The impact of education selection according to notions of intelligence: A systematic literature review

Rix, Jonathan and Ingham, Nigel (2021). The impact of education selection according to notions of intelligence: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Educational Research Open, 2-2, article no. 100037.



This paper reports on a systematic review of how intelligence-based classification within schools shapes lives and identities of individuals, families and communities. Formal education has long divided learners, formally and informally between and within schools. These practices have remained in place despite strong evidence to suggest they are problematic, both in relation to the equitable nature of the practices involved and in their impact upon pedagogy, expectations and outcomes. This review examined what was known about the impact of intelligence-based selection upon people’s lived experience, in the short term and longitudionally.

From 3623 possible papers published since 1944, only 85 had a focus upon children’s schooling, intelligence-based selection, and the lives and identities of individuals, families or communities. It was evident that very little consideration has been given to longitudinal impact of selection practices, including a paucity of life history approaches.

Three broad strands of intelligence classification research were evident related to:
● entrance examinations/criteria/Standardised Assessment Tests (SATS)
● gifted and talented
● streaming/setting/tracking
with most concentrating upon a single selection mechanism and quantitative measures. Looking across these strands, educational selection was seen to impact on people’s lives, identities and relationships, creating and perpetuating social hierarchies and divisions. It was overall a conflicted experience with more negative effects than positive. However, the literature largely failed to investigate the broader, interconnected influences of the knowledge hierarchy and its impact upon people’s lived experiences.

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