Alfred Binet: Theories & Impact on Intelligence Testing in Education Video

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  • 0:01 Intelligence
  • 0:54 Alfred Binet
  • 3:07 Impact on Education
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Many people have heard of IQ, but do you know the story behind measuring intelligence? Watch this video to find out about Alfred Binet, the man who designed the first intelligence test, and how his work has influenced education.


Callie is in a pickle. She's a teacher and really wants all of her students to succeed. But some of them just seem to be lost, and she's not sure what the problem is. When parents ask her, 'Is my kid smart?' she's not always sure how to respond.

Intelligence is scholastic aptitude. That is, it is how well a student will do in school.

Callie knows that the earlier she can identify the students who need extra help, the better it is for them. That way, she can get them the assistance they need as soon as possible. But she isn't sure how to figure out which of her students will struggle and which ones will be fine. In other words, Callie doesn't know how to figure out a student's scholastic aptitude, or intelligence, in order to offer help.

To help Callie figure that out, let's explore the impact that Alfred Binet had on education.

Alfred Binet

If Callie struggles to figure out which students need help today in the 21st century with all the tools and technology she has to help her, you can imagine how much harder it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when teachers had very little to help them figure out how well a student would do.

Back then, teachers had to rely on their own observations and interpretations of students. But there was a problem with that method: if a teacher didn't like a student, he or she was more likely to say that the student was not intelligent.

Alfred Binet was a psychologist who wanted a more scientific way of evaluating students. He wanted to remove teacher bias and to identify at-risk students who would need help and extra attention to succeed in school.

The French government hired Binet to figure out how to measure a child's scholastic aptitude, so that they could identify students early on that would need extra help. They could then get the students what they needed to succeed.

So Binet developed the first intelligence test. Through his research, he identified aspects of thinking that contribute to a student's ability to do well at the things taught in school.

In Binet's intelligence test, a child was given a mental age, which corresponded to how well they did compared to other students of various ages. For example, if one of Callie's students does as well as the average eight-year-old on the intelligence test, they would have a mental age of eight years old.

A person's mental age does not have to be the same as his or her chronological age, which is how long it has been since they were born. For example, if Callie's student was born six years ago, her chronological age is six, but her mental age might be eight.

A child's mental age might be the same as his or her chronological age, or it might be older (as Callie's student's is), or it might be younger. The students whose mental age is younger than their chronological age are those that might be at risk in school. For example, if Callie's student has a chronological age of six years old, while her mental age is only four, this is a clue to Callie that her student might need some extra attention and support.

Impact on Education

As we've seen, Alfred Binet developed an intelligence test that uses mental age to help identify students who are at risk and might need help in school. And, as Callie's situation has illustrated, this can have a big impact on teachers and education.

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