What does smart mean?


In education, everyone seems to be concerned with who is smart. A student with good grades is referred to as smart, while a student with poor grades is not smart. Often the way people use the word smart makes it seem like it is a talent or an innate ability. Some people are born smart and others are not. This implies that some people will get good grades, while others are destined to low academic achievement.

I have found through teaching hundreds of students that smart is not only the result of innate ability, but also includes other factors.

Take the example of students I work with: English Language Learners. Some students have an innate ability to learn language at a faster rate than others. This would make them smart according to the sense of smart mentioned above. But I have consistently observed lower level language students perform better than upper level language students on the same tests. Something more than just innate ability must account for this.

I believe that a very important factor in smart is hard work. I have noticed that the lower level language students that outperform upper level language students take their notebooks even when there is no homework assigned. Also, they more often study the night before a test. Their hard work pushes their grades above the grades of their upper level language student peers.

When we think about smart, we should take into account that it is more than some ability we are born with. Instead it includes other factors, not the least of which is hard work.

Image credit: http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/welcome/3727.htm

2 thoughts on “What does smart mean?

  1. Great article Ryan. I do wish more people would understand this instead of categorizing us all into ‘Smart’ and ‘Not smart’ as that sometimes stays in our minds n we limit ourselves/ our performances as we think we aren’t ‘Smart enough’ to accomplish a certain goal/dream. Society (including parents n teachers) needs to not be so critical of people as their words may put someone in a box which they can never escape n thus never live up to their potential.


    • I agree with you. These smart/ not smart labels really aren’t helpful. There are many ways that people can do well and they cannot be summed up in a labels like these. Thanks for your comment!


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