Ethnicity, Social Class and Intellectual Performance

mproving School   Achievement Full Description

1. Should educators   expect parents to participate directly in their children’s education? If so,   why and how should they participate? If not, why not?

2. Should children   spend more time at home working on homework? Why or why not?

3. Should there be and   increase in the length of the school day and/or the number of days spent in   school? Why or why not?

4. Should teachers   spend more time during the day on productive activities? If yes, which   activities should they eliminate and which activities should teachers spend   additional time? If no, why not?

300 Level Forum Grading Rubric


Intelligence, Achievement and the Family

Topics to be included cover:

  • Intelligence
  • Achievement      and the environment
  • The family      system


In this lesson, we will explore child intelligence and achievement, and the impact of parents, family and social systems. We will begin by looking at three theories of intelligence, factors to consider when measuring intelligence, and different kinds of intelligence tests. We will explore factors that influence intellectual performance and indicate that intelligence is not necessarily innate. We will then look at achievement motivation, cognitively disabled and gifted children, and creativity. Thereafter, we will discuss the interdependent relationships within family systems through the ecological systems approach. We will assess how the parental system socializes children, and we will discuss the optimal ways to achieve prosocial, harmonious family systems. The lesson will end by looking at child abuse, risk factors and its devastating impact.

Theories of Intelligence

Northstone et al. (2011) found a junk food diet for those under three can lead to a lower IQ

‹›Questions      to Answer

Theories of intelligence focus on answering the following questions (Parke & Gauvain, 2009):

  • Is       intelligence multifaceted or unitary?
  • Is       intelligence determined by environmental or biological factors?
  • Does       intelligence predict academic, job, health and social success?

Testing Intelligence


· Intelligence Tests

Intelligence tests assess intelligence quotient (IQ).

This looks at individual performance relative to others in the individual’s age group. In parallel with the concept of neural plasticity, IQ is also fluid and changes according to individual life experiences (Parke & Gauvain, 2009). Furthermore, since IQ measures performance rather than capacity, IQ scores may not always be accurate, since performance on the test can be influenced by various factors, such as the individual’s emotional state on the day, environmental conditions or the construction of the test itself.

Intelligence tests are used to assess health and adjustment, and predict academic and job performance, but have been criticized as being culturally biased as they measure abilities important to Western culture and knowledge that Western, advantaged individuals have more access to and experience with (Neisser et al., 1996). Thus, intelligence tests may classify groups of people as less intelligent by not assessing the kinds of intelligence important in other cultures, or by referring to concepts that are unfamiliar to other cultures. Culture-fair tests try to minimize these biases.

Constructing Intelligence Tests

Do you think equally intelligent children from these two settings would know the same things?


Psychometricians design intelligence tests based on certain theories, with the goal of tapping key aspects of the theory. For instance, information-processing tests may focus on logic, reasoning and memory. Although tests tap different functions, all tests are constructed using the same principles of norms, standardization, validity and reliability.

Knowledge Check

Question 1

Please select the correct statement.

Test   reliability and validity ensure that individuals are measured against fair   standards.

f   a child is at risk for abnormal development, the Fagan Test of Infant   Intelligence can be used.

An   eight-year old with a mental age of six has an IQ of 130.

It   would be suitable to test a five-year old immigrant from Pakistan using the   Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

I don’t know

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Stability of Measured Intelligence

· Flynn Effect

We have highlighted that IQ is not fixed. Therefore, it is not innate. Interestingly, Flynn (1987, 2007) found that the average IQ in developed nations has increased by around 15 percent since 1932 – a trend known as the Flynn effect. This increase has been attributed to improved nutrition, exposure to media and technology, and changes in testing.

Ethnicity, Social Class and Intellectual Performance

Cultural Bias

There is a relationship between ethnicity, social class and intellectual performance. We will now look at explanations about why this is so. The first explanation is that most intelligence tests are biased because they were normed on European American middle-class samples, and thus do not provide appropriate comparison groups who have problem-solving capabilities relevant to other cultures. Concepts and vocabulary used in tests may be unfamiliar to other cultures.

Stereotype Threat

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