It’s an ‘old’ book now, but one that resonates with me… I just picked up Robert Sternberg’s Thinking Styles:
In his preface, he writes: “I’ve attended and been graduated from five schools: Tuscan Elementary, Maplewood Junior High School, Columbia High School, Yale College, and Stanford University. I performed better in each new school than I did in the old one – sometimes a little better, other times a lot better, but always better. At the same time, I’ve observed other people go through their own sequence of schools, and do a little worse in each new school. We were not unusual: Some students do a bit worse each time around, others a bit better, and still others no different from the last time around. Is it random? No. Is it more (or less) effort each new time around? No. What is it?
In our society, the first explanation that would come to anyone’s mind would probably be abilities. Here, we see the educational system as a huge funnel; but this is a peculiar funnel, because it has a series of filters inside that allow fewer people to pass through each successive stage. Each filter, representing a school, has a different fineness of mesh. Highly selective schools are very fine-mesh filters that will let only the prime students through; slightly less selective schools are medium-mesh filters that will allow the choice students through as well; and even less selective schools are coarse filters that will allow successively less able students to get through.
Abilities do not explain the phenomenon I’m talking about. If we thought in terms of funnels with filters, then we would expect almost every student to do a bit worse at each next stage of career than at the last stage of career, as the funnel becomes narrower or the filter finer. [-p.x] Such an explanation would not account for improved performance as the funnel narrows or the filter becomes finer. But many students do improve.
There is another explanation, and it has to do with thinking styles – how we prefer to use the abilities we have. People will do better or worse at successive stages of schooling and career as the environment provides a better or worse match to people’s styles of thought. In this book, I will argue that thinking styles are as important as, and arguably more important than, abilities, no matter how broadly abilities are defined. Thus, constructs of social, practical, and emotional intelligence, or of multiple intelligences, expand our notions of what people can do – but the construct of style expands our notion of what people prefer to do – how they capitalize on the abilities they have. When your profile of thinking styles is a good match to an environment, you thrive. When it is a bad match, you suffer. Different levels of schooling and different subject areas reward different styles, with the result that you can do better or worse as you go through school (or jobs or relationships, for that matter), depending on how your profile of styles matches up with what the environment expects and on how the environment evaluates you. Similarly, different careers and levels of careers reward different styles differently. This book will be about styles and how they match up to different environments.” (pp.ix-x)
Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine; italics in original) Robert J. Sternberg (c1997) Thinking Styles. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge