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    Recognition of Giftedness in the Early Years of School:

    Perspectives of Teachers, Parents, and Children

    Kerry A. Hodge and Coral R. Kemp Macquarie University

    although teacher underestimation of ability can have a detrimental effect on childrens achievement and motivation, the accuracy of australian teachers in identifying intel-lectual giftedness in young children has not been investigated. this study followed 14 children, identified as potentially gifted while preschoolers, for up to 3 of their early years of school, collecting questionnaire data from 26 teachers and the parents, as well as inter-view and norm-referenced test data from the children. teachers rated more highly the children whose test scores were more consistently in the gifted range, but more than half of the children were underestimated by at least 1 teacher, especially where nonverbal ability was higher than verbal ability. Strengths in reading were more readily recog-nized than strengths in spelling and mathematics. child attitudes and behaviors, as well as some mutual parent-teacher distrust, may have contributed to teacher underestima-tion. implications for practice and further research are discussed.

    Appropriateexpectationsandlearningexperiencesinschooldependon accurate recognition of a childs performance level or potential.AccordingtoGoodandBrophy(1997), teacherexpectationsguideperceptions (what is noticed or not), interpretations, and behavior.Whenteachersunderestimateachildsabilitylevel,underachievementcanresult,aneffectthatTerrassier(1985,p.273)calledtheNegativePygmalionEffect.Harrison(2003)definedagiftedchildas

    onewhoperformsorhasthepotentialtoperformatalevelsignificantlybeyondhisorheragepeersandwhoseuniqueabilitiesandcharacteristicsrequirespecialprovisionsandsocialandemotionalsupportfromthefamily,communityandeducationalcontext.(p.8)

    KerryHodgeisaResearchFellowattheMacquarieUniversitySpecialEducationCentreinSydney,Australia,wheresheconvenesandteachesapostgraduatecertificateingiftededucation.CoralKempisSeniorLecturerinSpecialEducationatMacquarieUniversity,wheresheconvenesthepostgraduateearlyinterventioncourseandsupervisesresearchstudents.

    Journal for the Education of the Gifted.Vol.30,No.2,2006,pp.164204.Copyright2006PrufrockPressInc.,http://www.prufrock.com

  • Recognition of Giftedness 165

    Underestimation of a gifted child increases the risk that theserequired interventions will not be provided. Without modifica-tion, the regular curriculum is unlikely to meet the gifted childsneeds(Robinson,2003),and,ifunchallenged,thatchildmayescapeinto imagination or reading (Freeman, 1979), behave disruptively(Diezmann&Watters,1995),orsimplyconformtolowexpectations.Inanyofthesescenarios,thenegativeattitudestoschooldescribedbyPorath(1996)andAssouline(1997)mayensue.Thegiftedchildssocial and emotional behaviors can also be misunderstood. He orshecanbethoughtimmatureorunfriendlyforspendingtimealone(Kitano,1989)whentheissueislackofcommoninterests(Porath,1996)orabsenceofotherchildrenwithanequallymatureconceptof friendship(Gross,2002;Harrison,2005).Perfectionismcanbeseen as refusal to try something new; a concern for justice mightappearasdefyingauthority(Kitano,1990).

    Quite young children can be identified as gifted. The longitu-dinal study by Gottfried, Gottfried, Bathurst, and Guerin (1994)found that advancement could be detected as early as 18 monthsofage,whiletheseminalstudybyRoedell,Jackson,andRobinson(1980)investigatedthequantitativeandqualitativewaysthatgiftedpreschoolers expressed their abilities. With early identification,thestimulating,evendemanding,environmentthatRobinsonandRobinson(1992)advocatedforyoungchildrensrealizationoftheirpotentialcanfollow.Earlychildhoodteacherscanalsobealertforgiftedchildrenwho,havingthetendencytoengage insocialcom-parisonsearlierthantheirpeers(Robinson,1993)andtoconformtothebehavioralnormsoftheiragegroup(Dockett,Perry,Howard,Whitton,&Cusack,2002),mighthidetheirabilities.Forexample,Dockettetal.foundthatprecociousreadersstoppedreadingintheirfirst weeks of school, having realized that other children did notreadandwerenotexpectedto.Becausetheattitudesandbehaviorsofyoungchildrenaremoreamenabletopositivechangethanaretheentrenchedpatternsofolderchildren(Whitmore,1986),theunder-achievementdocumentedbylongitudinalstudiesofgiftedchildren(Freeman,2001;Gross,2003)mightbeavoidedbyearlyidentifica-tionandintervention.

  • Journal for the Education of the Gifted166

    MostoftheresearchintotheaccuracyofteachernominationsofchildrenasgiftedwasconductedintheUnitedStatesinthe1970s,where teachers were asked to nominate gifted children in theirclasses and the general intelligence of the children was indepen-dentlyassessed.Effectiveness(i.e.,notoverlookinggiftedchildren)andefficiency(i.e.,notoverestimatingnongiftedchildren)ofteacheridentification were usually calculated. Gears (1976) review of theaccuracyofteacherjudgmentofabilityincludedfourstudiesofkin-dergarten or grade 1 teachers whose effectiveness ranged between10%and48%,whiletheirefficiencywasmostly3050%.IncludedinGearsreviewwasastudybyJacobs(1971)whofoundthat,ofthechildrenoverestimatedbyteachers,twothirdswereverballyadept,cooperative, and keen to please their teacher. In contrast, a morerecentstudybyReisandPurcell (1993), inwhich470teachersofchildreningrades26wereaskedtonominatechildrenforwhomcurriculumcompactingwasnecessary,concludedthattheteacherswereabletoselectappropriatechildren.ReisandPurcellreportedthat,foronegraderhigherthancurrentgrade,thechildrenachievedameanpercentileof93inreadingandmathconceptsandameanpercentileof90inmathcomputation(subtestsoftheIowaTestsofBasicSkills).Russianteachersratingsoftheintellectualabilitiesoffirst graders (gifted and nongifted) in Scheblanovas study (1996)agreed only 54% with the childrens results on a test of cognitiveabilities. No published research was found about the effectivenessofAustralianteachersnominationsofchildrenasgifted,althoughAlsops(1997)investigationintothecounselingneedsofparentsof47giftedchildrenfoundthatthechildsteacherhadrecommendedaformalassessmentinonly17%ofthecases.

    Ciha,Harris,Hoffman,andPotter(1974)comparedtheeffec-tiveness of teachers and parents of kindergarten children usingquestionnaire responses and found that teachers effectiveness wasmuchlowerthanthatofparents(22%vs.67%).Theeffectivenessofparentsinidentifyingintellectualgiftednessintheiryoungchildrenhasbeenshowninanumberofstudies,withsamplesrangingfrom21tomore than500, tobebetween50%and96%forIQsabove125 (Louis & Lewis, 1992; McGuffog, Feiring, & Lewis, 1987;Parkinson, 1990; Roedell et al., 1980; Silverman, Chitwood, &

  • Recognition of Giftedness 167

    Waters,1986).However,theuseofIQscoresasthesolecriterionforgiftednessinyoungchildreninthesestudiesisproblematicbecauseithasbeenshownthatIQscoresaremorereliableaftertheageof6 than at a younger age (McCall, Appelbaum, & Hogarty, 1973;Wilson,1983).Despite thegreatereffectiveness shownbyparentsin these studies, more of the Australian teachers interviewed byPlunkett (2000b) perceived that parents often overestimated theirchildasgiftedthanthoughtparentswerecorrectinidentifyinggift-edness(50%vs.36%).ThismightexplainthereportsfromparentsinAlsops(1997)samplethatonly25%ofclassroomteachersand29%ofschoolprincipalsweresupportivewhenconsultedaboutthechildsassessmentforgiftedness.Areviewoftheliteratureonparent-schoolinvolvementintheeducationofgiftedchildren(Dettman&Colangelo, 1980) described a continuum from a passive trustingapproach(frequentlyleadingtodissatisfaction)toassertivenessthatcoulddamagerelationshipswiththeschool.IntheAustraliancon-text,Braggett,Ashman,andNoble(1983)reportedbothgoodanddifficult parent-school relationships but did not quantify the pro-portionsofeach,whereas83%ofparentsfeltpushywhenmeetingwithteachersabouttheirchildseducationalneedsinAlsopsstudy.

    Several researchers have investigated teachers beliefs aboutgiftedness that might contribute to their lack of accuracy in iden-tification. Some have found that teachers tended to view gifted-ness as achievement rather than potential (Freeman, 1979; Lee,1999),whereasinotherstudies(e.g.,Plunkett,2000b)potentialwasthoughttobemoreimportant.Leealsofoundthatteachersviewedmotivationtoachieveascriticaltogiftedness.

    Norm-referenced testing, which measures differences amongindividuals in a sample of behavior (Anastasi & Urbina, 1997) sothat comparison with children of the same age can be made andchangeovertimecanbemeasured(Sattler,1992), isnotroutinelyusedwithyoungchildreninschoolsinthestateofNewSouthWales(NSW),exceptwhenaschoolpsychologistadministerstestsfollow-ingaclassroomteachersreferral.AccordingtoGross(1993),teach-ersinAustraliaviewnorm-referencedtestingaselitistandprefertorely more on professional judgment. Unless individual schools orteacherschoosetousenorm-referencedtests,state-widebenchmark

  • Journal for the Education of the Gifted168

    BasicSkillsTestsinliteracyandnumeracy,administeredingrade3andprovidingapercentilewithinthecohort,maybethefirstoppor-tunityforchildrentoshowhowtheiracademicachievementcom-pareswiththatofotherchildrenintheirschoolandstate.

    McBride (1992) and Plunkett (2000a) found that the methodthat Australian teachers most frequently reported using to identifygiftednesswasobservation.ElementaryschoolteachersinNSWareencouraged to combine observation with a continual gathering ofinformationbyinformalmethodssuchascurriculum-basedtestsandcollection of products for evaluation (New South Wales Board ofStudies,2005),whichareoftenkeptinaportfoliothatbecomesthebasisforreportingtoparents.Althoughportfolioassessmenthasbeenhailedasadevelopmentallyappropriatewaytoidentifyyounggiftedchildren(Shaklee,1992;Wright&Borland,1993),providedthattheteacherisawareofthecharacteristicsofgiftedness( Johnsen,Ryser,&Dougherty, 1993; Porter, 1999), a review by Herman and W