How Am I Smart title

How Smart Am I vs How Am I Smart?

KellerNeuroscience, Relationship-based Teaching, Smart Moves EduMag 1 Comment

Smart Meta-Cogs in the Classroom

Metacognition is the knowledge about and the regulation of one’s own thinking.  It is often referred to as thinking about one’s own thinking.  In order to think about why you had a specific thought, what drove the opinion or where such a strong opinion originated, we need to be self-aware and have the necessary skills for self-reflection.

When we teach students to start to think about their own thinking, we shift them from asking the question, “How smart am I?” To “How am I Smart?” 

Traditional, classical education focuses on just two of the now nine intelligences. Gardner, in 1983, proposed a theory that we have seven intelligences (Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Musical, Spatial, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Logical-mathematical and Linguistic).  A further two were subsequently added (Naturalistic and Existentialist).  

Types of Intelligences
We all have a different blend of intelligences

Recently, Gardner suggested that another, humour, may be a possible tenth intelligence.

  • All humans have all nine unique intelligences.  There are potentially more which have yet to be researched.
  • Everyone possesses all nine intelligences in various amounts.
  • Every individual is made up of a unique combination of these intelligences.
  • They are uniquely arranged in each individual’s brain and may or may not work collaboratively together.
  • Students can experience greater success if learning tasks are directly related to their developed intelligences.
  • Intelligences can be developed or weakened, ignored or strengthened with practice.
What does this mean for teachers?

If we want to make this shift to allowing students to discover “How Am I Smart?”, then all nine of the intelligences have to be regularly incorporated in lesson design with opportunities to demonstrate mastery in a combination of their best intelligences.

Yet, in 2021 – schools remain classic masters of just two of these intelligences, ie. Logical-mathematical and Linguistic.  When we teach students about all nine or ten intelligences, they immediately begin to identify their own combination of smartness.  

When teachers keep all ten in front of their planning books and make sure that attention is regularly given to all ten, then students not only feel smart, but present as being smart. 

And smart students are able to take hold of the metaphoric pencil and re-write their belief in themselves using metacognition. This is the new draft that changes the brain.

All The Cogs

In order to change/reorganise “pliable/plastic” brains, we need to recognise a few fundamentals.

  • The student is processing data all the time.
  • The student is in a state of learning all the time.
  • The relationship with the teacher is essential all the time.
  • The student needs opportunities to feel smart, often!
  • The goal is a confident, competent, capable, calm adult.

The classroom environment that grows metacognitive students never questions ability, but always works on improving the strategy to achieve mastery based on rapid feedback (feed forward).  Feedback, assessment, evaluation and reporting has been so formalised to be a final check on one’s ability.  

This is wrong and goes against all we know about executive function.  Feedback should have one purpose – to improve the strategy to achieve mastery.  The strategy involves identifying the best intelligence channel that the student has for mastery.

This mindset is dependent on the educator having a relationship with the student.


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