Intelligence: How do we enhance intelligence?

Part I – Parents

While heredity does factor into a child’s intelligence by way of neurological efficiency, a parent’s influence on their child’s intelligence does not stop there. Here are some things parents can do to enhance their child’s intelligence:

  • Provide proper nutrition. Malnutrition in the early years can have long term effects on development which can affect intelligence. Good nutrition also helps keep children healthy which leads us to the next item.
  • Send your child to school. Children who attend school regularly consistently have higher I.Q. test scores than those who start later or have poor attendance.
  • Avoid toxic substances. Use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs can adversely affect neurological development.
  • Provide a stimulating environment. Read to your child frequently, engage them in lively conversations, encourage them to develop new skills.
  • Early intervention. Parents living in lower socio-economic conditions or impoverished neighborhoods should consider sending their child to a preschool which offers plenty of physical, socio-emotional and educational support.

Part II- Teachers

It is true that a child’s parents are his first teacher however, teachers and educators in the classroom or school environment can also have a major impact on a child’s intelligence.  Some children are at one end of the intelligence continuum or the other . . . gifted or having an intellectual disability. In all cases, educators can support cognitive development and intelligence in a variety of ways:

  • Watch for unusual abilities or delays.
  • Individualize instruction to promote strengths and develop areas of weakness.
  • Pair children with similar interests or abilities. Children tend to develop more advanced skills when working together.
  • Encourage children to set high, but achievable goals. Children of all abilities should be inspired to stretch to find their true potential.
  • Let children display their knowledge in creative ways. Children may choose to write a poem, paint a picture or use some other gift or talent to present their knowledge.

Source: McDevitt, Teresa M. and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. Child Development and Education. Pearson, 2016

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Intelligence: I.Q. Tests, What to know before you go

There are several widely known tests to measure intelligence. Some of the more common are:
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – for ages 6-16, provides scoring in verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales – for children as young as 2 years old through adults, provides Verbal and Nonverbal scoring as well as fluid reasoning, knowledge, working memory, visual-spatial processing and quantitative reasoning
Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test – for ages 5-17, while the above 2 tests rely on language, including verbal instructions, this test does not. Instructions are given through gestures and modeling and children point to answers.
The Cognitive Assessment System – assess cognitive processes on 4 scales; attention, simultaneous, planning and successive

Nowadays, scoring is determined by comparing scores to those of similar age. A score of 100 is average. Most of these tests assume there is a g factor or general intelligence, however, knowing this is not as helpful to parents and educators as knowing the specific areas where children may struggle or excel. With this in mind and in keeping with Vygotsky’s theory on cognitive development, Dynamic Assessments are starting to be used. These tests focus on the child’s ability to learn, not just their actual knowledge today.

Some things to keep in mind regarding any of these tests:

  • Be sure the tester has sufficient training to properly administer the test and understand the scores.
  • Do not rely on a single score to evaluate a child.
  • Know that I.Q. tests do not assess equally important factors such as motivation, self-discipline or critical thinking.
  • Beware of cultural bias on tests.
  • Be sure scores will be used to enhance the child’s development and not just as a measure for grouping or statistical analysis.

For more on how to nurture your child’s intelligence look for my post Intelligence: How do we enhance intelligence?

Source: McDevitt, Teresa M. and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. Child Development and Education. Pearson, 2016

Intelligence: What do we know?

From the time Alfred Binet developed the first I.Q. test in the early 1900’s, researchers, psychologists and educators have tried to assess and measure children’s intelligence. Thanks to Charles Spearman many theories include a g factor or general intelligence portion. The Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory expands on this to also include fluid and crystallized intelligence plus 8 more categories. Howard Gardner and Robert Sternberg subscribe to the notion of multiple intelligences, the idea that individuals have various more specific talents that cannot be measured with a single test. And what about creativity? Cultural specific skills? Or emotional intelligence?

With all of these factors to consider it becomes obvious that no one test can accurately assess or define our children’s intelligence or predict with any certainty how far their intelligence will bring them. Look for my post Intelligence: I.Q. Tests, What to know before you go for more on this topic.

The following link provides more information on current theories of intelligence. Controversy of Intelligence

Source: McDevitt, Teresa M. and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. Child Development and Education. Pearson, 2016