Intelligence, according to Sternberg and Sternberg “is the capacity to learn from experience, using metacognitive processes to enhance learning and adapt to the environment” (2012:17). Controversy relating to differences in intelligence abound and there are over seventy accepted definitions for intelligence. Recently it was agreed upon in the Journal of Education Psychology (Sternberg & Sternberg, 2012) by fourteen renowned psychologists that any definition of intelligence should include:

  • A capacity to learn from experience
  • An ability to adapt to the surrounding environment
  • Metacognition: the ability to control one’s own thinking process
  • Cultural influences
  • Personality variables

Intelligence broadly encompasses “the ability to learn, remember and use new information, to solve problems and to adapt to novel situations” (Biswas-Diener, 2017:1). 25

Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s (1985) theory advocates that there are different types of intelligence, what the literature refers to, as Multiple Intelligences. Gardner drew on the discipline of the neuroscience of the brain where different abilities are attributed to different parts of the brain, thereby making them independent of one another. Understanding that different parts of the brain govern different aspects of intelligence, he identified eight common intelligences including 1) logical-mathematical, 2) visual-spatial, 3) musical-rhythmic, 4) verbal-linguistic, 5) bodily-kinesthetic, 6) interpersonal, 7) intrapersonal, and 8) naturalistic (Gardner, 1985). A comprehensive view of intelligence also requires one to consider other more dynamic approaches to intelligence.

Carol Dweck (1986) offers a more dynamic approach to intelligence when she suggests that the way an individual thinks about his or her own intelligence predicts their performance. Dweck (1986) refers to this as a person’s mindset and having a growth mindset suggests that intelligence has the potential to grow. Although evidence suggests that genetics is still an important factor in the intelligence equation, Dweck has research evidence that positive thinking encourages greater potential for human intelligence. Similarly, Scott Barry Kaufman (in Weir, 2015) proposes his theory of personal intelligence that focuses on an individual’s own growth, differences and aspirations, often via discovery-based learning, where learners are encouraged to explore an environment or subject matter. Angela Duckworth’s concept of grit states that “having the passion to accomplish a particular top-level goal and the perseverance to follow through” (Duckworth, 2016:250) promotes a persevering mind-set, with a propensity for talent, suggesting that talent is how quickly one’s skills improve when effort is invested (Duckworth, 2016:42). Emotional intelligence emphasises the experience and expression of emotion and is a set of skills which enable one to accurately use and understand the emotions of others and themselves. Both Dweck and Kaufmann support discovery-based learning, where learners are encouraged to explore their own learning in a positive classroom environment where emotional intelligence is fostered. Paul, Elder and Bartell (1997) suggest that the Socratic teaching method is synonymous with collaborative work, cooperative learning, guided discovery, discovery learning, discussions, problem-solving where the construction of knowledge is encouraged. Using this approach, classroom climates need to be conducive to mediation and negotiations where educators become facilitators of learning, encouraging learners to become self-regulated and to collaborate with the learners on the construction of new knowledge (Kloppers & Grosser, 2010).