Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dissertation Dish: Gifted screening and executive functioning

I like this first dissertation. When I was a practicing school psychologist I, in one of my schools, help develop a screening of all incoming kindergarten students with the then test (now the WJ-R KnowledgeWJ III Academic Knowledge test). It was combined with the WJ-R Skills cluster. We found the knowledge measure a nice proxy for intelligence (for screening purposes only) and degree of preschool acculturation. The first dissertation below shows that this little test may be a good for screening gifted students...largely for the same reasons --- it is a good measure of crystallized intelligence (Gc). [Conflict of interest disclosure: I'm a coauthor of the WJ III Battery]

Predicting IQ from achievement when screening academically gifted students in the state of Tennessee by Edwards, Deidrah L., Ph.D., Tennessee State University, 2008, 74 pages; AAT 3307986

  • Abstract: This research investigated the predictability of pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students' IQ scores when given the Woodcock Johnson, Third Edition (WJ-III) Academic Knowledge sub test for the purpose of gifted screening in the state of Tennessee. The investigator explored a possible method to obtain a faster, more efficient way to screen academically gifted children. Data was collected from 127 student's comprehensive intellectually gifted assessment reports. The Student's Academic Knowledge score, Creative Thinking score and Teacher Observations Checklist score were assessed for the purpose of determining their ability to predict IQ. Both linear regressions and multiple regressions were used to analyze data. Results indicated The Academic Knowledge subtest acted as a significant predictor of both Verbal IQ and Full Scale IQ; however, results indicated the Academic Knowledge subtest was not a significant predictor of Non-Verbal IQ. Results also indicated that, when combined the Academic Knowledge subtest score, the Teacher Checklist score and Creative Thinking score were significant predictors of Full Scale IQ; while the Creative Thinking score added no significant predictability. The results supported previous literature for achievement's ability to predict IQ. Verbal and Full Scale IQ, as well as Academic Knowledge, appear to assess crystallized intelligence and may be a reason for the significant results.

The role of executive function skills in children's competent adjustment to sixth grade: Do elementary classroom experiences make a difference? by Jacobson, Lisa A., Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2008, 193 pages; AAT 3322487

  • Abstract: Executive functioning skills play an important role in children's cognitive and social functioning. These skills develop throughout childhood, concurrent with a number of developmental transitions and challenges. One of these challenges is the transition from elementary schooling into middle-level schools, which research shows has the potential to significantly disrupt children's academic and social trajectories. However, little is known about the role of executive functioning on children's adjustment during this transition.
  • This study investigated the relation between children's executive functioning skills, assessed both before and during elementary school, and sixth grade academic and social competence. In addition, the influences of the type of school setting attended in sixth grade and elementary classroom experiences on children's academic and behavioral outcomes were examined. Finally, associations with children's level of physiological development (pubertal status) were investigated.
  • Executive functioning skills were assessed broadly, using the Continuous Performance Test, the Woodcock-Johnson Memory for Sentences subtest, the Day-Night Stroop test, the Delay of Gratification test, and the Tower of Hanoi. Children's executive functioning skills significantly predicted sixth grade competence, as rated by teachers and parents, in both academic and social domains. The interactions between type of school setting and children's executive function skills were significant: parents tended to report more behavioral problems and less regulatory control in children with weaker executive skills who were attending middle school. In contrast, teachers reported greater academic and behavioral difficulty in students with poorer executive functioning attending elementary school settings. This association was partially mediated by children's perceptions of classroom expectations or demands.
  • Observations of classroom quality during elementary school provided an estimate of children's classroom experiences. Average levels of emotional, instructional and organizational quality were associated with sixth grade academic competence and parental reports of behavioral functioning, with variation in children's experiences of classroom organization predictive of both academic and social functioning. In addition, the interaction effects indicated that children with poorer executive functioning tended to show less competent academic behavior when they experienced greater variation in classroom instructional support. Children's pubertal status was weakly associated with children's planning and problem-solving skills but was not associated with sixth grade academic or behavioral competence.
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