Intelligence Tests as Samples of Behavior
If intelligence could be measured directly, we would be able to monitor the electrical activities, neurochemical changes, and neurobiological changes that occur during cognition. As educators, we rely, instead, on indirect measures or tests to estimate intelligence. Intelligence tests don’t sample intelligence, but rather the behaviors that we associate with intelligence. We use intelligence tests to sample intelligent behavior. While intelligence tests sample behaviors, our assumption is that the sample provides information about the intellectual abilities of individuals.
In addition to standardized tests, there are other sources of information about students’ abilities (McLouglin & Lewis, 2005). These information resources can be useful in confirming the results of standardized instruments; for students who have minority group heritage, educators may need to rely on sources other than standardized tests for clues about cognitive abilities. Sources of information that can be gathered when determining cognitive abilities include school records; standardized results on achievement, behavior, and other tests; developmental histories; report card grades; observations of students; and parental reports.
Although there are many intelligence tests, an analysis of them shows that they sample similar behaviors. Salvia and Ysseldyke (2004) have described these behaviors:
Discrimination. Intelligence tests sample skills that relate to figural, symbolic, or semantic discrimination usually by asking the student to find the item that is different from the other items.
Generalization. Intelligence tests sample skills relating to figural, symbolic, or semantic understanding by asking students to recognize the response that goes with the stimulus item.
Motor Behavior. Intelligence tests ask young children to demonstrate a motor response, such as throwing objects, constructing block towers, or placing objects in certain places on a board. The tests ask older students to draw geometric forms, solve mazes, or reproduce designs from memory. In addition to these items, many other test items evaluate motor abilities by asking students to point out, imitate, or perform other motor activities in order to complete certain test items.
General Information. These items evaluate what the individual has learned. Examples of these items include, “What is the opposite of uncle?” and “How many eggs are in a dozen?”
Vocabulary. Intelligence tests assess knowledge of vocabulary in different ways—by asking individuals to point to a picture the test has named, to define words the examiner presents orally, or to identify a word that matches a definition.
Induction. Intelligence tests present students with several stimuli and ask them to induce or to infer a general principle. For example, after seeing a rock, block of wood, metal object, and a toothpick, the individual must describe the general rule about why certain objects float.
Comprehension. Intelligence tests ask students to demonstrate understanding of or the nature of meaning of certain stimuli. Students have to show that they understand directions, certain materials, or societal customs. Some tests ask the student to respond to certain situations such as, “What should you do if you see a young child playing with an electrical cord?”
Sequencing. Intelligence tests require students to identify the correct sequences for a series of items. The items can, for example, consist of numbers, geometric figures, or abstract geometric designs.
Detail Recognition. A few tests evaluate detail recognition by asking individuals to identify details that are missing from a picture or to draw a picture and evaluate the drawing on the basis of how many details individuals include.
Analogies. Intelligence tests present items consisting of a statement to which the student must give the appropriate response. The stimuli may consist of a series of words, geometric designs, or numbers. An example of an item is: parent: child:: goose:.
Abstract Reasoning. Intelligence tests present various types of items that assess abstract reasoning by asking students to identify the absurdity in a statement or picture, to state the meaning of a proverb, or to solve problems of arithmetical reasoning.
Memory. Intelligence tests present a variety of test items that evaluate both long-term and short-term memory by asking students to repeat sentences or a series of digits, to retell what they have read, or to reproduce a design from memory.
Pattern Completion. Intelligence tests ask students to complete a pattern or matrix that has a missing piece.
There are many behaviors that intelligence tests do not sample or sample inadequately. These behaviors include mechanical, musical, artistic, motivational, and emotional behaviors (Anastasi, 1988). Recent research on the nature of intelligence has begun to explore the contribution of these behaviors to our understanding of intelligence.
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