Testing Mental Ability
Few topics can stir up parental envitions as readily as the subject of testing children intelligence. Although IQ tests have been demystified in recent years and to some extent deemphasized the fact remains that most children are routinely oven tests of mental ability soon afier they enter school and the results of those tests can effective courseoff child's school career in both direct and subtle way
The most widely used intelligence tests today are essentially adapta tions of a turn of the century camination that was not intended to mere general intelligence in the fest place. When the French psy chologit Alfred Binet developed the initial IQ test in Paris in 1905, he did so for the purpose of distinguishing average pupils from slow learn ers in overcrowded classes, to help the education ministry identify those who were unlikely to succeed in regular school As such, his test was designed to assess then it that children needed to perform well in a general ctas situation, measuring intelligence in a broader sense was not his aim. How Crer, Binet's test was found to be so accurate at predicting shoof succe-and eventually at predicting Nucces at a variety of other that it came to be used asa uge of
general intelligence Aher several new versions were introduced to act, the towa adapted for inc in America by researchers at condu it yield ing a version called the Stanford binet intelligence Sce Varis other can Later developed similar testadored for adults ch ase chil: drce and preschoolers
But despite modifications and innovations over the years, the mud em tests based on Binet's modet serve the mention to that his did then as an effective predictor of academic ccessAchild's IQ scores correlate highly with be current academic performance and, to a lesser extent, predict future chitastic achievement.
There is generally no reason for a child to be given an IQ test before she centers school. Before the age of three or u, developmental processes bow wide normal variations that may or may not be related to later intellectual ability for this reason, carly intelligence tests are not con Nidered a reliable predictor of a child's eventual academic success An IQ test might be given along with other diagnostic tests owner, to a preschooler who is experiencing de clopmental or learning problems or emotional difficulties
Once your child enters school, he will almost certainly be given ons or more group tests of aptitude and achievement. Idcally, the tests Serve as tools to bep educators identify children who might benefit from special attention, including slow learner who need remedial aid and underachievers who have high IQs but need special assistance to cope with emotional, motivational or learning problems that are hin dering their achievement. The IQ test has also become the major means of entry into special programs for gifted children in the public schools.
Although the distinction between IQ and intelligence is blurred in the popular mind, it is important for parents to understand that an 1Q test cannot measure intelligence as, say, a scale can measure weight: your child weighs 30 pounds, she is 10 pounds heavier than a 20 pound child But if she scores 130 on an IQ test, that does not make her 10 units smarter than the child who scores 120. The most reliable information you can get from this number is that your child's chances of doing well in school are substantially better than average
Intelligence tests for young children cover a number of categories, including vocabulary, word usage, memory, reasoning, conceptual thinking and a range of numerical, motor and mechanical abilities For children too young to take written tests, the examination is given orally in a one on one session with a tester Some of the test items are ver bal-the child answers questions put to her by an examiner - and other items require the child to perform a mental task using blocks, drawing materials, puzzles or other tickets In the category of visual- motor skills, for example. a threat oldimght be asked to copy a drawing of a circle, a five yeat old might be given the more advanced
challenge of copying a drawing of a square By the age of five, the average child can define vocabulary words such as "hat" and "stove." can detect similarities when asked a question such as, "In what way are a crayon and a pencil alike" and can answer a simple reasoning question such as "Why do we wear shoes?"
All tests have timed sections that measure the rate at which a child solves problems. The ra tionale for this is that nearly every youngster has experience in some basic tasks such as sim plc arithmetic, but that children differ in the facility with which they are able to solve similar problem.
IQ tests usually measure the quanti
ty of past learning, as well, by deter- mining the relative rarity of informa tion an individual possesses A child who has learned a great deal will have all of the information that most children have learned, plus some pieces of information that only a few other children know. For example, most five year-olds would know what the word "flower" means, but only a few would know the word "cactus
Problems on an IQ test are ranked according to the age at which the average child can solve them. The original Bind to provided a score based on the concept of mental age, the age when a child can perform tasks that have been classified into age levels through studies of large numbers of children. For example, fa foury car-old can solve problems usually solved by five year-olds, his mental age is five, if he answers primarily questions typical of the three year old his mental age is three Binet divided a child's mental age by his chronological age and then multiplied by 100 to eliminate the decimal point. The resulting quo patient became known as the intellecte quent or IQ
By this scoring method, the average 1Q s 100, as the average four year old would have a mental ape as well as a chronological age of four and would thus score 100. Today, the concert is the same, although the scores are computed somewtat diferently
A key measure of a test's validity is how well its scores correlate with scores of other tests attempting to mcasare the same skills and with other indices of mental ability. The Stanford Binet and other widely used tests are considered sound ones because they correlate highly with one another.
Critics of IQ testing contend that the practice has more limitations and disadvantages than benefits. While testing can locate those youngsters Likely to do well in school, it cannot predict that a student with an IQ of 120 will do better than one who has an IQ of 110. Motivation, self esteem and self discipline are also important in determining academic success, and the IQ test does not measure any of these qualities Neither can it predict performance in other desirable areas -among them crc ativity, athletic prowess and social competence.
Above all, it must be understood by parents that the IQ test does not place a limit on a child's ability to learn. A child who IQ score is 110 may take a longer time or have more difficulty learning a subject than a classmate who scores 130, but with high motivation and hard work, he may surpass the higher scoring child. In addition be may be much more talented in music, painting or other skills that indicate a type of intelli gence IQ tests do not measure. Similarly, the IQ score should not place a low ceiling on a child's aspirations. IQ levels vary widely, even within professions considered learned One study of 80 medical students, for example, revealed IQs rangitg from 110 to 150
and Perhaps the bitterest controvery surrounding IQ testing is that of cul tural bias the fact that IQ test questions deal with words and Informa tion that, in general, reflect only the mainstream, middle class hack ground, known to experts as the majority culture. Critics have argued that the test docs not ask questions that might reveal the types of intelligence common to children from nop middle class segments of American society the street smarts, specialized vocabulary and prac tical survival skills, for example, that may be found among poor urhan black children, Puerto Ricans and American Induns but are foreign to the otpring of middle class suburbanites
Rajdoot or wrong 1Q scores tend to carry much heavier implications than simply predicting school achievement. Critics contend tut a child who scores lonN because of cultural bias is destined to be dismissed as unintelligent by cachers and therefore disadvantaged within the school system As a result of this debate, there is a growing movement among local and national education officials 20 downplay the impor tance of tests Flowever, these tests generally predict success in school as accurately for children of the minority culture as for children of the majority - a fact that has led some to observe that the school system is as blased as the tests
One of the most persuasive arguments against placing heavy emphasis + on 1Q scores is that they often fluctuate Rescarch has revealed that the scores of about two out of three middle class children tend to shift upward or downward to some extent - not usually from day to day, but over a period of time
In one long term study for which children underwent multiple test ing when they were between two and a half and 17 years of age, re searchers found that one out of three individuals had scores that luctu ated as much as 30 IQ points from the highest to lowest score, and one in seven scored a spread of 40 points. Rather than many dramatic ups and downs, these changes in 1Q often showed a slow, progressive in crease or decrc over the years
This suggests that parents should never think of a child as being locked into a given level of performance for life, nor should they make casual predictions about his future prospects for success based on intel ligence test scores made during his early years.
If your youngster achieves a lower than expected score on an IQ test, either in the preschool period or during the school years, you may want to request a retest in a later year, perhaps using a different tester or a different test. This might be important the child is being excluded from a special program for example, a program for gifted students on the basis of a few percentage points of IQ There are many reasons wtry a child's performance might vary from one time to ander on the identical IQ test. She may have been sick or she may have been having simply a bad day when the tests were given Or perhaps she was too fatigued or restles to complete the test, did not understand the instruc tions properly or was uncomfortable with the testing situation
An examiner may also be the Source of the discrepancy in scores In one on one testing situations, results can be affected by nuances in the way a test is administered or how items are scored. Analyzing a pre schooler's test responses is a complicated process in which many fac tors must be considered Her ability to process information, memory, her understanding of social situations, articulation, her level of maturity and her degree of experience may all be involved For example, in one type of test, children are asked to put together a series of comic strip like pictures so that they tell a story First, a child must understand what it means to tell a story, then she must understand chronological se quence. She must be able to translate an abstract mental concept into pictures, and finally, she may be asked to articulate what has happened in the pictures. Interpreting the test results l highly subjective matter, and there is likely to be variation anong individual testers. For school- age children, test taking is more uniforni and scoring more objective, but even here testers can vary late degreest ictes or lenien cy in administering tests and in the early air matruction
As a result of the acknowledged limitations of A sestA, many educators and psychologists are beginning to explore other indicators of intelli pence. Among soch tests are a group of instruments known as dynamic asicament tests, which are designed to measure what a child is capable of learning during the course of the test procedure. In the standard IQ test, a child is asked to copy a circle, the score for that problem depends on whether she can or cannot do it on the first try. In a dynamic assessment text, the child cannot copy the circle on the first try, she is shown how to do so, then asked to try it again when she has drawn the circle, she is asked to complete a similar task. This form of testing measures the child's learning speed and her ability to transfer skills from one problem to another
Attempts to devclop tests that measure creativity have been some what less successful. In one such test, children are asked questions such as, "How many uses can you think of for a paper clip" Scores are based on the number of answers the child can come up with and the novelty of the responses. Critics have pointed out, however, that such tests mea sure only the child's ability to give unusual answers and that being different is not necesarily the same as being creative.
One of the montering challenges for psychologists han bcen the attempt to devine ways of testing babies and Owly, with out language asa communication tool, the only way of saying their mental behavior is to o ne what they do naturally. One typical and frequently used measure of development for the very is the bayley Scales of Infant Design, named me Nancy hayley, the child psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley who directed the test's development. The Bayley Scales are divided into the sec Dion the Motor Scale, the Mental Scale and the Infant Behavior Profile.
The Motor Scale is designed to mcavure control of the body and Coordination. The Mental Scale assess perception, memory learning and problem solving Reading emotional expressions in a butnystace isa major source of information about the child intelligence For ample, in an cerche were the child is challenged to hnd hidden objects the aminer will infer intelligence if the baby shows surprise when the object is discovered If the infant shows persistence and curiosity in the search, this is al a sign of intelligence, indicating that the child has kamed that the object did not disappear, but was simply hidden.
The Infant Behavior Profile is based on attention, motivation and Sociability. Al six months, intelligence is inferred from what aby pays attention to. At 12 months, the tests Evaluate how much a baby imitates the examiner, another behavior assumed to indicate intelligence At I8 months, the major test criterion is language how many words the child know and whether she can put together two or three words, such as me go" or put on hat
The Bayley Scales and other similar tests, usually administered by a professional eminer, are most often employed to identify children who lag far behind their age mates and who may require special atten tion. None of these tests reliably predict later intelligence when they are given before the chud has reached two or three years of age.
Researchers have developed some measures of infant intelligence, however, that seem to correlate with later 1Q scores. One approach measures a type of city leanáng called habituation. Scientists have found that it in an athon a repeated visual pattern or given a repeated s l se will pes lcrestry les artention to it, she will become bored by the sound of protein and srk something new. The rate at which she loses interest is the rate of habituation. Follow-up studies show that has to b e quickly at four months usually outscore other children in 1Q tests when they reach four years
In general, thoxchables considered unusually intelligent by experts are not necessarily carly walkers or talkers, but children who demon strate an exceptional amount of curiosity, perceptiveness and drive. Children who are oriented toward learning and who continually scan their environment for information are regarded as more intelligent than those who are not learning oriented. Perhaps most significant a baby's confident attitude-as indicated by positive emotional responses, ca gerness to explore her environment and lack of fearfulness - is consid cred an important indicator of later intellectual achievement.