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Successful Intelligence

Sternberg (1997) postulates successful intelligence, originally introduced as the triarchic theory on intelligence (1986), as a factored model. He argues for three types of intelligence: analytical (compare, analyze, judge, evaluate); creative (invent, imagine, suppose, design); and practical (practice, implement, show, use).

Based on his emerging theory, analytical intelligence involves verbal abilities; creative, quantitative thinking; and practical, spatial thinking. The interaction of the three is necessary for problem solving, decision making, and creative ideation. It is the interactive nature of the three intelligences that creates what Sternberg calls successful intelligence.

To see the influence of Sternberg's theory in the classroom, think about the traditional fact-oriented tasks in which students are expected to quantify their answers by finding mathematical solutions for a statistical analysis or to qualify their opinions on space exploration by justifying those opinions with supporting evidence.

Think of a project-oriented curriculum in which students must fashion practical solutions for the impending teacher shortage.

Think of community service projects that require all the practical, common sense kind of thinking used in the real world of work.

Think of life situations, sometimes experienced through case study approaches, in which all aspects of successful intelligence come into play in an examination of one's values and practical implications to real life circumstances.

And, finally, think of the students who have "street smarts" and are the informal leaders in the classroom. Successful intelligence honors their pragmatism and provides the framework to further their learning.