Study Questions the “Bell Curve”

National Public Radio yesterday did a story on new study questioning the classic “bell curve” of the human performance. The study was published in the Journal of Personnel Psychology and it was conducted by several business school professors in Indiana. They came to the conclusion in certain fields of human performance, most people are not average, but below average, and most of the output of any organization comes from a few “superstars.” The Bell Curve and the “new” curve are shown below is a figure taken from the study.

The research subjects were not in education however, but in professional sports, politics, entertainment, and research. Are there any applications to education?

In my opinion, I see this when we compete in the Central and Eastern European Schools Association tournaments. It really helps a basketball team or knowledge bowl team to have the single best performer in the event. It usually means victory, or a very high finish. It is the job of the sponsor or coach to identify that “superstar” or best performer and nurture him or her.

One professor-blogger really criticizes the study. I don’t believe the results of the study apply directly to the classroom and daily student achievement, but it does make me look at the “bell curve” from a different perspective.



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