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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