Integrating Intelligence

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Integrating Intelligence;

Harnessing the Best Practices in Education

Robert A. Southworth, Jr., Ed.D.

I grew up keeping the stats of my favorite basketball team, the 1969 New York Knicks. Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBuschere, Bill Bradley and Dick Barnett had a “best practice” strategy for winning—score more points by passing the ball to the open man (Debusschere, 1970). Fast forward to Coach Scott Davenport, whose well-worn copy of Dave Debusshere’s book, “The Open Man,” is always with him as he yells at his players to pass the ball. Davenport’s Bellarmine Knights—a college basketball team that scores 52.9% of the time—shot better than the Miami Heat and all other professional basketball teams last year.

“The mentality of everyone on the floor is, I may have a good shot, but there’s always a chance to get a better one for someone else,” the junior forward George Suggs said. Bellarmine shoots well because the players take high-percentage shots (Cacciola, 2015).

Hi, my name is Rob Southworth and I am passionate about good teaching and learning. When I was teaching the basic course on School Improvement at Teachers College Columbia University I told my students of the “best practices” to come out of education in America: They included the project method, grouping students, hands-on learning, achieving standards, student-centered learning, problem-solving, performance assessment, accountability, experiential learning, collaborative teaching, multiple intelligences, flipped classrooms and arts-integration. And like the best coaches in basketball today, I want our students to benefit from these best educational practices.

Making Sense of Educational Intelligence

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When parents and educators talk about their children/students, there is a commonly held understanding of the type of smarts they are talking about that loosely combines brain power with demonstration of brain power in school. For example, “Susan is so smart because she reads the assignment and then writes a great summary of the passage.”

However, when you ask teachers and parents for a more precise definition, the conversation breaks down, as the description of brain power and the description of demonstration of that brain power become particular to their conversations. For educators this break down in commonly understood definitions of smart students is observable but harder to measure in classrooms. Educators need a more nuanced, cause and effect definition that includes “students demonstrating their smarts.” Researchers need even a more nuanced, and really a more valid and reliable way to collect “evidence of student learning.”