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September 15, 2004

Gifted Assessment

One of the newer students in my academic program was very inquisitive about giftedness and gifted assessment. Interestingly, I had just reviewed Genius Denied for a journal in my field, so I was "quasi-up" on the topic. One of the areas that is "contested" is the assessment of the gifted. The goal is to identify them as soon as possible so that the powers that be can help develop their potential instead of squander it in the traditional classroom setting. While there are psychometric tests available, to put it bluntly, they just don't do as adequate a job as one would like (for many reasons, reliability being a key one). Thus, it is usually in late elementary or early middle school before the kids are identified, which, in some cases, is a bit too late. The question, then, is how to identify the kids earlier, when it appears psychometric tests aren't the best route to take?

Today, I received APA's Monitor on Psychology and hidden in the back was this article about gifted assessment. What really caught my eye was this:

[W. Keith] Berg has won a McKnight Brain Research Foundation grant to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare older and younger adults as they work on executive functioning tasks. He intends to pursue additional research dollars that would allow him to use fMRI to study the children who emerge as gifted in his current Rosen-funded study

If these folks could find out the neural correlates (and perhaps causative factors) of gifted students at a very young age, this would be a big boon for the Galtonian revolution. First, it could be a big step toward showing that giftedness is not a product of a given scholastic environment (although one would still have to tease out other environmental variables). Second, it could show that the cognitive elite (loosely defined) are neurologically different than [fill in the blank] and, even more importantly, these differences are evident very early in life.

While I still hold that psychometrics is not going to go away in any of our lifetimes, I am becoming more inclined to agree with TAFKA godless that neuroscience will eventually develop the tools that take its place.

Posted by A. Beaujean at 12:58 AM