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The Study of Success Level of Pre-school Children

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This study aims to examine if we can predict the success of pre-school children in the first course they take at the Erika Landau Institute for the Promotion of Creativity and Excellence, Founder Dr. Erika Landau, and what is the validity of such prediction. Success level at the end of the one-semester “creative thinking” course is defined by the instructor’s final evaluation of the students’ performance. The components we take into consideration as potential success predictors are The IQ scores of the children, the verbal evaluation of the examiner, the written information in the parents’ questionnaires, and the summary of the counselor who interviews the student accompanied by at least one parent. The study of connections between cognitive, social, psychological, and emotional abilities of gifted pre-school children and their performance at the end of the first intervening course at the Institute must take into account many of the variables relating to familial and environmental components, as well as to cognitive and personal traits. In the present study we used only some of these variables, in order to give appropriate answers to 6 research questions.

Overview of the Current Research

Studies dealing with many aspects of gifted pre-school children has been written for many years. A large majority of them has been qualitative, mainly because at this age-group it is quite complicated for the researcher to form large enough groups for a quantitative study. Many of the quantitative studies that have been completed focus on social/psychological characteristics of the gifted child. For example: Rogers (1986) has compared developmental characteristics of gifted and regular 77 pre-school children. He found that contrary to the common belief that parents tend to think their young child is gifted, parents of the gifted had, in many cases, underestimated the abilities of their gifted children. Rogers (ibid) also found that the gifted were different from regular pre-school children in psychological as well as cognitive and social aspects, such as alertness, attention span, memory, perfectionism, imagination, creativity, and many more characteristics.

Smutny (1998), on the other hand, had covered, in her 41-chapter book, five aspects of intervention with gifted pre-school children: identification, special populations, parenting, meeting social and emotional needs, and creating effective educational experiences. This work is no doubt very useful for educators and parents who need instruction for dealing with young gifted children, but in none of these chapters can we find actual findings of any study concerning evaluation of an intervention program when taking giftedness level into consideration. Many more studies have been done on gifted kindergarten students since the early 90ies.

Louis & Lewis (1992) have studied gender differences in identification among 118 pre-school children; Robinson et al (1996, 1997), studied mathematical giftedness in this age-group; Schneider, & Daniels (1992) studied 29 gifted preschoolers and compared some of their socio-metric characteristics to those of regular children; Smutny (1999) has studied educators of gifted young children and came to the conclusion that many of them still emphasized the importance of socialization rather than their educational needs, believing young students should not be pressured into high achievement.

Pfeiffer, & Petscher (2008) offered a scale for identifying young gifted children; while Walsh (2014) wrote a dissertation about the needs of young gifted children and how to fulfill them. Many Studies have been written about this subjects, some by me (2012, 2013, 2017) and many more by others.However, none of these works has examined connections between the children’s abilities, as measured by the WPPSI results, and interviewers’ opinions, based on counselors’ interviews done before starting a gifted course, and the success evaluation of the course, written by the instructors at its end. This study intends to answer some questions regarding such potential connections.

The Research Questions

1. What was the girls’ participation rate among pre-school children starting their studies at the Institute in February 2004 and October 2004? Was this rate similar to that of the whole cohort of 2003? Was it similar to the participation rate of girls in other years? We have already found (Landau & David, 2005) that the percentage of girls in the Institute’s population increased from about 30% in 1982 to almost 40% in 2003. We have also shown (David, in press) that in the 4.5-5.5-year-old age group girls’ rate was much higher both in 1993 (42.5%) and 2003 (~45%).Thus, we would have expected that in 2004 the participation rate of girls would not decline under 40%. We shall hereby see if this was indeed the case.

2. Was there a significant age gap between the mean age of boys and girls?In previous studies of gifted kindergarten students it was found that girls outperformed boys in verbal abilities and social maturity. As many parents, as well as kindergarten teachers, tend to recommend children for giftedness examinations when they are perceived as mature enough to take them, it is interesting to see whether the girls in our group were perceived as mature enough for taking these courses when younger than boys.

3. Were the WPPSI scores of the girls in our cohort higher than those of boys? We could have expected that because of under-participation of girls the girls that have taken the “creative thinking” course would rate higher than the boys, whose proportion in the cohort was significantly higher than would have been expected. We shall hereby find if this was indeed the case.

4. Was there a gender different in the magnitude of the gap between the mean verbal and performance IQ’s?As we know, a large gap between the verbal and the performance IQ might be an indication of immaturity. It would be important to know if such a gap had been observed, and thus learn more about potential differences in emotional maturity of both genders.

5. What were the correlations between the results of the WIPPSI tests taken before the beginning of the “creative thinking” course, and the instructors’ evaluations at its end?In studying gifted children, the results of an IQ test are considered a good predictor of success in activities that require high level of cognitive abilities. Thus, it is important to know if this assumption is also valid for kindergarten gifted children participating in a creative thinking course, and to what extent.

6. Was there a significant difference in the success rate of girls and boys at the end of the first course? Pre-school girls are, on the average, more developed than boys in verbal, social, and fine motor abilities (Hedges & Nowell, 1995; Ronald, Spinath, & Plomin, 2002). A high evaluation at the end of the creative thinking course meant that the participant had done well regarding cognitive abilities: thinking quality, attitude to problem-solving such as thinking abilities and problem solving; social abilities: social acceptability and Involvement level in conversations; and psychological aspects: openness, self-confidence, persistence, and direction of aggression. It will be important to see whether the alleged superiority of girls both in verbal abilities that help reaching higher cognitive abilities and social-psychological ones will be translated into higher evaluation of girls.

The Method Examinees

We have studied 100 kindergarten students – 71 boys and 29 girls – who had completed the “creative thinking” one-semester course at the Institute in June 2004 and January 2005. The children participated in 10 learning groups, instructed by 6 instructors: 5 women and one man. One of the instructors taught 2 classes in each of the semesters, another taught 2 classes during one semester, and all other 4 taught just one class. The maximal number of students registered to one course was 14; the minimal – 10. 15 of the registered students either did not start studying or dropped out after a few meetings; only in one class no drop-out was informed. Thus, at the end of the semester the number of students per class ranged between 7 and 13, with an average of 10.

The research tools were:

  1. The personal files of the students filled by their parents upon registration to the Institute;
  2. The summary of the interviewer;
  3. The instructors’ evaluation at the end of the semester.

The content of the personal files

Each student’s file contains a parents’ questionnaire as well as the following educational, biographical, and demographic information:

  1. Numerical result of the WSSPI examination (verbal, performance, and total), taken either at the Institute or elsewhere. In addition, verbal evaluations of the examiner for emotional maturity evaluation of each child;
  2. Gender;
  3. Age;
  4. Family members learning (or learnt) in the Institute [e.g. parents, siblings];
  5. Number of siblings, their age and gender;
  6. Birth-order;
  7. The gender of the elder sibling/s;
  8. Father’s and mother’s profession;
  9. Father’s and mother’s education;
  10. Father’s and mother’s age;
  11. The language[s] spoken at home;
  12. Year of immigration to Israel (if not Israeli-born);
  13. Single- or two-parent family;
  14. Father’s and mother’s origin;
  15. Number of siblings of each parent;
  16. Level of reading;
  17. Level of religiosity [not-religious, traditional, religious, Ultra-Orthodox];
  18. Special academic, physical, or emotional problems.

The parents’ questionnaire was a 3-page form parents of the children who register to the Institute had to fill. It included questions on child-parents interactions, as well as educational viewpoints and opinions on various subjects. In addition, each parent was asked to fill the “additional remarks” rubric at her or his wish.

The interviewer’s summary

Before choosing the first course each child had to be interviewed at the Institute accompanied by at least one parent. The interviewer filled, during the interview, a 4-page form, part of which was of identical questions both child and parent had to answer. The interviewer summarized her or his impression about the parent-child relationship, and filled the “special problems” rubric with information he or she heard from the parent and the child, and the impression established during the interview.

The instructors’ evaluation at the end of the semester

At the end of each one-semester “creative thinking” course, each instructor filled an evaluation form for all students. This form served for estimating the success level of the students as well as of the instructor. This final evaluation included a “general success” rubric, which could be filled as following: “1” stood for “good”, “2” for “average” and “3” for “weak”. For this final evaluation the following 8 measures were taken into account:

  1. Thinking quality (original, adaptive, standard),
  2. Openness (extroverted/open, average, introverted),
  3. Social acceptability (leader, socially accepted, isolated),
  4. Self-confidence (high, average, low),
  5. Persistence (high, average, low),
  6. Attitude to problem-solving (active, average, passive),
  7. Direction of aggression (extroverted: cruel/hostile/aggressive, depends on the circumstances, introverted: depression/submission),
  8. Involvement level in conversations (high, average, low).

Results

1.Only 29 of the 100 examined students were girls. This rate was lower than in the cohorts of 1982, 1993, and 2003 (Landau, & David, 2005). It was also significantly much lower than among the 4.5-5.5-year-old age group both in 1993, when girls consisted of 42.5% and in 2003, when girls were 45.7% of kindergarten students.

2.The mean age of girls – 5.54 (Std=.30) – was practically the same as that of boys – 5.55 (Std=.41) – among the kindergarten students studying at the Institute in 2003 (David, in press). No significant age differences between pre-school girls and boys had been observed either in 1993 or in 2003. However, the mean age of both boys and girls in the 4.5-5.5 age group was significantly higher in 2004 than in 1993 (5.26, Std=.33) and in 2003 (5.18, Std=.30) (ibid).

3.Girls scored significantly lower than boys – p=.02 – in the total WSSPI results: 129.3 (Std=7.65) versus 133.3 (Std=7.78).Let us see if these results were valid for the verbal and performance scores as well. Boys outperformed girls in all 3 IQ measures: verbal, performance, and total. As expected, the largest and also significant difference was in the performance IQ; the difference in the total IQ was also significant but somewhat smaller than in the performance IQ. All boys that took the IQ exams successfully and received the interviewer recommendation were accepted to the Institute.

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