Assessing Cognitive Abilities are Outdated – No

Assessing our ability to comprehend knowledge is complex and can be hard to define.  On Wikipedia, knowledge is defined as having a familiarity with someone or something, which can include descriptions, or skills acquired through education. The student’s capability to learn knowledge could be thought of as a building.  You go down a few streets in a neighborhood, and you will notice that houses come in many shapes, colors, and sizes.  Some may be large while others are quite small.  Some houses may be painted different colors from the others on the same block.  Not to mention the process of what they become to be, and the building materials that come in different shapes or sizes. How does one know how each house came to be built, and does the difference really matter? 

Psychometric measures that claim to be designed to measure knowledge or intelligence ignores many types of Intelligences, which is about understanding or knowing. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is most popular for differentiating between eight of the following intelligences:

           *Logical-mathematical-Good at displaying reasoning capabilities, recognizing abstract patterns, scientific thinking and investigation and the ability to perform complex calculations.

           *Spatial- Good at displaying spatial judgment and the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye.

           *Linguistic- Good at displaying words and languages spoken or written.

           *Bodily-kinesthetic- Good at displaying bodily motions through control and the capacity to handle objects.

           *Musical- Good at displaying ability to have good pitch and may even have absolute pitch, and are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music.

           *Interpersonal- Good at displaying the ability to understand others.

           *Intrapersonal- Good at displaying the ability to have deep understanding for the self.          

           *Naturalistic- Good at displaying the ability to relate to one’s surroundings in a natural setting.                


Beyond the types of intelligences mentioned above, the book by Napoleon Hill “Think and grow Rich” (1966) expressed that “The world does not pay men for that which they ‘know.’ It pays them for what they do, or induce others to do” (pg. 122).  Simply just assessing students on the knowledge they know does not help to understand how knowing the knowledge will translate into success for them.  Knowledge can’t be separated from previous knowledge learned by the student. Nor the countless experiences that may influence how the student obtains the knowledge the teacher may want to assess. Adding such cultural elements such as religion, language, and different experiences and other factors can result in having a different knowledge base for students. What if the student moved to the U.S. from another country?  The student’s base of knowledge will be different from a U.S. native.  

Students in the classroom setting in grade school don’t partake in how the curriculum is constructed, what they will learn, and how they will learn it.  How the curriculum is shaped and tested is told through the teacher and not the student. This often creates biases toward the student.  Communities forget that teachers are limited in what they know and how they have come to know it. They may be assessing knowledge in ways they aren’t aware that are invalid or outdated. They dismiss how the student learns or acquires knowledge. 

Content should not be judged alone, but it should be judged in context.  Human beings don’t learn concepts and ideas alone or in a vacuum. They learn through experiences during their lifetime.  Students should carry out projects that reflect or hold the knowledge they learn, and that they can use.  These projects should maximum their strengths and minimize their weaknesses by relying on what types of intelligence they possess, based on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  

For example, let’s say that a student has great intelligence in Linguistic, Musical, and Interpersonal areas. His projects should maximize these intelligences he greatly possesses but not ignore the other types he may need to carry out his projects.  If he is a creative writer, he could write books of poetry, novels or even scripts using his linguistic intelligence. If he can read or write musical notes he could write music for a movie based on his novel or just the screenplay if producers accept it.  He can use his Interpersonal intelligence to market his novel, movie, or movie soundtrack to the public.  The content of his products that he chooses can be controversial that is relevant yet educational, and appealing to a mass audience.