Teachers: What You Should Know About Understanding the Measurement of Intelligence in Student Learning

Every student is unique and may learn in a variety of ways. Therefore how can we understand how to teach students of different intellect levels? Since students approach and learn differently in the classroom, it is necessary as teachers that we acknowledge if there are methods for observing student learning. There are two key components necessary to understand the measurement of intelligence, multiple intelligences and differentiation.

In the early 1900s, several educational psychologists developed IQ tests to predict the likelihood of students’ success or failure in school. In the earliest tests, students’ mental age, or level of mental development, was divided by their chronological age, to produce a score that indicated the expectation for that student’s capacity to learn. Alfred Binet and Theophile Simon developed the first IQ tests in 1905, and both men acknowledged that the tests were neither conclusive nor fully indicative of a child’s intelligence. Somewhat prophetically, Binet expressed his concern that these tests would probably be used as “labels” for student intelligence and feared that the outcome would be very detrimental someday. Binet was right.

Several “brain hemisphere” theories help to understand areas of giftedness and areas of disability; one stands out because of its applicability to all students. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner is known for his theory of multiple intelligences, which suggests that certain areas of specialized intelligence become more developed than others. These areas include verbal/linguistic; mathematical/logical; visual/spatial; kinesthetic; musical/rhythmic; interpersonal; intrapersonal; naturalist; and existentialist. Gardner refers to each area as a separate “intelligence.” Teachers who learn to engage in differentiation based on the notion of multiple intelligences can help students find success by focusing on an area in which they may be more “intelligent”. Differentiation is the practice of adjusting curriculum and assessments to students’ abilities, learning pace, and learning styles, offering a variety of assignment choices to maximize opportunities for success

It is important to recognize that IQ is not an absolute or a constant. It can fluctuate as much as 5 points in a week, or change by 10 points or more over a period of years. It is important to note that a range of scores is aligned with specific intelligence categories. IQ tests are best used as predictors of academic success and are often used in conjunction with psychological evaluations and other data to determine eligibility for special education services or a program for gifted students.

The next time you prepare to measure your student’s intelligence remember to consider all areas of intellect and practice incorporating differentiation methods within your curriculum to create the best environment for student success.

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