To monitor the use and abuse of concepts of ‘intelligence’


To monitor the use and abuse of concepts of ‘intelligence’.

Evidence and reflection

A simple method is proposed based on noticing, recording and studying any use of language which denotes generalised ability.

This could be done in a school, in discussion with governors, teachers, parents, non-teaching staff or students, from printed articles in newspapers and the educational press, from school or government documents, from the speeches of politicians. It will require active listening – becoming attuned to things which are said which are relevant – and the period of awareness may need to extend over a week or so.

Whatever sources are chosen, the statements and the context in which these occur should be recorded in notes as accurately as possible.

When you have a collection of statements, study them.

Think about them in their context. For instance: Do they recognise the richness and diversity of pupil’s present capabilities? What particular expectations about future attainment are implied?


Try to monitor your own use of language. Be explicitly aware of the words and concepts which you use. Distinguish between abilities and attainments. Try to satisfy the criteria of accuracy, discrimination and impartiality in your thinking about children’s capacities and potential.