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15 Intelligence Testing Pros and Cons

Alan Kaufman introduced the idea of intelligence testing more than a generation ago. His suggest was that IQ tests should be used as a way to understand the context of a child’s situation while comprehending their overall capacity to learn.

Kaufman’s approach was to look at the behaviors, background, and approach of the child to the test items as the main goal. Instead of focusing on global scores, there should be insight and flexibility in the answers given. Intelligence tests should be used as a way to provide assistance to the student instead of serving as a way to create labels, placement concerns, or other forms of academic oppression.

We often use these tests as a way to grade teachers and students on the effectiveness of their teaching and learning processes. What Kaufman suggests is that we are losing the most critical data available because the focus is on the score instead of the process.

There are several intelligence testing pros and cons to consider when evaluating this approach as an assessment tool in any perspective.

List of the Pros of Intelligence Testing

1. It is a way to identify individuals who are “gifted.”

Intelligence testing is an effective way to identify individuals who have an above-average intellectual ability. This group of people often struggles at work or school because they endure high levels of frustration and boredom. Without adequate challenges to stimulate their learning processes, it can lead some people toward a future that involves underachievement and behavioral problems. These tests make it possible to identify this concern early, initiate faster learning process, and offer a richer educational or professional experience.

2. It offers valuable diagnostic insights.

It is challenging to come up with a definition about what innate intelligence is and how it works. We even struggle to know how to measure it in some ways. Some people can rely on learned knowledge, but that doesn’t always determine what a person’s mental processing speed, reasoning ability, or working memory happen to be. By taking intelligence tests that measure these elements, it becomes possible to pinpoint the areas of strength and weakness to create interventions which are useful.

3. It helps us to understand how the brain works.

When intelligence testing provides results from hundreds of different approaches that involve thousands of participants from around the world, then we can gain new insights into how the brain works. This information allows us to reevaluate a curriculum, change classroom designs, or even adjust how data is presented to students or adults to encourage memory retention.

4. It can be a fun process to undertake.

Many people are curious about how they would score on an intelligence test. People want to know about how their brain works and what they can do to help it. When we have an opportunity to understand more about what makes each of us tick, then it becomes possible to increase our intelligence in a variety of ways. Although the comparison aspect of these tests can be problematic for some individuals, most students and adults like to know where they stand so that they can begin to make improvements.

5. It can identify students who are at-risk of falling through the cracks.

It is just as important to identify students who could be left behind by an educational program as it is to find students who will excel. Although the phone call to discuss the challenges that a student may face is never an easy one, it is a way to help those who fall into below-average categories find a solution that can help them find a path toward success. Employers could offer extra training programs and schools can provide extra instruction to reduce the risk of having someone start falling behind.

List of the Cons of Intelligence Testing

1. It is challenging to design an independent test.

Designing an intelligence test that is independent of a person’s culture or learning process is exceptionally difficult. Experts and test designers have struggled for several decades to remove the bias that tends to be present in this tool. Even when there are progressive matrices used to avoid issues with language ability, the mainstream tests still require individuals to have an average knowledge of the language involved with a solid foundation of general information that they can use.

2. It can lead to the use of labels.

People who are given the label of being “gifted and talented” can develop an unrealistic self-concept about who they are and what they can do. It may even lead them to a place where they feel superior to the average human, causing them to look down on others or make less effort to complete work.

There are issues on the other side of the labeling spectrum as well. People who do not produce a high score on intelligence tests are often given low expectations to meet. They can run into people who believe that their IQ is a limitation of what they can achieve as individual. This outcome can lead to a lack of self-esteem, less stimulation, and fewer efforts to make a difference. Kaufman suggests that a better predictor of success is the willingness to work than what their innate ability might be.

3. It does not measure all forms of intelligence.

Psychologists and educators have come to realize that there are multiple forms of intelligence found in children and adults. People can be gifted in numerous ways, including kinetic, musical, and intrapersonal intelligence. These are just as essential to the human experience as mathematics or verbal skills. When these tests only measure one form of intelligence and this is the foundation of their entire learning process, then it can railroad an individual into a process that never develops their strengths and always criticizes their weaknesses.

4. It can lead to the development of stereotypes.

When the results of intelligence testing come in, people can believe what the results suggest because they “took” the test. This can lead them to believe that they are “smart” or “stupid” based on just one number. Numerous studies have looked at the impact on socioeconomic circumstances and minority populations and found that poverty can play an influential role on how well a student performs. Even the quality of the schools that people attend can have a direct influence on their test scores.

5. It will often test limited subject material.

Most intelligence tests do not include information about the “creative” subjects that people learn throughout their life. These tests tend to focus on mathematical knowledge, reading concepts, and scientific principles. Most do not offer people an opportunity to present their social, vocational, or creative knowledge. That means the tests are geared to measure one specific form of intelligence instead of the overall capabilities of each person. Anyone can succeed with ambition.

6. It is information which is used inconsistently.

Another significant disadvantage of intelligence testing is that the information and results are used inconsistently throughout society. Some school districts and employers rely on these diagnostic tools heavily (and sometimes exclusively) to identify gifted traits in individuals. Others used multidimensional procedures as a way to measure the talents of each person. Some schools place zero importance on these results as well. Because each test can also provide a different result, it is challenging to know where a person actually stands if they only take one test.

7. It reduces the opportunity for specialized assessment and programming.

School districts in the United States will develop individualized educational plans for students who struggle to meet the predefined minimums that are set for by intelligence tests. When individuals score well during this process, then they receive fewer tools that can help them remain challenged throughout the day. There are no guarantees on what the curriculum will be for the child. Each district is different, so parents and guardians must be strong advocates for their children to ensure that they receive the best possible resources to help them find success.

8. It reduces diversity in the classroom.

When intelligence testing occurs in schools, then it leads to student tracking. When schools identify the individuals who have the highest and lowest scores, then they typically group everyone together in each segment because that makes the teaching process easier. This separation eventually creates 3-4 castes of students who rarely interact with one another. Instead of allowing everyone to have an opportunity to learn from one another, they end of creating an unfriendly environment in the school.

9. It can struggle to assess people with unique challenges.

Standard intelligence tests have difficulty in trying to assess the minds of individuals with autism and the unique brilliance they have. People express themselves in a variety of ways, which is why this information is only valid for a segment of the population. Some people are more logical, while others are more emotional. There are individuals who express themselves verbally, and then some who do better when writing. You could be a visual learner, a text-based learner, or neither. Unless you fit the exact criteria of what the test author tries to discover, then it not an accurate reflection of who you are.

10. It often leads to practicing for test administration.

Because there is such a significant reliance on the test scores that people earn, it is not unusual for people to prepare weeks or months in advance of the actual work. By “teaching to the test,” the goal is to produce specific results that offer a measurement for that exam. This process can result in higher scores, but it also produces lower levels of achievement when followed. It creates a situation where memorization becomes the primary element of learning instead of understanding.

When reviewing the pros and cons of intelligence testing, it is essential to remember that a single number is never the entire story for the individuals who are taking the test. No single score is able to establish or measure an individual’s overall intelligence. Different activities will cause unique regions of the brain to activate. Behavioral and emotional influences can affect some scores, but not others. What we know is that as we discover more about information, it is clear that we still have a lot to learn.

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