The WHOs of Intelligence Theories: Robert Sternberg

Robert Sternberg



They report that some of their students who were not doing well in school have become

actively engaged and experienced a high level of success in working on projects. These

observations are consistent with and supportive of the research of Robert Sternberg.



Sternberg (1988, 1997) focuses on just three main components:

  1. Practical intelligence–the ability to do well in informal and formal educational settings; adapting to and shaping one’s environment; street smarts.
  1. Experiential intelligence–the ability to deal with novel situations; the ability to effectively automate ways of dealing with novel situations so they are easily handled in the future; the ability to think in novel ways.
  1. Componential intelligence–the ability to process information effectively. This includes metacognitive, executive, performance, and knowledge-acquisition components that help to steer cognitive processes.

Sternberg strongly believes that intelligence can be increased by study and practice. Quite a bit of his research focuses on such endeavors. Some of Sternberg’s work focuses specifically on “street smarts” versus “school smarts.” He notes that some people are particularly talented in one of these two areas, and not in the other. This observation is consistent with the work of Lev Vygotsky (Fosnot, 1996) who argues that the type of learning that goes on outside of school is distinctly different than the type of learning that goes on in school. While some students are talented in both informal and formal education, others are much more successful in one rather than the other. A teacher who is skilful in developing PBL can help students to design projects that are consistent with their learning abilities and interests.


Theories of Intelligence. Retrieved June 14, 2013 from of Intelligence


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