IQ | What does someone’s IQ say about them?

I previously talked about how scores on an IQ test are developed, and what they mean mathematically. Now, I’ll look at what they can mean for individuals.

IQ scores can be seen as the mind equivalent of BMI scores. Although both numbers can provide useful information when averaged across large groups, they shouldn’t be used to directly compare individuals, or used to sum up a person in one statistic. BMI can be helpful for an average-height and middling-framed Western person, but it is near-useless for athletes, who will often score as overweight or obese due to their increased muscle mass. Similarly, IQ measurements may be an accurate representation for a neurotypical person who is familiar with Western education systems and standardized testing. But they are not an accurate summation for people with neurodevelopmental disorders, or people who aren’t used to standardised tests and solving problems in a room with a stranger.

3) IQ tests cannot always measure someone’s ability accurately. Health conditions and neurological differences result in people having uneven patterns of ability, which confuse IQ tests.

Continue reading “IQ | What does someone’s IQ say about them?”

Decision Fatigue

On the way to work, you stop for your usual coffee. As you walk through the door, 20,000 cups of coffee are laid out all across the room, covering the floor and tables. Somehow, you need to choose the one you’ll like best.

Tasting all 20,000 is impossible. So after trying a few, picking your favourite, and going on to work, you may not feel too satisfied with your chosen coffee. With so many options, there’s no way to know you chose the best- the very next cup could have been even better. (20,000 sounds absurdly large, but that’s fewer options than some big-name shops offer.)

During the day there are only more choices and decisions to make; from the best way to get your work done, to meetings, to the quickest way home. By the end of the day there probably isn’t much room left for thinking about anything difficult, such as starting that project you’ve been putting off or resisting the cake in the cupboard.

Although we hate not being able to make our own choices, it turns out that having too much choice is just as much of a problem. Making choices, major or minor, drains us. It leaves us less able to resist impulses or see through illogical options. Psychologists sensibly call this decision fatigue.

Continue reading “Decision Fatigue”

Child Genius | How does the programme portray intelligence?

Most reality shows spark controversy, and Child Genius is no exception. Series finales are often followed by arguments that the show placed too much pressure on contestants, while the 2017 series was also interrupted by accusations of cheating parents.

Today I’m going to talk about another issue; how the competition and the programme portrays “intelligence” and “genius” in a one-dimensional way which reinforces misconceptions about intelligence.

Continue reading “Child Genius | How does the programme portray intelligence?”

Where did my Sci-Comm values come from?

A few months ago, I read and enjoyed Sam Kean’s The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons. Thanks to that book, I figured out something interesting about how I understand sci-comm.

The principles I believe in when it comes to science and sci-comm, and the threads which run through both my psychological and scientific interests, weren’t created through my science or psychology education.

1) Cross-disciplinary connections – Science doesn’t work in a vacuum but is informed by art, humanities, politics, and religion.
2) Human history – Rather than being detached thinking agents, scientists are as human, flawed and biased as anyone else.
3) Accidents, serendipity and luck – “Failed” inventions, wrong beliefs and faulty discoveries can be as valuable, informative and powerful as “successful” history.

Continue reading “Where did my Sci-Comm values come from?”

Why “Building Schools for the Future” couldn’t learn from the past.

In the last 24 hours I’ve discovered two interesting articles in the Guardian, which together show one of the flaws I’ve noticed in education reform attempts.

The first article is a retrospective about how the Merseyside borough of Knowsley was failed by an attempt to innovate educationally and instead developed educational deficits so deep that it had to sacrifice its A-Level education entirely. The second article is an optimistic piece focusing on the XP school in Doncaster, which is adopting a project-based curriculum similar to successful schools in Finland.

The link here is that despite opposing perspectives, these articles are about the same idea; both the “Building Schools for the Future” program used in Knowsley and the project-based curriculum used at XP are repeats of the 1970’s Open Classroom movement (OCM). In the table below the left column describes the Knowsley schools (as told in the Guardian), while the right column describes Open Classrooms and their issues.

Continue reading “Why “Building Schools for the Future” couldn’t learn from the past.”

Theresa May’s Reform Plan

Theresa May’s mental health reform speech on Monday was the first time I’ve heard her say more than a soundbite, and also the first time I’ve heard her talk about anything other than Brexit, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

At the opening of her speech, I wanted to support her. I wanted to believe she would say something genuinely meaningful and compassionate. I also hoped (perhaps naively) that she would make reference to the effect of austerity upon mental health. May is in a good place to acknowledge the negative impact of previous political choices, after all. While she is maintaining many of those choices, she didn’t instigate them. She has mostly inherited the bad decisions made by others, most obviously David Cameron, becoming essentially the country’s largest-scale supply teacher.

Initially, her opening discussion of the overt and covert injustices present today were impactful, leaving her actual reform strategies as arguably the weakest element of her speech. Similarly, while her view on reducing stigma (below) says all the “right” things, it does so without providing anything tangible or practical, or any awareness of where the Government themselves have been guilty of removing that attention and treatment.

Continue reading “Theresa May’s Reform Plan”

Education system thoughts 2: The flaws of the “English Baccalaureate”

This is following on from the previous blog about GCSE and A-level exams.

In the previous post I mentioned how large numbers of students are failing the “traditional” subjects, such as English, Maths and Science. This has led to the construction of the new “English Bacc”, which tracks the number of students getting a good GCSE in English, Maths, Science, a humanity and a language. News stories have also criticised the new Applied GCSEs, and how they can be worth up to 4 “traditional” GCSES.

Continue reading “Education system thoughts 2: The flaws of the “English Baccalaureate””

Where to start?

Trying to decide what to blog about is more difficult than I thought… I’m one of those people who is interested in pretty much everything in some way, so there will be a lot of genre-hopping throughout this blog.

The first topic of conversation, seeing as I’m a student, will be exams- which is quite fitting considering the time I’m spending writing this blog is procrastinating from A-level revision.

At the moment the news is full of contradictory stories about exams, especially GCSEs; on one hand, thousands of students are failing to achieve satisfactory results in the “traditional” subjects (I’ll come back to that at another time), but on the other hand, people are scoring handfuls of A and A* grades. This seems counter-intuitive, more so because both scenarios are happening at the same time, in the same schools.

It also creates problems for pupils, as they are surrounded by media reports, parents and teachers saying how easy their exams are. This isn’t beneficial for any student; those who did badly will be even more demoralised by education, leading to them being less willing or able to continue to higher education. For students who did well, any sense of success they had at scoring 80/90%+ will be instantly devalued. This puts students into a no-win situation.

For students who are willing or able to go on to A-levels, a similar situation will arise. August 2010’s A-level results showed a 97.6% pass rate, increasing for the 28th year in a row. While this figure does attract criticism, surely a high pass rate is what should be happening?

The logical progression should be:
i) student who performs averagely or well at GCSE decides they want/need to do A-levels
ii) students chooses their subjects and college or sixth form
iii) government trains teachers to be able to teach that subject to interested students
iv) teachers pass knowledge on to students, so they can perform well in the exams
v) students pass exams, with a good knowledge of their subjects
vi) students use that knowledge and their qualifications to go into further study or work, contribute to the economy, everybody wins.

This means the high rate of passes is logically coming from students being more motivated than they were at GCSE, along with good teachers, well-designed exams, and less subjects than at GCSE. If this is the case, why is it a problem?

If this isn’t the case, it means something has gone wrong, and I don’t think students deserve to have their success made meaningless by how the government and teaching boards have designed and implemented their exams.