Robert Sternberg said:

The characteristics of real-world problems are entirely different from the characteristics of problems on standardized tests. Standardized test problems are mostly multiple choice or short answer and have a right or wrong answer. Real problems require extended answers; there is no perfect answer, and sometimes, not even a very good one. Standardized test problems are decontextualized, emotionally bland and have no real-life stakes. Real-world problems are highly contextualized, emotionally arousing and may have high stakes. Standardized test problems are solved quickly and then you are done; real-life ones often take a long time and, after you think you have solved them, often come back.


Most important, real-world problems require you actively to deploy your intelligence — to decide seriously to use it. Standardized tests measure an inert form of intelligence — one that may exist in your head somewhere but is rarely actually put into real-world use. Intelligence is not just about an inert ability to take tests; it is about the active deployment of that ability to solve problems of life.



Is adaptive intelligence really important? Well, you be the judge. Which skill is more important for the great majority of students in college once they have graduated: the ability to solve artificial verbal and math problems or, alternatively, to address and try to solve problems of global climate change, air and water pollution, global pandemics, bacterial resistance to antibiotics, gun violence against schoolchildren (other than the usual pathetic “our thoughts and prayers are with them”), and the return of would-be autocrats to declining democracies?

There’s usually a difference between academic work and authentic work, and that difference is important when schools talk about the ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ opportunities that they offer students. Looking at you, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, “advanced classes,” “honors courses,” etc…

Your thoughts?