Thursday, January 22, 2009

IQ vs. Self-Regulation, or Why Smart Students Can Fail

Imagine the following scenario: it’s late summer and you’re diligently working to prepare your classroom for the coming school year when your administrator approaches you with an unusual class list. In the left column you notice students’ initials. The next two columns presents the scores from two different tests: one reports an IQ score, and the other reports a score for something called “self-regulation.” Your principal offers to compose your class of students with higher scores in either of the two categories.

As you examine the scores, you notice that the two do not necessarily correlate; high IQ scores do not always align with high self-regulation scores. In fact, in some cases the differences in scores are astonishing. Which do you choose—students with high IQ scores or students with high self-regulation scores? What characterizes high-achieving students? Do they simply have higher IQs?

Before deciding, consider the following: when academic performances of high IQ students are compared, the results vary. Greatly. Widely. What would cause this? Why would students with high IQ scores fail to demonstrate their potential?

Raw intelligence cannot empower success in or outside of school. Recent studies reveal that self-regulation, the “nonintellectual” ability to exert effortful control over one’s behavior, predicts academic success better than IQ. It also better predicts GPA, standardized test achievement, homework completion, television watching, and the potential for GPA gains during the course of a year. Self-regulation in children even correlates with SAT scores, adult body mass index, and even things like professional and marital satisfaction.

So, which students would you choose? All of them need teaching, of course, but if you were trying to compose a class of high achieving students, the self-regulation scores may be the better choice.

What is self-regulation? If it is critical to student achievement, how can we help students develop it? We’ll be exploring these questions in future postings.

1 comment:

Martin Walker said...

Hello, Kevin.

This is fascinating. I'm curious to learn more about how self-regulation is measured and how it can be trained or improved.

My company publishes brain training software that increases fluid intelligence, but we spend a lot of time on the training blog discussing the self-control and focus aspects of the training. (It also seems to be great for training those.)

In my own life I've been on both sides of the self-regulation fence -- aware at some times that I was underachieving because I wasn't applying myself, and at other times that I was performing optimally through keeping myself on task. I truly believe that self-regulation can be affected by circumstance and can be trained.

Best wishes,