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Content Section

Understanding and facilitating the development of intellect (Educational practices 26)

By Andreas Demetriou and Constantinos Christou


Information flows continuously in the environment. As we attempt to do something, our senses receive large volumes of information. In any conversation, messages are exchanged rapidly.


To understand meaning, we have to focus, record, choose and process relevant information at every moment, before it is displaced by other information. Often, information is incomplete or masked by other information or the problems to be solved are new to us. Thus, we must compare different aspects of information or other messages, and use deduction to fill in the gaps in the information, connect it with what we already know or invent solutions to new problems.


Children at school learn new concepts every day. Reading, arithmetic or science are very demanding for them. To learn, children must hold information in their heads, use previously acquired concepts to interpret new information and then change their understanding as required. These tasks are possible because we can focus on information and process it before it disappears, alternate between stimuli or concepts according goals, and make decisions based on an understanding and evaluation of information through reasoning. At the same time, we adjust our strategies according to what we already know or depending on our strengths and weaknesses.


To understand human intelligence, psychological and cognitive sciences try to specify what cognitive processes are involved in dealing with the above-mentioned tasks, how these processes change during learning, why individuals have different capacities, and how biology and culture may influence them. Any systematic attempt to improve intelligence through education would have to build on the knowledge assembled by research since the end of the nineteenth century.


In this booklet the authors outline how the sciences of the mind view intelligence and suggest a programme for instruction that may build upon its various processes.