Detection of High Ability Children by Teachers and Parents: Psychometric Quality of New Rating Checklists for the Assessment of Intellectual, Creative and Social Ability

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Abstract

In the present study we devised scales for teachers' and parents' estimation of intellectual, creative and social abilities of fourth grade elementary school pupils. Their scores were related to psychometrically determined ability scores. Ninety-three school pupils in the age range between 9.3 and 11.2 years, as well as their parents and teachers took part. The new rating checklists proved as sufficiently reliable (particularly the teachers' version). Analyses of validity showed a high correspondence in parents' and teachers' estimations of cognitive intelligence, but much lower correspondence for creativity and social ability. Correlating teachers' and parents' estimates with the respective psychometric tests shows that teachers and parents were better at identifying intellectual (high)ability than detecting creative and social abilities. With the exception of social (high)ability, where girls were usually regarded as highly socially gifted by their parents, there were no differences in parents' and teachers' estimations of boys and girls.

Key words: high ability, intelligence, creativity, social competence, parents' and teachers' estimation

In the field of ability assessment, information is gathered by means of psychometric approaches (such as intelligence and creativity tests) as well as by parents' and teachers' assessments of pupils' cognitive or creative abilities. In the applied educational or pedagogical domain, a pre-selection of children through a single person's estimation often precedes the final identification of (high)ability through psychometric assessment, accompanied with the assignment to special talent fostering programs. In this particular context, it has to be considered that even if an individual is able to assess another person's cognitive ability accurately, this can only support the diagnostic process and can never constitute the sole basis for a decision. Thus, the question concerning the quality of subjective assessment judgements still remains a matter of debate (Wild, 1991).

Particularly teachers' decisions are often used in the context of ability assessment, along with psychometric tests for obtaining "first-hand" information about the respective cognitive or creative (high-)ability. For Wieczerkowski and Wagner (1985), the most prominent advantage of teachers' decisions is that this information can be gathered quite economically. Furthermore, Wild (1991) names more advantages of teachers' decisions: Due to their professional experience, teachers have the benefit of being able to compare pupils of the same grade or age (cf. Wild, 1991). Because of this fact, teachers should be sufficiently able to estimate pupils' abilities in comparison to other pupils. Moreover, teachers' decisions are not only influenced by the pupils' actual learning outcome, but also by the individual's successive learning process (Wild, 1991). Furthermore, due to a longer observation period, teachers are able to recognize even temporary or short-term fluctuations in pupils' achievements and efforts.

However, there are also fundamental problems associated with teachers' decisions. One is that teachers cannot ,,detach themselves" in their assessments from the pupils' achievements at school (Holling & Kanning, 1999).

Along with teachers' estimations, parents' decisions are also often used for the identification of (high)ability. According to Rost (1991), parents' estimations should primarily be considered in pre-school children as almost no adequate psychometric tests for the assessment of ability in this age range exist and frequently no other sources of information are available.

The advantage of parents' estimations over teacher ratings is the fact that the former can observe their children's behavior and accomplishments in various situations and, thus, are better able to judge their children's abilities. A disadvantage of parents' judgements is that they have fewer possibilities of comparison to other children (Schiefer, 2004). …