportunities to learn from trial and errors, having support system to reward you for your mistakes and challenges, having purpose in life, being able to solve problems, self-advocate for self and others, and be kind and peaceful.


  40. Ronel Wright says:

    I was taken aback by the number of comments I saw claiming that intelligence is more or less fixed! For people who do not have brain damage, that is not true. And science is not on the side of those with the fixed-intelligence mindset. Neuroplasticity is something that has been demonstrated repeatedly; it is the ability of the brain to increase its capabilities. (BTW, I subscribe to a monthly publication called “Brain in the News.”)

    How many of those teachers who wrote that intelligence is fixed believe in the concept of a growth mindset, or have one themselves?

    I told my students early in the school year, and have repeated it a couple times (perhaps not frequently enough) since then, “The harder you work, the smarter you get.” Many of them don’t believe me.

    Some students have never really been successful in math, and I believe that a lot of that has to do with not being taught adequately by education generalists who may themselves not have been strong math students. But these students have already given up by the time they reach secondary school. Perhaps other students don’t want to believe that intelligence can increase, because it then puts more responsibility on them to become better students, when chilling and avoidance is easier with a fixed-intelligence approach.

    On the other hand, I have students whose work habits have improved through the school year, and I also see them doing better academically.


  41. Lin says:

    Developing your brain is just like exercising, the more your exercise, the stronger you et. The more you use your brain, the smarter you get. If we understand the basic principles, we s would never tell ourselves that we can’t challenge our intelligence because we believe everyone in each every way is intelligent. As Howard Gardner indicated everyone has at least 8 basic types of intelligence, either mathematics, musical, linguistic, spacial, interpersonal and others, we have our own strength. So we should encourage ourselves to learn todevelop our intelligence.


  42. Karen Harris says:

    Learning and applying new knowledge is something most people can do. As teachers we have to believe that our students can surprise themselves by what they can learn to understand, appreciate and create. It may take some students a longer time than it takes others, but everyone can make progress.


  43. Ruthanne Contreras says:

    I believe we all have the ability to learn new things. It is amazing what the human body and mind can do. People have experience hardships where they may have lost a limb or lost the ability to talk, but then are able to relearn or learn a different way. As long as you have the motivation to learn and persevere through the challenge, you can do anything. It is important to have a growth mindset on life.


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