Friday, November 7, 2014

Intelligence Self-Assessment Can Lead to Better College Major Selection

Intelligence and its various forms influence the fields that college graduates are likely to be successful. Ever since Howard Gardner’s book Frames of Mind was published theorists and educators have been trying to understand the multiple and complex ways of knowledge accumulation. A journal article by Tai Fang-Mei (2014) highlights the forms of intelligence that are appreciated in student learners and how these intelligences should guide career paths.

Intelligence has always been in debate in terms of how to measure and understand it. When Gardner released his book it became possible to see intelligence on multiple planes of existence. He included seven intelligences of verbal/ linguistic, visual-spatial, musical, intra-personal, interpersonal, logical mathematical, and bodily-kinesthetic. Each uses different skills to navigate and understand the environment.

We can see these intelligences at work when a great play is written, a musical piece is masterfully played, and a scientist finds a new discovery. The problem is that not all intelligences are rewarded in society in precisely the same way and different intelligences can lead to higher financial rewards. Society seems to appreciate certain types of intelligences over others even though all have merit at different times and places.

The study seems to focus on encouraging incoming students to understand their intelligences and then using those intelligences to encourage them select a suitable educational and career path. Helping students to understand themselves and where their skill lays also fosters a separation of socially bounded “expected” perceptions their friends have to something they are most likely to be happy with. It is a process of aligning goals with the skills that will get them there.

Putting a student in an art class when their skills are heavily focused in the mathematical domains seems to be a waste of talent unless there is a method of bridging that gap. Perhaps something more focused in mechanical drawing or engineering would be helpful to match interest and skill into something that results in gainful employment. Understanding the student and the employment needs of society seems beneficial to proper placement.

The study found that it is helpful to students when they find out where their intelligences lay and then use that knowledge to select a second major or minor. Students are often unaware of where their skills lay and what that means in terms of future employment. For example, English majors should also rank high in linguistics skills. Helping students become aware of their innate and learned skills is a process of awareness that pays off throughout their educational process.

Today’s Internet offers opportunities to simply help students self-assess through quizzes valid tests they can conduct independently. Such methods would better take student misperceptions about life and employment and let them find matches between their skills and viable career options that further their personal development. The student still has the choice to use or ignore them but administrators have a place to point students that are struggling with majors. Not all things can be measured but they can help an indecisive student make a better decision.

Fang-Mei, T. (2014). Exploring multiple intelligences. The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, 10 (1).

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