Learning Intelligence and the link to Self

self image

We believe we know who we are. We think we know how we would react or behave in different circumstances and situations. We think we have the measure of others and can predict how they will behave too.

What if none of this is true? What if we have no real idea of who we are and have no way of predicting how others will react? I would bet that we would all feel rather uncomfortable.

So how does the idea of ‘self’ work?

The concept of ‘self’  features a lot in our language: behave yourself, you are not yourself, being self-assured, self-motivated, being selfish, self-centred, show self-control, self-help books, myself, help yourself etc. It could be that anything that is important tends to feature more often in language. This would indicate ‘self’ is important to us.

This summary about ‘self’ is based on the book by Bruce Hood, The Self Illusion [i]

  • The concept of ‘self’ is not associated with any organ in the body other than the brain
  • There is no ‘self’ centre in the brain
  • We have an image of ‘self’ that we develop
  • ‘Self’ is a reflection and can change according to your social environment
  • ‘Self’ is a set of behaviours others are accustomed to
  • ‘Self’ appears to provide some behavioural control function

There are times when ‘self’ appears to be more active and this correlates with key phases in our development. These phases are associated with social activity and influences. At the age of four we start to be concerned about how others see us. How others see us becomes very important around adolescence and can have a major impact on behaviour. When we can see an image of our self, for example in a mirror, it affects our behaviour too.

Labels play a part in establishing ‘self’ and we need to be careful of these. Strangely enough the first thing we do is label children; we may even do so before they are born. For example, picking names can be stressful. If you have an image of a John or Joan that is rather negative I bet the names will be put at the bottom of the list. Likewise a favourable personality, perhaps somebody you admire, named Marcus or Mary will make you think about including them in your possible list. Even before naming though is the label of sex, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ is one of the first questions we get asked after the birth. Our sex can be a major part of ‘self’. It may be the very first factor in building ‘self’. Phrases such as, “Boys will be boys” and girls are made of “sugar and spice and all things nice” is part of many cultural gender images.

How is the ‘self’ involved in how we behave and therefore learn? Earlier I the used the phrase “behave yourself” and we know that sometimes people are “not themselves.” Both phrases are related to how we expect ‘self’ to regulate our behaviour or that of others according to the picture we hold of them or they hold of themselves. We may behave as others expect of us rather than how we would instinctively behave because of their expectations of us. We have not all been “tested” in every conceivable situation and so we use a picture of ourselves to imagine what we would do in different situations. This picture is important to us, it helps define our “character”, the way we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. We also hold pictures of others and use these to predict their behaviour too.

Our image of ‘self’ and how we form it is a complicated affair but it also relies on social interaction. We are how others see us. Labels are how others describe how they see us. Labels carry social stigma and values and whilst we care about how others see us they can influence how we behave.

These points about self and behaviour are especially important in learning. In a learning situation problems arise when these pictures are poorly formed, incomplete, or distorted or we are unwilling to change them. If we think of this picture we hold as ‘self’ then we can explore it as if it were a character in a book. It will have a number of traits along with behaviours we come to expect of it. Within this picture of ‘self’ are our beliefs about our ability to learn, I call this a “learning map” and we begin to draw it the day we are born. Like all maps it shows where you are and where you want to be and the roads that connect the two together. When we can see an easy path between the two points we interpret this as something we can learn without a great deal of effort. If the route is a little more twisted or perhaps has more of an incline we may need encouragement to begin the learning journey. Should the map show no route between the two points we can assume it is not possible to get there and decide it is something we cannot learn. Of course the ‘self’ is the traveller and like all travellers it may decide to ignore the map and find its own route. Like all travellers the ‘self’ has a character, it may be stubborn or resourceful, and this will determine how successful the journey is in either acquiring learning along the way or in reaching the destination.

I hope you can see how useful a metaphor the map is in linking ‘self’ to learning. The metaphor also gives us a way to see how LQ can play a part in learning and in developing the ‘self’. Re drawing the learning map through the application of LQ allows us to discover new things about the ‘self’. We may think we have no way of reaching a destination only to find a different route because we begin to look around us for an alternative. Think of it as crossing a stream that blocks our way by the building of a bridge. This action may occur because we think of ourselves as resourceful, perhaps resilient, or creative.

What this means for the Teacher

  • There is a link between behaviour and our view of ‘self’ (that of ourselves and the ‘self’ of others).
  • Be wary of labels and how they can affect ‘self’. Don’t pre judge based on ‘self’ images you hold linked to behaviours and expectations of those you teach.
  • There may be different ‘selves’ and by creating the right learning environment you can attract and develop the one most appropriate to the learning challenge. For example by managing failure correctly in a lesson you can help form a self-image of a learner who can overcome such challenges and find other ways to succeed (a key LQ behaviour)

What this means for the Learner

  • You are not programmed to behave or act in fixed ways; you can adopt behaviours that make it more likely for you to succeed if the ones you are using don’t work.
  • You are influenced by others and the images they hold of you. Make sure you always act in a way that helps you achieve rather than limits your achievement. Be prepared to show others they are wrong about you when they think you can’t achieve by finding other ways (use your LQ).
  • Labels are removable and they can fade in time. Labels describe behaviours rather than abilities, they are not who you are just how you are seen sometimes. Work to create the right labels for what you want to achieve and not to reinforce the limiting ones. For example if you are labelled as being lazy don’t create a self that is lazy, see it as a challenge to change the other person’s view of you.
  • When drawing your learning map be careful not to allow limiting self-images to affect where you want to get to and how you will get there. Use your LQ as a compass to guide you to where you want to be.

A final word about the link between LQ and ‘self’

In many ways ‘self’ is the toolbox from which LQ draws when building a learning environment that suits our learning needs.  When faced with a learning challenge think which ‘self’ would be successful. A resourceful ‘self’ will always find a way to learn and overcome an environment which limits learning. An energetic ‘self’ will always find the resources and have the drive to complete a learning challenge. A confident ‘self’ will always pick themselves up after knock backs and failures and see these as part of the learning journey.  A thoughtful and reflective ‘self’ will always manage their behaviour in a way that brings about the outcome they are looking for in the least destructive way.

Follow up this article with a further look at selfhttp://wp.me/p2LphS-5y

About the topic of LQ

I coined the term “LQ” 18 months ago when I was writing my first e-book “Understanding Learning Needs”. As I reflected on my teaching career of 30 plus years and the challenges in helping people to learn, I found I needed something to describe my own learning journey and how I had overcome my learning barriers as well as the strategies I had used successfully as a teacher to help others learn. I describe LQ as a way of managing your learning environment to meet your own learning needs. Seeing the challenges in education change it became evident that we needed to equip learners with a skill set and understanding so that they could manage their own learning environment to meet their needs, LQ is my answer to that challenge.  In this way no matter how toxic the learning environment the learner would be able to learn comfortably and with confidence.

As I try to build a career as an educational consultant my own LQ is helping me develop new skills and overcome new learning challenges so I know it works.  I hope reading the articles I have written is making you think about your own learning journey and how you have developed your own LQ.  There have been over a 1000 views of my articles on LQ since publishing the first on August 11th this year and 500 downloads of the e-book Understanding Learning Needs since it was published a year ago. I am hoping that this developing audience is an indication of an awakening in others of the value of the concept of Learning Quotient in managing your own learning.

Finally – don’t be afraid to ask! If there is anything you want to know about LQ or would like me to present my ideas to a group of colleagues just get in touch, others already have. Whilst I may not be able to attend in person there are always ways of communicating.

[i] Bruce Hood, 2012 The ‘self’ Illusion: Why There is No “You” Inside Your Head, Constable & Robinson


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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

One response to “Learning Intelligence and the link to Self”

  1. Jonah Smyth says :

    Looking as though you have really developed your ideas since I first discovered your website. Your development of your idea of L.Q. must be really satisfying. I once again look forward to extending my own knowledge now that I am back in the educational scene.


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