Learning Intelligence (LQ) and the link to falling apples


Sometimes in science a case is made for something to exist as a result of its effect rather than at the time being able to see it or measure it directly. My example would be the tale of Sir Isaac Newton being hit on the head by an apple leading to the discovery of gravity. This post asks the question “Is there a similar set of circumstances with Learning Intelligence?” Let’s look for the apple to start with, work out which tree it fell from, and then try to see if the concept of LQ describes what is happening.

There are a number of stages in formal education that mark a significant change in the learning environment so let’s start there.

A great deal of learning starts within the home environment, both for the parent and the newly born. The parent has to assume the role of teacher and may have family or friend role models or even recall something of their own upbringing or experiences on which to base their role. Whatever role they take and however they define it will determine the learning environment they create and therefore the experiences of the learner.

The next significant change is when the young child experiences a different environment and not that created by the parent, this may be at a nursery or preschool.  Here there may be more than one adult in the role of teacher and there is likely to be a change in the curriculum on offer. The learner is likely to be less passive and may be required to interact with others adopting a social aspect to their learning. This is often seen as an introduction to or preparation for the start of the formal education system of schooling.

Starting school is a significant change to the learning environment and the curriculum being offered. Where things may have been more casual in nature there is now structure, assessment, competition and a central adult, formally trained as a teacher, directing it all.  Things have moved on considerably for the learner as far as the learning environment is concerned.

Once “in the system” the learner faces a number of key environmental changes some of which are predictable and some happen by chance. Known or predicted environmental changes happen at the end of each school year with a change of teacher. These are fairly low on the scale of change as the school they attend may be the same one. When it comes to changes school or phases the change is more dramatic for the learner. They not only face a change of teacher but also routines, social groupings and friendships, buildings and even timings but also curriculum and teaching methods.

After the formal compulsory education there are the optional changes associated with further or higher education. Here again the learning environment changes, there may be less directed and more self-managed learning. There may be a move away from family and friends and unfamiliar landscapes or even languages.

At what age these major changes take place has been the subject of debate and different models exist. The age at which school starts varies around the world as does the number of phases and at what age the various transitions takes place.  The background to the decision as to when to move from one environment to the other has to do with a notion of when the child is “ready” both emotionally and intellectually.  Given the wide age range that occurs in any year group (up to nearly 12 months) and the corresponding development (especially in the early years) it is difficult to see how it can be effective to orchestrate this process along age related lines. This is another story though and may have more to do with organisational reasons than readiness for learning!


I have started by describing the tree. What about the apple? Well the apple is the changing environment, it is something we can see, describe and identify. We know the apple exists and certainly feel its effect when we experience a change, whatever, and whenever that may be. I wonder though how many people before Newton stopped to think about why the apple fall to earth. I would bet that many people just saw the apple on the ground and thought “free food” and little more! They just got on with whatever they were doing, grateful for the additional nourishment.  Perhaps they noticed at certain times of the year there were no apples around and at others they were plentiful.  Another educational metaphor may be; the apple that gets left on the ground will begin to rot!

Why all this talk of apples? Well I am trying to suggest that as many took apples for granted, especially how or why they fell to the ground, we take the impact of the learning environment for granted too.  We recognise it but we don’t make the link between it and the learner being able to manage it in the same way as before Newton nobody made the link with falling apples and gravity.


If we reflect on changes to the learning environment we begin to recognise key features within the learning and the impact on the learner. There may be emotional trauma as the young learner attends school for the first time. A teacher may be substituted part of the way through the year and the rate of progress or the like for school may change. Performance demonstrated at one stage or schooling phase may not be in evidence immediately after the change and may take months to reappear. A love for a subject may change to indifference from one year to the next.

There are numerous examples of how the learning environment impacts learning but what is the key factor sitting behind it all? My argument is that it is the match between the needs of the learner and the environment in which they find themselves. There is a connection here with the earlier comment about when to change schooling phases and maturity. Age and the level of maturity though do not always relate to the learner having the ability to adapt to different learning environments or conditions.  My argument would be that those children who manage the various changes without demonstrating a significant fall back or interruption to their learning have a higher LQ than those who do not and that LQ is the missed concept in education, it is the reason the apple falls to the ground. Mastering the learning environment and managing it in a way that meats your own learning needs is a major step in becoming a lifelong learner , no matter what environment you find yourself in you are able to manage it and meet your learning needs. The key point I wish to make is that you can develop your LQ, all you have to do to start with is understand the link with the different aspects of learning.

Each of the previous articles has tried to make the link between LQ and the different aspects of being a successful learner. I hope that this article has made you think about LQ as the unseen force that makes sense of what you experience and see around you when you are learning. Perhaps next time you struggle to learn something or pick something up easily and feel comfortable in your learning environment you may just think about why apples fall to the ground and reflect on your LQ.

1) The Sir Isaac Newton image provided by:



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About AcEd

"4c3d" (AcEd) is the abbreviation for Advocating Creativity in education, a company I set up to challenge how we think about and deliver education. The blog champions my concept of Learning intelligence, how we manage our learning environment to meet our learning needs as well as detailing those needs: Power Belonging, Choice and Fun - PBCF. Kevin Hewitson 2019

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