ERIC Identifier: ED410228
Publication Date: 1996-09-00
Author: Ackerman, Phillip L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Assessment and Evaluation Washington DC.
Adult Intelligence. ERIC Digest.
Over 90 years ago, Binet and Simon delineated two different methods of
assessing intelligence. These were the psychological method (which concentrates
mostly on intellectual processes, such as memory and abstract reasoning) and the
pedagogical method (which concentrates on assessing what an individual knows).
The main concern of Binet and Simon was to predict elementary school performance
independently from the social and economic background of the individual student.
As a result, they settled on the psychological method, and they spawned an
intelligence assessment paradigm which has been substantially unchanged from
their original tests.
With few exceptions, the development of adult intelligence assessment
instruments proceeded along the same lines of the Binet-Simon tests.
Nevertheless, the difficulty of items was increased for older examinees. Thus,
extant adult intelligence tests were created as little more than upward
extensions of the original Binet-Simon scales.
The Binet-Simon tests are quite effective in predicting school success in
both primary and secondary educational environments. However, they have been
found to be much less predictive of success in post-secondary academic and
occupational domains. Such a discrepancy provokes fundamental questions about
intelligence. One highly debated question asks whether college success is
actually dependent on currently used forms of measured intelligence, or if
present measures of intelligence are inadequately sampling the wider domain of
adult intellect. One possible answer to this question lies in questioning the
preference of the psychological method over the pedagogical method for assessing
adult intellect. Recent research across the fields of education, cognitive
science, and adult development suggests that much of adult intellect is indeed
not adequately sampled by extant intelligence measures and might be better
assessed through the pedagogical method (Ackerman, 1996; Gregory, 1994).
Several lines of research have also converged on a redefinition of adult
intellect that places a greater emphasis on content (knowledge) over process.
Substantial strides have been made in delineating knowledge aspects of
intellectual performance which are divergent from traditional measures of
intelligence (e.g. Wagner, 1987) and in demonstrating that adult performance is
greatly influence by prior topic and domain knowledge (e.g., Alexander, et al.,
1994). Even some older testing literature seems to indicate that the knowledge
measured by the Graduate Records Examination--Advanced topic exams is comparable
or better indicator of future graduate school success and post-graduate
performance than traditional aptitude measures (Willingham, 1974).
KNOWLEDGE AND INTELLIGENCE
When an adult is presented with
a completely novel problem (e.g., memorizing a random set of numbers or
letters), the basic intellectual processes are typically implicated in
predicting which individuals will be successful in solving problems. The dilemma
for adult intellectual assessment is that the adult is rarely presented with a
completely novel problem in the real world of academic or occupational
endeavors. Rather, the problems which an adult is asked to solve almost
inevitably draw greatly on the his/her accumulated knowledge and skills--one
does not build a house by only memorizing physics formulae. For an adult,
intellect is better conceptualized by the tasks that the person can accomplish
and the skills that he/she has developed rather than the number of digits which
can be stored in working memory or the number of syllogistic reasoning items
which can be correctly evaluated. Thus, the content of the intellect is at least
as important as the processes of intellect in determining an adult's real-world
problem solving efficacy.
From the artificial intelligence field, researchers have discarded the idea
of a useful General Problem Solver in favor of knowledge-based expert systems.
This is because no amount of processing power can achieve real-world problem
solving proficiency without an extensive set of domain-relevant knowledge
structures. Gregory (1994) describes the difference between such concepts as
"potential intelligence" (knowledge) and "kinetic intelligence" (process).
Similarly, Schank and Birnbaum (1994) say that "what makes someone intelligent
is what he [/she] knows."
One line of relevant educational research is from the examination of
expert-novice differences which indicates that the typical expert is found to
mainly differ from the novice in terms of experience and the knowledge
structures that are developed through that experience rather than in terms of
intellectual processes (e.g., see Glaser, 1991). Additional research from
developmental and gerontological perspectives has also shown that various
aspects of adult intellectual functioning are greatly determined by knowledge
structures and less influenced by the kinds of process measures which have been
shown to decline with age over adult development (e.g., Schooler, 1987; Willis
& Tosti-Vasey, 1990).
By bringing together a variety of
sources of research evidence, it is clear that our current methods of assessing
adult intellect are insufficient. When we are confronted with situations in
which the intellectual performance of adults must be predicted (e.g. continuing
education or adult learning programs), we must begin to take account of what
they know in addition to the traditional assessment of intellectual processes.
Because adults are quite diverse in their knowledge structures (e.g., a
physicist may know many different things than a carpenter), the challenge for
educational assessment researchers in the future will be to develop batteries of
tests that can be used to assess different sources of intellectual knowledge for
different individuals. When adult knowledge structures are broadly examined with
tests such as the Advanced Placement [AP] and College Level Exam Program [CLEP],
it may be possible to improve such things as the prediction of adult performance
in specific educational endeavors, the placement of individuals, and adult
REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READING
Ackerman, P. L. (1996).
A theory of adult intellectual Development: Process, personality, interests, and
knowledge. Intelligence, 22, 229-259.
Alexander, P. A., Kulikowich, J. M., Schulze, S. K. (1994). The influence of
topic knowledge, domain knowledge, and interest on the comprehension of
scientific exposition. Learning and Individual Differences, 6, 379-397.
Baltes, P. B., Smith, J., & Staudinger, U. M. (1992). Wisdom and
successful aging. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 39, 123-167.
Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Rmer, C. (1993). The role of
deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological
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Glaser, R. (1991). Intelligence as an expression of acquired knowledge. In H.
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