Melioration as a Higher Thinking Skill of Future Intelligence

Jan. 08, 2007

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 109 Number 1, 2007, p. 24-50
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper examines the characteristics of the thinking skill the authors call “melioration” i.e., the competence to borrow a concept from a field of knowledge supposedly far removed from his or her domain, and adapt it to a pressing challenge in an area of personal knowledge or interest.

The skill has its source in conscious personal meaning-making, not in the process of deduction. In the unplanned operation of connection and association, one creates a new concept generating a new insight into a phenomenon, which hitherto had not been described in such a way.

Stages of Melioration

In this research, the authors have distinguished two kinds of melioration. Within each kind of melioration, they hypothesize six progressive stages of skill development. The two principle kinds of melioration are the melioration of information, concepts, ideas, and insights, and the melioration of tools and technologies.
The six hypothetical stages of development they propose around the core process of meliorating concepts and tools include: Initial intention, retrospective intention, continual integrations, result, evaluation, and proved validity.

This paper relates melioration to existing theories of intelligence, taking the position that human cognitive/intellectual functioning is in part the ability to learn or think in the framework of familiar systemic concepts, and in part the ability to learn or think with new systemic concepts that are then available for future application.

In conclusion, the skill of choosing the appropriate chunks of information, and applying them to the solution of problems in different time and space-dependent situations, thereby meliorating the chunks, may well be the skill demanded by anyone who wants to function successfully in the 21st century. Adaptation, connotation, and simulation are the behavioral terms and keywords that will then be constantly with them. The authors hope that understanding the skill of melioration will help those who develop school curricula prepare coming generations more effectively.

Updated: Jan. 12, 2009