Defining Intelligence (Part 2) – the Dreaded IQ test

Honestly, this has been one of the hardest posts to write because the abundance of hype, craze, scientific jargon and mathematical terms related to the subject of Intelligence Quotient (IQ).  So let’s take a more tongue-in-cheek look atthis otherwise really boring yet still controversial subject.

IQ is a score derived from one of the standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. There are at least 6 credible tests that are being used currently include Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Stanford-Binet, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities, Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, and Raven’s Progressive Matrices. So you can take all 6 and brag about the highest score on the “official test” at the next networking event! However, if you have 6 low scores, read on – I will show you how to “defeat” every IQ test elitist that talk about his/ her scores.

When modern IQ tests were constructed, the average score within an age group was set to 100 and the standard deviation (SD) or intervals set to 15. For example, 85-100 will be one interval; 100- 115 will be another.  Approximately 95% of the population scores between 70 and 130. Also, two-thirds of the populations have IQ scores within the range 85-115. These numbers practically mean nothing because every IQ test converts the raw scores into a standard bell curve!

Rising IQ?  The average IQ scores for much of the population have been rising at an average rate of three points per decade since the early 20th century, a phenomenon called the Flynn effect. It is disputed whether these changes in scores reflect real changes in intellectual abilities. In plain English, we know the IQ scores are going up; but we don’t know if it really means we are getting smarter! It does not help that on modern tests, the standard error of measurement is about 3 points. In other words, there is a 95% chance that the true IQ is in range from 4-5 points above OR below the test IQ. Here goes our Flynn effect!  To be fair, Flynn effect has prompted much new research in psychology and “demolish(ed) some long-cherished beliefs, and raise(d) a number of other interesting issues along the way” according to 1998 article in IQ and Human Intelligence.

IQ test may actually be based on an outdated methodology.  A 2006 article stated that contemporary psychological research often did not reflect substantial recent developments in psychometrics and “bears an uncanny resemblance to the psychometric state of the art as it existed in the 1950s.”

Is IQ score even an accurate measure? It may surprise you to know that scientists are divided on the issue of whether or not IQ tests are an accurate measure of intelligence. It is difficult to define exactly what constitutes intelligence; it may be the case that IQ scores represent ONLY a very specific type of intelligence.

Alfred Binet, a French psychologist who developed the first IQ test, did not believe that score can be used to measure intelligence. He stated in 1905 that IQ score  “does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.”

Binet had designed the Binet-Simon scale in order to identify students who needed special help in coping with the school curriculum. He argued that with proper remedial education programs, most students regardless of background could catch up and perform quite well in school. He did not believe that intelligence was a measurable fixed entity. I can sincerely say that Binet was a scientist after my own heart or maybe it is the other way around.

How we have been using these not so reliable IQ scores? IQ scores have been shown to be associated with such factors as morbidity and mortality, parental social status, and, to a substantial degree, parental IQ.  After close to 100 years of research, researchers can only conclusively point to a strong positive relationship between parent’s and child’s IQ.  We are not sure what that positive relationship means or how significant it is, or if IQ can be inherited, and if it is “inheritable”; we are clueless on how it takes place.  

Psychologist Peter Schönemann was also a persistent critic of IQ, calling it “the IQ myth“. He argued that IQ is a flawed theory and that the high heritability estimates of IQ are based on false assumptions. There is also the issue of test-bias. A 2005 study stated that “differential validity in prediction suggests that the WAIS-R test may contain cultural influences that reduce the validity of the WAIS-R as a measure of cognitive ability for Mexican American students,” indicating a weaker positive correlation relative to sampled white students. (Basically, Mexican-American students are found to score lower on this type of IQ test due to test questions’ inherent cultural context.)

So, you can stop any IQ-score-elitist dead in his tracks by saying: “I found it difficult to trust my own high IQ scores considering tests are based on outdated methodology as well as a questionable measurement of intelligence and the scientific community still cannot come to an agreement on an interpretation.” And smile.

Defining “Intelligence” – a controversial saga (part 1)

Defining “Intelligence” is a controversial saga that is more entertaining than day-time soap.  In 1994, a group of academic researchers in fields allied to intelligence testing issued a public statement “Mainstream Science on Intelligence.”  This documents, originally published in Wall Street Journal,  documented key conclusions widely accepted in the expert community. (It was a response to what the authors viewed as the inaccurate and misleading reports made by the media.)  52 university professors specializing in intelligence and related fields, including one-third of the editorial board of the journal Intelligence, signed the open letter.

But the public drama of scientists vs. media didn’t stop there. The letter to the Wall Street Journal also set out 25 conclusions.  There is a short summary of several that most people would consider controversial statements about race, genetics and intelligence.  Mis-quoted or worse, purposefully mis-communicated with malicious intent, these could be really damaging statements.

  1. “The bell curve for whites is centered roughly around IQ 100; the bell curve for American blacks roughly around 85; and those for different subgroups of Hispanics roughly midway between those for whites and blacks. The evidence is less definitive for exactly where above IQ 100 the bell curves for Jews and Asians are centered”
  2. “… genetics plays a bigger role than environment in creating IQ differences”
  3. “Racial-ethnic differences in IQ bell curves are essentially the same when youngsters leave high school as when they enter first grade … black 17-year-olds perform, on the average, more like white 13-year-olds”
  4. “Almost all Americans who identify themselves as black have white ancestors – the white admixture is about 20% … research on intelligence relies on self-classification into distinct racial categories”

Not to be outdone, American Psychological Association rushed unto the stage. Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns was a 1995 report issued by an 11-expert task force created by the APA. (3 were signatories on Mainstream Science on Intelligence.)  Concerned about “…research findings were often assessed not so much on their merits or their scientific standing as on their supposed political implications,” the task force decided on the following definition:

Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person’s intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of “intelligence” are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions, and none commands universal assent.

One thing worthy to note in the length APA paper, task force did not include the idea that genetics play a significant role in the appearance of between-group differences in IQ.  Some people feels APA merely side-stepped the issue by passively omitting the wording of the statement. This group would love to see APA declare strongly that race/genetic/heredity is NOT a factor so no one can read in between the lines.

Who knows science can be this much fun?  Next up, we will tackle the 5 or 6 or 7 major intelligence theories. (Hint, no body can seemed to agree on the number.)

What is intelligence, Really?

Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving.  The word “Intelligence” is derived from the Latin verb intelligere with root meaning of “pick out” or discern. It is most widely studied in humans, but has also been observed in animals and plants. Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines or the simulation of intelligence in machines.

Numerous definitions of and hypotheses about intelligence have been proposed since before the twentieth century, with no consensus reached by scholars. Within the discipline of psychology, various approaches to human intelligence have been adopted. The psychometric approach, such as IQ test, is especially familiar to the general public, as well as being the most researched and by far the most widely used in practical settings.

We will take several blog posts to further discuss this concept and to provide overviews of some prominent theories of intelligence that significant impact all training and assessment programs today.

8 Components of Accelerated Language Learning (Part 2)

4. Over-stimulation

  • This is not over-loading students with just information.  The accelerated learning language teacher may bombard the student with material in creative ways knowing that the human brain can often assimilate more information than we assume.
  • Using longer texts, dramatizations and the like (often carefully supported with the English meaning along one side) allows students of varying levels of ability to take what is useful for them at that stage of their learning.
  • This approach also allows for more opportunities to expose students to the rhythm and pronunciation of the new language.

5. Theory of multiple intelligences application

  • MI Theory (proposed by Howard Gardener) asserts that there are 8 types of intelligence: interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, and naturalist.  In the traditional classroom environment, the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences are often over represented.
  • Accelerated learning addresses this imbalance by including activities that allow the activation of other intelligences.  This includes simple activities that develop visual, auditory, and motor coordination; as in Brain Gym®.  Examples of other activities include: games that involve movement, use of color on worksheets/mind maps, use of songs, raps and music, manipulation of objects and word cards, and so on.

6. The use of chunking

Chunking lessons into shorter periods takes full advantage of the attention cycle of the human brain.  We are most likely to retain information presented at the beginning and end of a session; therefore if a lesson is divided into smaller chunks, we are creating more beginnings and endings and so increasing the amount of information retained.

7. Pattern spotting and learning in broad strokes

Often accelerated learning language teachers will introduce broad concepts to their students, enabling them to learn a great deal in a short amount of time.

8. Objective setting

The student must understand clearly what he/she is going to learn in any particular lesson and how this is going to happen.  There is then a predefined goal to work towards and a higher sense of achievement at the end of the lesson (particularly if the lesson objectives are listed on the board and can be checked off as the lesson proceeds).

What’s In It For Me (W.I.I.F.M) is a key phrase to remind teachers that students want to know how subject material they are going to learn is relevant to them and their day-to-day experiences.

8 Components of Accelerated Language Learning (Part 1)

8 Components of Accelerated Language Learning (ALL)

In terms of the instruction and learning of foreign languages specifically, accelerated learning has been and is being put to good use by language teachers across the world. Key components of an accelerated learning language lesson are:

1. The learning environment

  • A great deal of attention will be focused on the use of color, the temperature in the room(s), the positioning of furniture, background music, smells, textures, and so on.
  •  Also, posters and displays may have been carefully selected with the aim of helping students to absorb vocabulary and ideas subconsciously.
  •  Posters containing vocabulary for a unit, which may not be introduced for a few weeks, may be present in order to gradually familiarize students with the vocabulary in advance.

2.  State setting

  • This is done partly through the learning environment but also through the use of body language by the teacher, the type of music used throughout the lesson (this might change depending on the mood/atmosphere the teacher wishes to create at any given time), the tone of voice employed at any given time by the teacher, the use of color in presentation materials, and so on.
  • The emphasis is on making the student feel comfortable, relaxed and free from anxiety and stress.

3. Mnemonics

  • Frequently used to help students retain and recall lists of vocabulary.  Instead of relying on simple repetition drills, the accelerated learning language teacher will often employ creative techniques when first introducing a new topic.
  • Students may be encouraged to use their imaginations to link items of vocabulary to parts of their body or to locations in the classroom (Loci).  This injects a sense of fun and usually promotes a more relaxed and free-flowing learning environment.

5 Components of an Optimal Learning Environment

A Positive Learning Environment
People learn best in a positive physical, emotional and social environment, one that is both relaxed and stimulating. A sense of wholeness, safety, interest and enjoyment is essential for optimizing human learning.

Total Learner Involvement
 People learn best when they are totally and actively involved and take full responsibility for their own learning. Learning is not a spectator sport but a participatory one. Knowledge is not something a learner passively absorbs but something a learner actively creates. Thus, A.L. tends to be more activity-based rather than materials-based or presentations-based.
Collaboration Among Learners
People generally learn best in an environment of collaboration. All good learning tends to be social whereas traditional learning emphasizes competition between isolated individuals, A.L. emphasizes collaboration between learners in a learning community.

Variety That Appeals To All Learning Styles
People learn best when they have a rich variety of learning options that allows them to use all their senses and exercise their preferred learning style. Rather than thinking of a learning program as a one-dish meal, A.L. thinks of it as a results-driven, learner-centered smorgasbord.

Contextual Learning
People learn best in context. Facts and skills learned in isolation are hard to absorb and quick to evaporate. The best learning comes from doing the work itself in a continual process of “real-world” immersion, feedback, reflection, evaluation and re-immersion.

Accelerated Learning Cycle

Human beings go through a natural cycle of learning every time they learn something new.  This is true whether it is a baby taking her first steps; a youngster learning to ride his bike; a college student tackling physics; or a manager learning how to increase her company’s sales in China.  There are different models of the learning cycle – some educators have proposed four phases, while others have proposed five – and the names can vary, too.  What does not vary is that learning is negatively impacted if one or more of these phases in the learning process are ignored or poorly executed.  The Accelerated Learning Cycle presented here has been recognized by various researchers, educators, and training organizations.  By applying the phases to training and curriculum design, learning becomes easier, faster and more enjoyable.

Phase 1: Learner Preparation

When learners enter a classroom or start to study something on their own, their thoughts are usually far from the task-at-hand. They may be thinking about the conversation they had last night with family members; about the essay they have to write for a psychology class; or about the management problem that needs to be solved.  Or they may simply be tired from a lack of sleep; or resentful about the time their class is taking away from the “regular” work schedule.

The first step in the Accelerated Learning Cycle is to bring the learners’ attention into the moment so they can focus on the learning ahead of them.

Phase 2: Connection

Learners bring in their entire past “school experience” – whether positive or painful – when they enter a training session or when they begin a new learning task. During this phase, learners may need to be guided to connect with the instructor, the learning environment, and the purposeful benefit of the training.  It is important to note that if the learners do not feel safe and welcomed in the class, they can set up mental barriers to learning that may be difficult to overcome. If learners do not understand the relevance of the information to their own life or job, or if they are not excited and curious about the content, they may avert the holistic benefit that might have been realized from the learning experience.

Phase 3: Creative Presentation

This is the phase of learning in which trainers share new material in ways that are interesting, challenging, and relevant to trainees’ lives.  Effective trainers use a variety of methods that draw on multiple intelligences, learning styles, and the five senses (smell, taste, sight, sound, touch). Effectual instructors know how to encourage learners to collaborate with each other; put together team projects; and observe and solve real-life problems.

Phase 4: Activation via Elaboration, Assimilation and Implementation

This is the practice phase, in which the instructor guides learners to integrate new material into their own knowledge database.  The goal here is for learners to build mastery of skills or knowledge through repetitive practices that are not tedious or dependent solely on rote-memory.  In this phase, the trainer encourages learners to experiment in a safe and supportive environment; make mistakes; get feedback; and build competence.

Phase 5: Integration

During this phase, learners review everything they have learned and celebrate how far they have come. Learners commemorate the answers they have found or the new questions they have discovered. They begin to explore how they will use the learning “back home.”  In fact, many of the lessons learned may ideally be actualized long after the initial training session is over and might even include on-going peer coaching for the empowerment of others.