Poor IQ or wrong learning style?

Schools and teachers need to recognise the most suitable learning style for each student


Our education system has always emphasised on Intelligence Quotient (IQ), more so, on the ability of students to memorise concepts and reproduce the same in their examinations. The pedagogy and teaching style have long focused on lecture methodology. Students with higher IQ are more likely to have a higher grasping power and higher level of adaptability which automatically puts them at a huge advantage over a student with a lower IQ. This is where understanding the most effective learning styles of different students comes into play. The one-glove-fits -all type of approach in schools needs to go.


Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

IQ is mostly measured through standardised tests. It is a numerical representation of an individual’s cognitive abilities which include, mental capabilities like reasoning, problem-solving, abstract thinking, language, attention, and memory. IQ tests were developed in the early part of the 20th century and were sold as the great invention which can assess an individual’s intelligence. In spite of the criticism faced by some quarters for using one standard method for accessing intelligence for everyone, IQ continues to be the most widely used and accepted method of quantifying one’s intelligence.


Learning Styles

Learning styles refers to an individual’s preferred approach to acquiring, processing, and retaining information. There are four types of learning styles – auditory, read and write, visual, and kinaesthetic. Our education system primarily focuses on auditory and read-and-write learning styles where the teachers use the lecture method in class which students are supposed to listen to and learn. They also make the students read and write to reinforce the learning acquired through the lecture method in the class. Hence, they give students homework which basically involves reading/writing. Visual learning style (learning through videos, pictures, graphs, charts, etc.) and kinaesthetic learning style (learning through practicals/experimentation) have traditionally not been given the same level of importance in our education system even though it has been scientifically proven that not every student learns best only through auditory and read/write learning method.

A sizable chunk of the student population learns better through visual and kinaesthetic learning styles. Learning styles are known to influence how individuals best understand and internalise new concepts. Today, a large number of schools using modern pedagogy recognise this and are increasingly using visual and kinaesthetic learning styles to completely change how education is delivered to students, especially at the primary and mid-school level.

These schools are increasingly making students focus on practical projects, learning through educational movies, live case studies, making students visit libraries and asking them to be in natural environments rather than in classrooms. However, a large number of traditional public schools that cater to a much higher student population, especially the ones from less privileged backgrounds, continue to focus on auditory and read/write as the primary modes of teaching and learning.


The relationship between IQ and Learning Method

IQ has a significant impact on how quickly and effectively an individual understands and remembers new information. Individuals with higher IQs are normally more adept at understanding complex concepts and are also more likely to easily adapt to different teaching methods.

Students with a lower IQ are however more likely to face a huge disadvantage and this normally reflects in their poor performance in school. Such students soon lose interest in learning in school. The schools are also very quick in labelling the child as being dull and disinterested in studying. This can put significant mental stress on the child as well as the parents. Identifying the right learning method can help bridge the gap in learning for such kids who have a lower IQ. It is for the teachers as well as the parents to identify this style in the child. Modern psychometric tests also help ascertain the most effective learning style for an individual. Parents if in doubt should approach an experienced career counsellor who can conduct such tests on the child to ascertain the same.

Schools need to find the right balance between IQ and learning styles. This is necessary for creating an effective learning environment which is fair for all. Schools should use different teaching and learning strategies with an equal emphasis on all four learning styles recognising the varied learning needs of different students. Our schools need to stop obsessing exclusively on the memorising power of students and need to focus on other aspects like personality development, creativity, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking which will lead to more all-round development of the child. Such learning will also make him or her a much better individual ready to take charge of their life as a grown-up.

(The writer has a Ph.D. and is a career counsellor, trainer, and life coach at Career Crafters- Panaji. He has over two decades of experience dealing with students at the higher education level.)