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IQ test may actually be based on an outdated methodology.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.

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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.

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.

What is “Accelerated Learning”?

Accelerated Learning is an advanced inter-disciplinary teaching and learning method.  Based on the latest brain research, accelerated learning is a systematic approach that can enhance both learning efficiency and effectiveness while reducing training time and cost.  Accelerated learning is based on the way people naturally learn.  This methodology unlocks much of the human potential for learning that has been left largely untapped by other conventional learning methods.  Many of today’s leading organizations and educational institutions are benefiting from Accelerated Learning’s powerful principles.

Seven Guiding Principles of Accelerated Learning

 1. Learning is process of knowledge-creation, not consumption.  Knowledge is not something a learner consumes, but something he or she creates.  When learners integrate new information and skills into their existing knowledge structures, new meanings, new neural networks, and new patterns of electro/chemical interactions within one’s total brain/body system are created.

2. Collaboration aids learning.  All effective learning involves a social aspect. Competition between learners slows learning. Cooperation among learners speeds it up. A genuine learning community will always produce better learning results than a collection of isolated individuals.

 3. Learning takes place on many levels simultaneously.  Creating knowledge does not happen in a linear fashion.  Good learning engages people on physical, intellectual, emotional, and social levels simultaneously.  This allows a person to benefit from all the receptors, senses, and paths generated during learning. The brain, after all, is not a sequential processor, but a parallel processor, and it thrives when challenged to receive information from multiple sources at the same time.

4. Doing the work + feedback = learning.  People learn best in context because knowledge learned in isolation soon evaporates.  Humans learn how to swim by swimming; they learn how to manage by managing; they learn how to sing by singing; and they learn how to care for customers by caring for customers. The “real” and the “concrete” are much better teachers than the “hypothetical” and the “abstract,” provided there is time for total immersion, feedback, reflection, and re-immersion.

5. Positive emotions greatly improve learning.  Human emotion can impact both the quality and quantity of learning.  Training that is done in a stressful, painful, and dreary way distracts the brain from properly encoding information for memory.   Learning scenarios that are joyful, relaxed, and engaging allow the appropriate release of chemicals in brain to support memory formation.  In short, negative feelings inhibit learning; positive feelings accelerate learning.

 6. Learning involves the whole mind and body.  Learning is not merely “head-learning” (conscious, rational, “left-brained,” and verbal). Learning involves the whole body/mind with all its emotions, senses, and receptors.

7. Concrete images are much easier to grasp than verbal information alone.  The human nervous system is primarily an image processor, not a word processor. Concrete images are processed and retained faster than verbal abstractions. Translating verbal abstractions into concrete images will make those verbal abstractions more quickly learned and more easily remembered.