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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Developing Ability at the Eleven Plus Stage

The notion that intelligence is fixed goes back to the days of Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution, and the intense controversy that surrounded it, helped to form the thought intelligence was fixed for life. His younger cousin, Sir Francis Galton, reasoned that intelligence could not be developed but what was needed was the selection of superior beings who would then survive and reproduce.

Galton built some tests which he offered to college students. In time psychologists began to test the theories of fixed intelligence and came up with a measure of ability called the `Developmental Quotient’. For many years it was felt that whatever test was used the child’s ability would stay around the same level.

What would Darwin and Galton have thought about coaching for the eleven plus? We are currently working with a boy who came to us in Year 4 – with around average results. In his recent tests at school his mathematics and reasoning results (verbal and non verbal) were all above 128. His environment had helped – having parents who could afford to pay for coaching, his school had helped by providing an encouraging environment – and the boy had helped himself.

The boy in question has surely demonstrated that there is much more to testing ability at the eleven plus stage than expecting a child to `deliver the goods’ on a day at a certain time.

What we do know about this boy that he has developed to such an extent that his measured intelligence has grown over time. He now has a chance of passing the eleven plus – whereas if there had been little intervention it is possible that he may have continued to display the characteristics if an `around average’ pupil. Around average pupils can not find their way into grammar schools. A different style of management at school, along with an inspired and able class teacher, and of course the boy could have reached a level where entry to grammar school was likely.

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