How useful is IQ testing for kids?
While some proudly boast about their results on the intelligence test, others often hide them. However, the fact is that most of us have done an IQ test at least once in our life. In the age of social media, people often do these tests simply for fun. For example, the Einstein test is one of the most popular, probably because it is the shortest intelligence test for those people who do not have a lot of time.
However, intelligence testing has an important application in education, business and other areas of human life, so experts devote a lot of time to developing and interpreting such tests. Why is intelligence measured and what does an intelligence test really tell us?
The intelligence quotient (IQ) is the total score derived from a set of standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence. Results of an IQ test is the intelligence quotient obtained by dividing a person’s mental age by the person’s chronological age, and multiplying the result by 100.
Measuring intelligence on a large scale occurred in the 20th century, and the results obtained in intelligence tests were often associated with a person’s social and biological background, and used to predict their success in life.
However, one of the most important purposes of intelligence testing is the potential application of its results in education. It is often believed that we can predict if a child will have problems at school based on the results of these tests, as well as their professional future to some extent.
However, the question many education experts ask is – how useful are intelligence tests in education, and whether intelligence tests for children can actually do more harm than good?
Cognitive development of children
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is the father of the Theory of Cognitive Development. The principles of his theory are still observed, especially when it comes to the education of children. One of the Piaget’s most significant findings is cognitive development begins at birth and lasts throughout a person’s life.
At the time of its emergence, Piaget’s theory was revolutionary because it argued that children begin to adopt basic logic even before they have mastered the language.
In other words, before Piaget, it was believed that children’s cognitive development began only with the acquisition of language.
Piaget’s findings are still highly regarded, and very influential when it comes to children’s cognitive development, especially his assumption that cognitive development occurs in synergy with the environment. In that sense, the environment in which a child is formed is extremely important for their development. The more stimulating the environment, the more comprehensive and dynamic the child’s development.
4 stages of cognitive development of children
According to Piaget, there are 4 stages in the cognitive development of children:
1. Sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years)
In this stage, children learn about the world through senses and interaction with different objects. This is one of the most important stages and occurs almost entirely before the acquisition of language.
What is most important in this stage: The biggest change that takes place in this stage is the child’s realization that objects exist independently of him/her. Namely, in the beginning, an object exists for a child only as long as they can see it. If the object is hidden, the child thinks it no longer exists. Gradually, children begin to realize that the object continues to exist even when it is hidden, i.e. when they cannot see it. In addition, children in this stage still cannot distinguish between themselves and the outside world, and only at the end of this period do they gain a sense of what belongs to them, and what to the world around them.
2. Preoperational stage (2 to 7 years)
This is a period when children master language, and develop their memory and imagination. They begin to think symbolically and grasp the concepts of the past and future.
What is most important in this stage: Thanks to the development of language, children in this stage are able to communicate with others more easily, and to distinguish between a sign and the thing it represents. The intensity of language development is best illustrated by the following fact – before the age of 18 months, children know only about 20 words, whereas by the age of 5, their average vocabulary is around 2,000 words.
This stage is characteristic for the fact that children’s thinking is focused on one aspect of the problem, and when they speak about something, they are able to do so only from their own point of view. Thus, for example, a boy of this age is able to say that he has a sister, but if asked whether his sister has a brother, he will say no. In a nutshell, children in this stage are still unable to take on the point of view of other people.
3. Concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years)
In this stage, children become more aware of external events, and feelings of others. Their perception is less egocentric, and they are now able to accept that not everyone shares their thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
What is most important in this stage: Children gain the ability to observe a problem from different aspects, so they are able to classify objects by different characteristics and criteria, and to draw conclusions by comparing relationships between objects.
4. Formal operational stage (11 and up)
Children in this stage are able to use logic for problem-solving, to perceive the world around them and plan their own future. This is a period in which cognitive development reaches its full potential.
What is most important in this stage: Children begin to think about abstract concepts, such as truth, justice, and fairness. Deductive reasoning begins to develop during this stage. Deductive reasoning is the systematic and methodical approach to solving problems and searching for solutions. This is also a period when adolescents compare their thoughts with others, develop their ability for teamwork, and prepare themselves for independent life in society.
Piaget’s contribution to the upbringing and education of children is significant, because he showed the importance of the early stages of development. It is a period when educational institutions and parents should work in synergy to help a child reach their full potential.
Another important thing we learned from Piaget is that children must adopt new knowledge in various ways, through theory, practice, individual/teamwork and experimentation. The main goal is to teach our children to think independently, critically, and to create a stimulating environment that will allow them to reach their full potential.
What skills are responsible for children’s cognitive development?
Children’s cognitive development includes skills such as short-term memory, logical reasoning, audio-visual processing, etc. In other words, these are the skills that allow us to think, learn, read, memorize, focus, solve problems, and be creative, etc.
These cognitive skills appear gradually, each one on their own, and once they develop, together they form a powerful machine we call the human brain:
Attention, short-term and long-term memory develop between the ages of 2 and 5. What it looks like: A child remembers certain sequences of events, and associates them with particular situations. For example, they know what going to the store entails: getting the cart, choosing products, waiting at the checkout, paying and returning home with the groceries.
Auditory processing, a key skill for reading, develops between the ages of 5 and 7. Logical reasoning also becomes stronger from this stage onward, because the child becomes capable of connecting different ideas. What it looks like: Children begin to understand addition and deduction, and to relate the letters with their sound.
A cognitive test should determine the development of each of these skills in a child.
Intelligence tests for children
In theory, testing children’s intelligence sounds appealing, because it could lead to an individual approach to education with regard to a child’s test results. However, practice is slightly more complicated than theory.
Although standardized intelligence tests have been used for over a century, education experts are still in disagreement on how useful they actually are: especially when it comes to children.
How does an intelligence test for children actually work?
The goal of a standardized intelligence test is to measure a person’s intellectual capacity using different categories, such as: verbal skills, visual-spatial reasoning, memory, and information processing speed.
Test results are expressed numerically with regard to a child’s chronological and mental age, thus calculating whether the child possesses below-average, average, or above-average intelligence. In relation to these results, we determine whether the child will need additional help in school or not.
Intelligence tests for children – the most common types
When it comes to children, the two most commonly used tests designed specifically for children are Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fifth Edition (WISC-V) and Differential Ability Scales – Second Edition (DAS-II).
The former is used to test children between the ages of 6 and 16, and the latter for children between the ages of 2 and 17. Unlike these two, Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale – Fifth Edition is used for testing all age groups from 2 to 80 years.
Each of these tests has its own unique properties, but when it comes to testing children’s intelligence, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children is considered to be the most accurate.
Wechsler IQ test for children measures five categories:
- Verbal comprehension index
- Visual-spatial index
- Fluid reasoning index
- Working memory index
- Processing speed index
Depending on the test type and the age of the child, the average intelligence ranges between 90 and 110.
What is the problem with the results achieved in standardized tests?
In an ideal world, we could perhaps measure children’s intelligence with absolute certainty and without any variations. However, the world we live in is dynamic and subject to changes.
And just as the child’s body grows and develops, their results in the test also change. Research shows that it is common for IQ tests results to vary during a child’s development. And that can mean only one thing: it is quite difficult to accurately measure a child’s IQ.
In addition, a number of factors that play a significant role in the child’s life, and which may manifest in the test have not been taken into account, some of them being: distractions, anxiety and stress. All these factors can significantly impact the child’s performance on the test.
The dangers of labeling people
Results of an IQ test often turn into labeling, i.e. external self-determination, which can create a misconception in a child that nothing he/she does can change the external determinant – research confirms that labeling children is harmful and can greatly impact their behavior in the future.
Instead of focusing on different learning techniques and talents children develop, IQ tests for children are often designed to suit only one learning style and concept of intelligence, attributing specific results to a child which are then used by teachers to determine their future education.
This can be harmful for several reasons, and one of the most important one is this:
- Children who believe that their level of intelligence is fixed are more likely to experience a lack of self-esteem, to avoid challenges, and be permanently shaped by this result and its significance.
IQ tests for children are not bad in themselves, they are just insufficient if considered on their own
This doesn’t mean that IQ tests are bad, on the contrary, they can be a great instrument for measuring specific aspects of children’s intelligence, but they lack the bigger picture, i.e. a comprehensive view of the child’s personality, talent and potential.
A good education will not focus solely on the results a child achieved on a standardized intelligence test, but will try to understand which learning style best suits each individual student, what his/her strengths and weaknesses are, discover hidden talents, and help them develop existing ones.
One of the best ways to understand children’s needs is to create an open, stimulating and safe environment where they can learn, experiment, and explore without the fear of error. Such a holistic approach can help teachers to create a better educational approach for their students, thus helping them to reach their full potential.
Theory of multiple intelligences
Harvard professor, and developmental psychologist Howard Gardner developed a theory of multiple intelligences known as Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. His approach emerged as a critique of the traditional concept of children’s intelligence and standardized IQ tests that only measure logical, linguistic and spatial ability.
In contrast, the theory of multiple intelligences seeks to view children in all their complexity so as to provide the best conditions for their development.
According to this theory, people possess more than one way to process different types of information, each of them independent in relation to others. Therefore, the concept of single intelligence is insufficient, instead, a person’s intelligence should be measured by comparing the development of each of these different types of intelligence.
A traditional program of multiple intelligences recognizes 8 types of intelligence, where each of them can be significant for different professions. This means that early identification of the child’s dominant types of intelligence can help us predict which occupations he/she could be successful at. In addition, each of these 8 types can be developed through exercise, which allows children to grow and develop without the burden of predetermination which often accompanies standardized IQ tests.
Eight types of children’s intelligences and potential future occupations they may be suitable for:
- Naturalistic intelligence refers to a person’s ability to understand nature and notice differences between natural phenomena.
Potential future occupations: biologist, anthropologist, botanist, etc.
- Interpersonal intelligence represents a person’s ability to communicate with others, and their sensitivity to the moods of others.
Potential future occupations: negotiator, motivational speaker, psychologist, etc.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence implies the ability to identify logical connections and relations between symbols.
Potential future occupations: mathematician, scientist, programmer, etc.
- Visual-spatial intelligence denotes a person’s ability to navigate both large open spaces, and small enclosed spaces.
Potential future occupations: pilot, sailor, architect, chess player, web designer and graphic designer, etc.
- Musical intelligence refers to a person’s sense of rhythm, melody, metrics, and the ability to sing or play an instrument.
Potential future occupations: composer, conductors, musician, music producer, etc.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence denotes a high level of control over one’s motor functions.
Potential future occupations: athlete, dancer, etc.
- Linguistic-verbal intelligence denotes a person’s well-developed sense of words, their meaning, arrangement and relationships.
Potential future occupations: journalist, writer, lawyer, negotiator.
- Intrapersonal intelligence refers to a person’s ability to reflect on their own actions and emotions.
Potential future occupations: unlike other types, this type of intelligence is not tied to any specific career path, but represents a goal that every person should strive for.
At Allison Academy, every child is treated like a unique individual with a variety of talents and affinities that need to be discovered and nurtured. The main educational goal of Allison Academy is the free development of each child in an environment that nourishes the values of camaraderie, learning and openness, and the smiles on the faces of our students and their parents. All of these things tell us that we are on the right path.
Help your child to reach their full potential!