The continued manifestation of complex world problems requires counteractive solutions, achievable through innovative thinking by gifted individuals. However, their identification is hindered by the continued utilization of traditional methods of giftedness identification in Australia, which often fail in effectively recognizing individual capabilities, particularly among diverse students. The introduction section consists of a preliminary preview of the research and its focus. It provides justification for the identification of gifted individuals and the need to ensure that this process is enhanced through the utilisation of modern approaches to giftedness, focusing on broader conceptions of intelligence. The background section provides information relevant to the topic, including the need to adopt better approaches for giftedness identification, to effectively resolve the world’s problems. This is followed by statement of the problem, explicitly describing the motivation behind the research, including the application of the DSPST which is the data collection tool for this inquiry. The study’s justification explains the relevance of the research, while the questions provide the queries to be answered by the end of the research. The section also includes the research scopes and limitations.
The complexity of contemporary global situations calls for inquisitive minds, motivated by a compassionate drive to change the status quo, through innovative thinking and approaches envisioned as the ultimate solution. Preceding research has demonstrated that complex thinking has the capability to uncover answers necessary for change, which requires one to consider the plausibility of ideas, varying approaches and perspectives, whilst demonstrating empathy towards greater and more profound social, moral, and ethical issues (Sternberg, 2017). Change is imperative in addressing the 21st century global challenges and if this is desired, it is critical to identify individuals possessing unique skills and capabilities to champion the revolution (Sternberg, 2017). According to Sternberg (2017), such individuals must possess wisdom besides being gifted, to effectively address contemporary problems, calling for the development of active, concerned citizens and ethical leaders. The contemporary world requires “lifelong learners and problem solvers who can make wise decisions… for their communities (Alberts, PAGE NUM I don’t have access to this reference for page number. Do you have it? 2009).” In this relation, identifying the gifted students plays an imperative role in fostering skills development among individuals, necessary for solving existing world problems. As potential future leaders, gifted children require the desirable skills to enable them to tackle future societal issues and improve the quality of people’s lives (Olszewski-Kubilius, Subotnik and Worrell, 2016).
Renzulli (2003, 2005) believes gifted children, explicitly referred to as a nation’s most valuable resource by Borland (2012), have the greatest capacity to develop the abilities necessary for societal advancement. Subsequently, gifted children are theorized as having heightened interest and sensitivity towards global issues, and exhibiting a greater sense of responsibility to act on injustices. This innate concern for adversity and inequality justifies educators’ significance in nurturing these students’ individual strengths.
While the relevance of gifted students’ identification has been widely documented, notable challenges in giftedness identification methods remain significant. Despite advancements in gifted education and consequent development of more robust tools, older methodologies continue to be used in giftedness identification. These tools are not only ineffective at recognizing individual strengths and capabilities but also fail at acknowledging diversity in giftedness. Specifically, the IQ test and its derivatives remain standard measures of student capabilities in most settings, yet they have been faulted for their incompetence in identifying high ability candidates (Kaufman, 2009; Fernández, et al., 2017). Furthermore, the use of IQ and IQ-like tests maybe hinder the culturally and linguistically disadvantaged populations from being included in giftedness programs (Giuliano and Card, 2016 and Quinlan, 2016). Sternberg postulates the overemphasis on narrow academic skills limits the world’s capability to produce the abilities necessary to eradicate world problems. He argues despite IQ levels increasing across the globe, the problems continue to magnify, including income disparities, violence, climate change, and pollution among others. The question is why such high IQ levels are not helping the situation, exemplifying the need to focus on diverse forms of giftedness compared to IQ only. In this regard, researchers including Myers (2017), Munro (2008) and Ford, Orantham and Whiting (2008) suggest the use of more inclusive tools to ensure gifted students are effectively identified.
Notably, many students whose strengths lie outside a narrow parameter are not acknowledged as gifted. Nascent and narrow conceptions of intelligence continue to be used by schools to assess giftedness (Sternberg, 2006; Kaufman, 2009; Naglieri, 2011 and Rushton & Jenson, 2010). This is despite continued improvement on conceptions of human intelligence and giftedness evolving throughout the century, such that the newest understandings in the field are seldom reflected in classroom practices, and consequently, not all students’ learning needs are adequately met. This suggests the need to nurture and support these needs and thus prepare them to be valuable contributors in the society. To achieve this, schools must consider the use of advanced tools, given that many gifted students are underserved using traditional methods of identification. Such tools are expected to promote fair representation of students in gifted programs.
BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM
Student evaluation remains strongly dependent on limited perspectives and outdated identification tools and as a result, schools continue to struggle to identify non-traditionally gifted individuals. Henderson & Jarvis (2016) posit that the lack of gifted education training in university courses for pre-service teachers, professional development sessions or both, cause common misconceptions to persist in the gifted identification process. For example, untrained teachers most commonly identify students as ‘gifted’ if they are obedient and eager to please, high achievers on aptitude and standardized tests, and visible in the classroom without exhibiting behaviour problems (Betts & Neihart, 88; Belleza, 2012). According to Fischer and Millar (2018), traditional definitions of giftedness as demonstrated in IQ tests include superiority in verbal skills and analytical thinking as opposed to measuring other capabilities including creativity. While researchers and scholars recognize the value in this type of giftedness, many are also aware of its limitations. Renzulli and Reis (2000) argue that the abilities needed for individuals to become more than just “consumers of knowledge” (p. 325) lie outside of exceptional academic ability. Similarly, Sternberg (2015) points out that while conventional intelligence is of value, it is not the only precondition for success because it tends to favour those with strong memory and analytical skills while relegating creativity and practical intelligence aspects. Through his theory of successful intelligence, Sternberg intelligence can only be considered comprehensive if it entails analytical, creative and practical abilities. In addition, he postulates that wisdom is an important aspect of intelligence, envisioned in the ability to set goals beyond oneself and considering the welfare of others. Creative intelligence plays a significant role in innovation and problem solving, making it a major prerequisite in the ability to contribute to solving world problems, through viewing challenges from a more advanced level than others (Sternberg, 2015). Fernández, et al. (2017) quotes the three-ring giftedness conception as suggested by Renzulli (1978), noting that intellectual ability is demonstrated through general intelligence that is above average, creativity and task assessment. To effectively identify gifted individuals, Sternberg suggests there is need to test broader abilities, which are often overlooked by conventional tests.
In this relation, the continued use of conventional instruments leads to the recognition of individuals portraying the same types of abilities and strengths. Evidence suggests the underrepresentation of particular groups of children found in gifted programs is strongly influenced by the unwarranted teacher and school bias (Grantham, & Whiting, 2008; Bianco & Leech, 2010; Ford and Whiting, 2006). This prejudice renders teachers and schools impartial in identifying students who do not fit the stereotypical notions of giftedness (Hudson, et al., 2010; Troxclair, 2013; Irizarry (2015). This is elucidated by many educators’ perspectives, which are strongly based on a unitary conception of giftedness as opposed to a multi-dimensional concept. Mandelman et al (2013) and Tan et al (2016) allude that schools continue to rely heavily on academic achievement, including the utilization of test grades and standardized test scores for gifted evaluation. Consequently, the classroom assessment formats used in a majority of schools mostly cater to the needs of students from the dominant culture, who are also native English speakers. This insinuates that diverse students may fail to have their abilities recognized, thus limiting their chances of success. As noted by Kurt and Chenault (2016), this would contribute to a disparate number of White, middle-class children receiving gifted provisions. Deficit thinking and teacher bias that accompanies giftedness could also explain why diverse students are disproportionally represented in comparison with their peers from the dominant culture (Irizarry, 2015). Consequently, lack of understanding and training among teachers on the different ways giftedness is exhibited among students, leads to underrepresentation of diverse students. Students unwillingness to be recognized as explained by the concept of ‘acting white’ and the ‘forced choice dilemma’ could also explain the disproportionate representation of diverse students (Spencer & Dowden, 2014; Dixson & Worrell, 2015; Giuliano & Card, 2016; Gross, 2012).
Educational researchers maintain that giftedness does not discriminate and thus can be found in children from all backgrounds regardless of income level, race or language (Mansfield, 2015). Mansfield (2015) and Stein, Hetzel, & Beck (2011) maintain that teachers continue to overlook the gifted behaviour of many minority students because they do not fit existing stereotypical notions. According to Stein, Hetzel, & Beck (2011), English language learners who are gifted tend to miss out on opportunities based on their low mastery in the language, thus placing them at a disadvantage when compared to their colleagues. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Victoria was the second largest contributor of Australia’s net overseas population (NOM) after New South Wales in 2016/17, accounting for 34.3% of the aggregate. Additionally, the overall NOM population in Australia increased, accounting for 55% of the country’s yearly population growth (2017). The influx of minority populations is expected to impact the demographics of our schools and classrooms, a phenomenon that calls for more deliberate effort to ensure all students are given equal opportunities to display their talents.
McGrady and Reynolds (2013) elucidated the rationale behind the poor representation of minority students despite their high abilities, noting that teachers tend to spend more time working with children most similar to them. This explanation is backed by Maydosz (2014) who suggested that low expectations of minority students can be attributed to differences in teacher and student “communication, behavioural and learning styles and language patterns” (p84). Since a majority of teachers are white, middle-class females, students who do not fit the classifications of the dominant culture are likely to have their talents overlooked. Additionally, minority students may be disadvantaged when the traditional, closed-ended paper and pencil test format is used as an assessment instrument due to differences in language, experiences, sociocultural background and the way in which they learn and demonstrate their knowledge (Ford, 1997; Klenowslki, 2009; Munro, 2013). Ford’s research (1995) backs the findings of Ford and others by exemplifying additional ways in which diverse students’ learning styles and strengths are incompatible with the mainstream teaching styles. This calls for more effective ways to identify gifted students. A suitable approach as suggested by Munro (2008) is the use of open-ended questions, which promotes creativity, envisioned in the students’ ability to come up with unique solutions to real-world problems. According to Munro (2008), open-ended questions test for problem-solving skills, enhanced practical meaning and high order thinking, making them more effective in identifying gifted students than traditional tools. This is supported by Marhamah and Surya (2017) whose research determined that students’ mathematical problem solving skills were enhanced through the use of a contextual approach and open-ended questions. To further enhance problem solving sk students need to connect to what they learn and by aligning content with everyday experiences, it is possible to promote knowledge transfer that allows them to become creative problem solvers. Accordingly, authentic assessments should be encouraged because they foster students who can think creatively, enhancing their potential to have a broader perspective of global challenges, further justifying the use of open-ended questions (Sternberg, 2018).
This section demonstrates that the world’s most unrelenting problems have the potential to be resolved through the identification of gifted students. However, current tests are highly rigid, often characterized by the use of IQ tests and closed-ended paper and pencil tests for the identification of gifted students. The implication is, the highly talented students, particularly from the diverse populations, whose abilities do not align with the narrow perceptions of giftedness by teachers and schools, tend to go unrecognized, leading to underrepresentation in gifted programs. By incorporating tests that test broader skills through open-ended real-world problems, schools can produce individuals whose valuable contributions could solve existing global challenges.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Historically, there has been inconsistency in the approaches for gifted children identification in Australia. This according to Merrotsky (2013) is not only prevalent between states and territories but also between the districts within them, and among schools. This phenomenon can be explained by the absence of a federal mandate or funding, such that states and territorial governments are solely responsible for addressing gifted children’s needs (Walsh, 2018). Further, Atkin (2016) reports the manner in which giftedness is supported in Australia is very vague and it is not only ineffectual but also lacks a proper structure. Consequently, the Australian education system has continuously failed its gifted children by not taking adequate
Under Australia’s National Curriculum prepared by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), gifted children should not only be provided with rigorous but also relevant and engaging learning opportunities which should align with their individual learning needs, strengths, interests, and goals. While Gagne’s DMGT (1985) asserts gifted students can perform highly in a wide array of areas, his model also indicates the extent to which gifted potential can be developed is jeopardized by a lack of support from their teachers at school. Merrotsky (2017) challenges the claims of Gagne’s model of intelligence and giftedness’ adoption, noting despite being reported as generally accepted in Australian schools, there exist gaps in implementation including misrepresentation of Gagne’s conception of intelligence and giftedness. Merrotsky (2017) points out that there is no universally accepted or practiced definition, and no common policies are in place for the handling of gifted children in Australia.
Research demonstrates the need to identify gifted students and consequently nurture them to ensure they achieve their potential. Whilst contemporary models and identification tools have been developed over the last fifteen years (e.g. WISC-IV, Wechsler, 2005; KBIT-2, Kaufman; 2004; RIAS, Reynolds, 2003; NNAT-2, Naglieri, 2010; CogAT 7, Lohman, 2012; DISCOVER, Maker, Nielson, & Rogers, 1994; CREA, Corbalán Berná et al., 2003; WICS, Sternberg , 2003; Aurora Battery, Chart, Grigorenko & Sternberg, 2008; and ACCEL, Sternberg, 2017) to address demands for culturally-fair gifted identification methods, some students with high-abilities remain unidentified in their schools. Merrotsy (2017) maintains a significant number of gifted students with diverse abilities do not receive appropriate educational support including the provision of environments, experiences, and programs necessary to ensure their success in school. Students with unique abilities are vulnerable to underachievement when schools do not recognize their potential and fail to provide access to appropriate learning provisions. Harris (2014) postulates similar to the United States, Australia has experienced tremendous growth in the number of diverse students enrolling in public schools. These enrolment trends according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018), mirror the national population growth trends of overseas migrants and illustrates the importance of adopting more equitable and effective gifted identification procedures. As determined by Chaffey (2009) and Jolly (2015) the underrepresentation of diverse students in gifted education programs remains a current issue of national concern.
A gifted assessment tool, the Diffuse Social Problem Solving Task (DSPST) was developed by Munro (2008) to promote inclusiveness of diverse students and subsequently implement the needed change. This tool has the potential to identify students commonly underrepresented in gifted programs by capturing a range of abilities and presenting relevant real-world problems to solve. This is achieved through the use of open-ended, relevant and authentic assessments which are considered effective in identifying unique capabilities. Although the DSPST has identified gifted diverse, primary-aged students in pilot-studies in Africa (Munro, 2010), the tool is yet to be utilized in a diverse population setting in Australia. This research addresses the gap in the literature by testing the efficacy of the DSPST in identifying gifted Year 4 and Year 5 students from diverse populations in Victoria, Australia. A pragmatic philosophical perspective is embraced through a mixed-methods design and used to investigate the validity of the tool with this cohort and gain student perspective in its utilization. This consists of a quantitative analysis of the DSPST using a mix or parametric and non-parametric tests and a qualitative survey aimed at identifying their opinions of it. The data obtained will offer insight into the DSPST’s effectiveness in recognizing the high-abilities of primary school learners from diverse communities in Victoria, Australia.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESEARCH
Gradual progress had been made in the field of gifted education, although little evidence of these advances can be seen in the primary schools of Victoria (Slater, 2018). However, to facilitate positive change in Australia’s schools and classrooms, government recognition and support are major prerequisites. This has not been effectively achieved as demonstrated by the Bright Futures program in 2001, where almost fifteen years passed with no Victorian government policy in place supporting gifted education (Inquiry into the education of gifted and talented students, 2012). This insinuates lack of clear guidelines and policies with regard to giftedness identification, which results in greater complexity in the identification of gifted diverse students because teachers and schools lack a clear structure to follow (Slater, 2018; Ford, Grantham, & Whiting, 2008; Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee, 2011).
With increased focus on the near-ending policy Aiming High: A strategy for gifted and talented children and young people, 2014–19, the identification of traditionally underrepresented students for gifted and talented programs seems more attainable. Moreover, the government committed to take steps to ensure “all gifted and talented children and young people are identified, despite their cultural, language or socioeconomic background or where they live” (Aiming High, p5). The government’s renewed yet potentially transient interest in assisting all gifted and talented learners in realizing their potential increases the significance of this study and the urgency to introduce a gifted identification tool such as the DSPST into schools and classrooms. The timing is highly appropriate because the Aiming High program is heading to completion and since it is unclear what new steps will be taken after this, research examining the capabilities of the DSPST as an effective identification method is the requisite first step and could contribute to the future of gifted education in Australia in conjunction with other methods.
This study also has significance in both practice and theory. The results of the study contribute knowledge to Munro’s research and theories on understanding intelligence and gifted thinking. It offers early evidence of validation of the DSPST as a prospective tool for identification in primary school classrooms across Victoria, including those with diverse populations. The DSPST as determined by Munro (2015) exhibits superiority to traditional methods through the use of open-ended, real-world problem questions that test creativity and encourage higher-order thinking. Unlike the traditional methods that mostly use IQ-based tests, the DSPST could present a more inclusive approach to gifted identification by testing divergent and convergent thinking, critical and evaluative abilities, logical inference making, and reasoning flexibility, thus ensuring that gifted students in Australia can be identified more effectively. In addition, the study aligns itself with Sternberg’s theory of Successful Intelligence (Sternberg, 1985), and WICS theory, (Sternberg, 2003) and utilizes its corresponding assessment battery, the Aurora (Sternberg, 2008). Norms for the Aurora Battery have not yet been established for a culturally and linguistically diverse group of students from Australia, and therefore, the results of this study can provide further validation to the Aurora Battery and the corresponding theories of intelligence and giftedness.
Well-designed questions ensure the objectives of the results are effectively met, thus guaranteeing reliable results and conclusions. In this regard, the following questions are answered.
1) In what ways does the DSPST distinguish the gifted from the not gifted for the Year 4-Year 5 cohorts of students?
By answering this question, the research will identify the various types of giftedness assessed by the DSPST and demonstrate the manner in which the gifted in the cohort differ from the non-gifted. To address the question, quantitative – statistical analyses is mostly used. However, open-ended survey questions and short focus group data complements the statistical results.
2) How effective is the DSPST at identifying giftedness in Year 4-Year 5 students from minority cultures?
This question queries the strengths of the DSPST in the identification of giftedness, with particular interest in its effectiveness among diverse students.
The research questions were addressed from multiple perspectives using both quantitative and qualitative methods in the data collection stage and data analysis stage. The complementary use of these methods is necessary for a thorough exploration of the effectiveness of the DSPST as a tool for gifted identification. Statistical analyses were used in determining whether there are significant differences in the application of the DSPST between culturally and linguistically diverse and non-diverse students. The results from a structured interview, consisting of a dynamic assessment, were used in answering the questions.
The scope of the research is constrained by the regional extent of the study for several reasons. First, the concerns addressed by the study are applicable to many countries, yet because the test was developed in the Australian context, it served as the location of the study. Given the study’s specific focus on diverse students, Australia offered an ideal context considering the population diversity in the outer suburbs of Melbourne and regional Victoria, such that plausible conclusions could be made. Furthermore, research related to Victorian demographics indicated that inner Melbourne suburbs contained a much higher homogenous population, and thus, would not be an appropriate location to address the second research question (Tewari and Beynon, 2018).
Besides location, the population sample also influences the study outcome to a significant extent. In the current research, only Year 4 and Year 5 students were included because of their corresponding age with what is recommended in the Aurora Battery test. The youngest Year 4 individual is expected to be nine years and is the minimum age the Aurora Battery is intended for due to the complexity of some of the subtests. Similarly, the real-world scenarios of the DSPST are more appropriately suited to older primary students. However, Year 6 students were not included as participants due to the anticipation of a more rigorous school schedule compared to other grades. This may limit the research conclusions, though it is believed that the Year 4 and Year 5 students are intellectually capable of participating in the research and their level of giftedness can be effectively identified.
The relevance of giftedness identification that allows for the equal representation of students in gifted programs is indisputable as established in this chapter. This calls for increased research on giftedness and the utilization of more advanced tools to measure it as provided by various experts including Sternberg, Naglieri, Wechsler, Kaufman and Reynolds. This should include advocacy for a change in attitudes towards giftedness that tends to limit the inclusion of diverse students. Research not only demonstrates the existence of bias among teachers but also amidst students and within the education systems. Through the DSPST, this research proposes a more effective tool that measures giftedness beyond cultural limitations. To further understand the concept of giftedness and reinforce the foundation upon which this research is constructed, the next chapter reviews relevant literature on the subject of gifted education.
Card, D. & Giuliano, L. (2016). Universal screening increases the representation of low-income
and minority students in gifted education. PNAS, 113(48), 13678-13683. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/113/48/13678Corbalán Berná, F. J., et al. (2003). CREA, Inteligencia Creativa, Manual [CREA, creative
intelligence manual]. Madrid: TEA EdicionesFernández, E., et al. (2017). Identifying Gifted Children: Congruence among Different IQ
Measures. Frontiers in psychology, 8 (1239), 1-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5517503/Fischer, C. & Millar, M. (2018). Debunking the Myths of Gifted Students. Retrieved from
https://www.fairviewparkschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Fairview-Park-Curriculum-Council_-Debunking-the-Myths-of-Gifted-Students.pdfIrizarry, Y. (2015). Selling students short: Racial differences in teachers’ evaluations of high,
average, and low performing students. Soc Sci Res, 52:522-38. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.04.002. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4443276/Kurt, L. J. & Chenault, K. H. (2016). Gifted and at risk: a cross-district comparison of gifted
student growth and solutions for urban schools. PennGSE Perspectives on Urban Education, 13(2), 1-12. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1143330.pdfMansfield, K. C. (2015). Giftedness as Property: Troubling Whiteness, Wealth, and Gifted
Education in the United States. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 17(1), 1-18. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1104928.pdf.Marhamah, A. & Surya, E. (2017). The Effect of an Open-Ended Approach on Students’
Creativity in Fractional Material. International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research, 34. 54-63.Merrotsy, P. (2017). Gagné’s differentiated model of giftedness and talent in australian
education. Australasian Journal of Gifted Education, 26(2):29-42.
Rushton, J. P. & Jensen, A. R (2010). Race and IQ: A Theory-Based Review of the Research in
Richard Nisbett’s Intelligence and How to Get It. The Open Psychology Journal 3(1), 9-35. Retrieved from https://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOPSYJ/TOPSYJ-3-9.pdf
Slater, E. (2018). The identification of gifted children in Australia: The importance of policy.
TalentEd, 30, 1–16. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322419883_Slater_E_2018_The_identification_of_gifted_children_in_Australia_The_importance_of_policy_TalentEd_30_1-16_Accessible_at_httpwwwtalentedorgauthe-identification-of-gifted-children-in-australia-the-impoSternberg, R. J. (2005). The Theory of Successful Intelligence. Iteramerican Journal of
Psychology , 39(2), 189-202. Retrieved from www.actef.es/sternberg.pdfTewari, S. & Beynon, D. (2018). The rise of the super-diverse ‘ethnoburbs.’ Retrieved from
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