Contemplating the Power of Engagement

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In Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (Basic Books, 2013), Scott Barry Kaufman presents his work on a new theory of intelligence set in the context of a broad review of the literature on cognitive science  — from Binet to Torrance to Csikszentmihalyi to Gardner to Dweck — juxtaposed with his own personal story.  I found the book to be thought-provoking, hard work, and compelling.

There are many goodies here to make this a worthy read. Here’s the big nugget:

“Intelligence is the dynamic interplay of engagement and abilities in pursuit of personal goals.” (p. 302)

You’ll get a sense of the voice and narrative by watching this 10-minute video of Scott Barry Kaufman discussing the themes in his book.


If, after fully contemplating Kaufman’s definition, we seek to leverage it in classrooms, what would that look like? Kaufman gives us only a clue here (p. 306), praising progressive educators for approaches that emphasize:

  • learning goals;
  • emotional self-regulation;
  • self-regulated learning strategies;
  • self-expression;
  • self-pacing;
  • context;
  • deliberate practice;
  • grit;
  • passion;
  • persistence;
  • play.

I am eager to see what develops. 

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Catalytic Questioning

Hal Gregersen describes himself as a “catalytic questioner.” INSEAD Professor of Innovation and Leadership and co-author of The Innovator’s DNA with Clay Christensen and Jeff Dyer, Gregersen challenges organizations to develop innovative cultures.

Gergersen wowed the audience at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) Annual Conference on November 8. He relates his work to the future of learning and to our work in independent schools, noting both the essential need for questioning to stimulate creative solutions and these dismal facts about classroom life:

  • the average child, age 6-18, asks only one question per one-hour class per month;
  • the average teacher asks students 291 questions per day and waits an average of one second for a reply.

Watch the video below for a bit of inspiration. Then share with your teacher colleagues the just-published article, Hal Gregersen: “Teachers should reward questions, not just answers” (Wired/UK, 11/08/13). 

Interesting Times

  • The need to mitigate growing inequalities based on access to quality higher education;
  • The central importance of quality-of-life issues in attracting the talent that will grow the local economy;
  • The challenge of building a truly successful, inclusive, equitable and united multiethnic society.
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Stephen Klineberg, 2013 ESHA Annual Conference, Hotel ZaZa, Houston

These are the key themes of a 30-year look at the evolution of Houston, a case study for major cities across the country. In “The Changing Face of Houston and America,” a fast-paced presentation packed with data, Stephen Klineberg of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University shared the findings of this study with members of the Elementary School Heads Association (ESHA) at its Annual Conference. In elaborating on the growing economic inequalities — and their distribution by race and ethnic group — Klineberg added to the above list an urgent need for strong, accessible early childhood education.

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Houston Skyline from Hotel ZaZa 11th Floor, 2013 ESHA Annual Conference

The session was an effective “mindset shifter,” nudging us to consider increased diversity not just in terms of strategic initiatives in school admission, hiring, and curriculum, but also as a demographic and sociological phenomenon. Klineberg’s film, Interesting Times, underscores this effect.

The crescendo of Klineberg’s ESHA presentation was the Q&A session including a visual tour of the city from the windows of our 11th-floor meeting space. We left inspired to think about our changing urban landscapes in new ways and with a fresh appreciation for Houston.







(Photos: Claudia Daggett)