Borland (1997) states that,"...the construct of giftedness has undergone significant changes in recent times." (Borland, 1997, p. 13) the author also refers to modern educationists and theorists of intelligence such as Gardner and his Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
Howard Gardner has put forward his Theory of Multiple Intelligences in contradiction to the older hierarchical view of intelligence which, Gardner asserts, privileges some types of intelligence over others. The "types" of intelligence that Gardner has isolated includes the following: Visual or Spatial Intelligence; Musical Intelligence; Verbal or Linguistic Intelligence; Logical and Mathematical Intelligence; Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Intelligence and the Bodily or Kinesthetic Intelligence. He later added an eighth to the list, which is the Naturalist Intelligence. These intelligences he sees as natural propensities in every child that may be obscured to hidden due to cultural and social factors. In the past linguistic and rational models and ideals of intelligence have trended to dominate over other forms of intelligence.
Porter is another theorist who questions more traditional notions of intelligence. Porter is of the opinion that the hierarchical view of the giftedness is no longer seen as a tenable estimation and assessment of the term intelligence. "In the past, there was a hierarchical view of giftedness and talent which upheld that giftedness referred to academic skills while talent referred to nonacademic abilities -- for example, in the fine arts. But this hierarchy cannot stand up to scrutiny..." (Porter, 2005, p. 4)
There are of course many other views about intelligence in the educational context. However the object here is not to explore these theories in depth but rather to make a central point that influences this discussion. This is that, with new and often contradictory views of intelligence and especially with regard to the view that there are multiple and hidden intelligences an important question is raised: how are we to apply and condone the separation and assignment of children on the basis of intelligence when this is a disputed and relatively unclear term?
Conclusion: the argument against the assignment of classes
From the above discussion a number of central factors emerge which tends to militate against the view that children should be separated or assigned to different classes on the basis of intelligence. These can be summarized as follows.
1. The separation of students on the basis of intelligence assumes that there is a standard and universally agreed upon measure of such intelligence. As the above discussion suggests, intelligence is at best a vague construct that has many divergent theoretical trajectories. The advent of Gardner's theories further complicates the assessment of student intelligence. All of this raises the central and cardinal question of the measure and nature of intelligence, all of which tends to suggest that intelligence is not a measure that should be used to relegate or assign children in the educative process.
2. Separation implies distinctions. While distinctions within the general classroom environment can be a positive aspect and a motivating force, in the process of separation to different classes other less favorable aspects tend to emerge; not least of which is the sense of negative self-esteem that such distinctions can evoked in some studies. This can also lead to the development of cliques and stereotypes
In conclusion, the view that children should be assigned to classes on the basis of their intelligence has a certain amount of merit. There are factors such as greater focus and more appropriate teaching methods that can be used to support this point-of-view. However in the final analysis there are many other facets that militate against this view and the separation of children on the grounds of intelligence raises many problems relating it the real nature of intelligence.
Consequently, assignation of classes on the basis of intelligence can lead to a number of problematic areas where, for example, a child with a certain form of intelligence may not be placed in an appropriate class. Furthermore there are other issues that need to be considered; such as the positive aspects of integration and assimilative learning that comes from a more heterogeneous and mixed learning environment.
Borland, J.H. (1997). The Construct of Giftedness. PJE. Peabody Journal of Education, 72(3-4), 6-20. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=96242801
Education - Our Fundamental Resource. Retrieved May 5, 2007, at http://www.usc.edu/libraries/archives/cityinstress/mccone/part7.html
Dealing with Differences in Academic Ability. Retrieved May 5, 2007, at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/SumItUp/chapter3.html www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5006537456
Gottfredson, L.S. (2004, Summer). Schools and the G. Factor. The Wilson Quarterly, 28, 35+. Retrieved May 8, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5006537456
Porter, L. (2005). Gifted Young Children: A Guide for Teachers and Parents. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=108839653