Research in Progress

November 1991 Masthead


Gifted Child Registry Home Environment Study

Ray H. Swassing
Ohio State University

The purpose of the Home Environment study is to apply a systems approach for understanding the influences of home life on the development of talent, particularly in homes where there are children who are both gifted and have physical and/or sensory disabilities (hearing and vision). A second group of families will include a gifted child or children and a sibling with a disability. The current experimental instrument, The Gifted Child Registry Home Environment Survey (GCRHES) (in fourth revision) is composed of 180 items divided among two forms (A and B). The items were developed from the literature using the concept of “presses” or environmental factors that promote abilities (Marjoribanks, 1972). To define a scale that is efficient and conceptually sound, data gathered with the two sets of forms will be analyzed and one form of 40 to 60 items will be developed. The final scale will be used as the basis for home training materials and activities for fostering abilities within family life settings. Given the limited number of children that meet these criteria, the Home Environment study is seeking a national and international database. For information and participation contact the author at Ohio State University, 356 Arps Hall, 1945 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43210. Telephone requests at (614) 292-8787.

Marjoribanks, K. (1972). Environment, social class, and mental abilities, Journal of Educational Psychology, 63, 103-109.


A Case Study of the Childhood Art Work of An Artistically Talented Young Adult

Enid Zimmerman
Indiana University

This case study focuses on the graphic development of a highly talented art student through retrospective accounts of his reactions to his spontaneous art work done from age 3 until he was in the tenth grade. Data from this case study appear to support claims that interactions among factors of biology, culture, skill mastery, personal disposition, and modeling after images of others can be used to explain insights into talented children’s development in art.

In this study, ability to depict the world realistically is viewed as only one indicator of art talent. Some artistically talented young people’s depiction of objects is influenced by Western spatial conventions; others depict visual narratives using details, theme and variations, humor, paradoxes, puns, metaphors, and deep emotional involvement. It is hypothesized that artistically talented young people may choose to work in one mode or another at different phases of their art development.

I am seeking information from others who might be conducting case studies of the work of artistically talented young people to compare with this one to substantiate or refute generalizations generated in this research. It is hoped that through such case studies an understanding of how art talent develops and new ways of identifying artistically talented `students may emerge.

Study of Precocious Youth

Cheryl E. Sanders
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth at Iowa State University (SMPY at ISU) is conducting a longitudinal study of individuals identified as verbally, but especially mathematically, gifted. SMPY officially started under Dr. Julian C. Stanley’s leadership in 1971 at Johns Hopkins University; the longitudinal study continues under the direction of Dr. Camilla P Benbow at Iowa State University. Youth who reason extremely well mathematically and verbally are identified in 7th and 8th grade via talent searches using tests designed for college-bound high school students, the SAT and more recently the ACT. Selected samples from these talent searches, which will cover a 20 year period, are being studied through their adult lives. The purpose of this follow-up study is to characterize the process whereby childhood potential unfolds into adult achievement and then identify the factors that impact upon that process. Investigated are the development, needs, and characteristics of intellectually able students. In addition, the longitudinal study helps evaluate the impact of various educational options upon gifted children’s development. SMPY’s ultimate goal is to utilize the knowledge gained through research to improve both the quality and speed of gifted students’ education, as well as to gain a better understanding of the nature, nurture, and consequences of mathematical and verbal precocity.

But What About the Prom

Kathleen Noble
University of Washington

Many adults consider radical educational acceleration to be detrimental to adolescents, largely because of the perceived social benefits of attending high school. But many young people consider these benefits to be dubious, at best, and are quite happy to forego them. How do students who elect to skip high school in favor of early university entrance evaluate their choice? This study investigated the perceptions and experiences of 25 students who are currently enrolled in the University of Washington through participation in the Early Entrance Program (EEP). All entered the UW before the age of 15 without attending high school. The principal investigator, Dr. Kathleen Noble, and her research assistant, Julie Drummond (a UW junior and “EEP’er”), conducted interviews with a large sample of EEP students and all members of their preparatory faculty to answer a number of questions (e.g., why students and their families chose this option, what characteristics are needed to succeed within the EEP, how important is the presence of a peer group, how do professors and regular-age classmates relate to their presence, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of radical educational acceleration?). Data from these interviews are currently being analyzed and will be published upon completion.

A Comparison of Two Painting Teachers of Talented Early Adolescent Art Students

Enid Zimmerman
Indiana University

The purpose of this study was to describe, analyze, contrast, and compare characteristics of two painting teachers to determine what factors might be crucial in successful teaching of talented early adolescent art students. In on-site case studies in the art classrooms, observations, interviews with students and their teachers, time sampling, analysis of student application forms, observer journals, and group conversations with students and observers were used to collect data.

Although art work produced in both classes was at a high level, and students evaluated both teachers positively, one teacher appears to have presented a more coherent and complete experience than the other. This conclusion is based on the observation that success in an art class is the result of more than simply teaching talented young people technical skills. The proactive teacher was able to develop an environment conducive to active learning, make significant curricula and instructional decisions, and generate an interest in learning and thinking among his students.

These case studies call into question established methods of evaluating success of teachers of talented young people through student products and interviews. I am interested in contacting others who are conducting similar research to determine if generalizations from this study might be accepted or refuted.

Scoring Divergent Thinking Tests Using Total Ideational Output and a Creativity Index

Mark A. Runco & Wayne Mraz
California State University, Fullerton

Several educational theorists have suggested that divergent thinking should be encouraged in the classroom. There are, however, various problems with the scoring techniques currently used with tests of ideational creativity. The present investigation tested two possible improvements in scoring procedures. The first potential improvement involved ratings of total ideational output. This procedure is in direct contrast to the conventional scoring of single ideas. The second improvement was to score ideational sets specifically for creativity rather than for the conventional indices (e.g., originality, flexibility, and fluency). The utility of these potential improvements was determined by calculating the reliability and discriminant validity of scores based on examinees/ total ideational output. Ideational output was judged by 30 college students (mean age of 27 years). The ideas that were rated were given by 24 adolescents who had received two Uses tests (shoe and tire) and two Instances tests (strong things and things on wheels). Results indicated that the ratings of total output had high inter-rater reliabilities and moderate inter-item reliabilities. There was, however, poor discriminant validity between judges’ ratings of creativity and ratings of intelligence. The results are interpreted in the context of theories of creativity.

Improving the Parental Evaluation of Children’s Creativity

Mark A. Runco & Diane Johnson
California State University, Fullerton

This investigation is a simple extension of social validation research reported by Runco (1989). He developed the Parental Evaluation of Children’s Creativity (PECC). We intend to modify that measure, using much the same methodology as before. In particular, we plan to administer the Adjective Check List (ACL) (Gough & Heilbrun, 1980}to several groups of adults. The adults will be asked to complete the ACL once to describe a creative child, and once to describe an uncreative child. Half of the group will receive the “creative child” instructions first, and the other instructions for completing the ACL will be taken from Gough and Heilbrun (1980), with the only change being the specification of “creative” or “uncreative child.” The intent is to find 20-30 adults in each of the four groups: parents who have never taught; teachers who are not parents; parents who have taught; and adults who are neither teachers nor parents. This will improve upon the earlier measure in that only experienced parents (with no teaching experiences) will be used. (Teachers’ ratings can be obtained with the “socially valid” Teachers’ Evaluation of Students’ Creativity (TESC; Runco, 1984, 1987).) Additionally, as it stands, the PECC only contains indicative items. Theoretically, it should also include contraindicative items. Hence the questions about uncreative children.


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