Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Strategy Acquisition and Maintenance of Gifted and Nongifted Young Children

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Strategy Acquisition and Maintenance of Gifted and Nongifted Young Children

Article excerpt

Learning strategies are believed to make an important contribution to the enhancement of students' intellectual performance. A considerable body of research has addressed the issue of strategy use in classroom settings and has demonstrated that younger children use cognitive strategies less frequently for learning new information than older children. Developmental studies on strategy acquisition have shown that different strategies become available for children's use at different developmental stages (Weinstein & Mayer, 1986). For example, strategies such as labeling, sorting, verbalizing, and clustering seem to become available during the preschool years (Alexander & Schwanenflugel, 1994; Moley, Olsen, Hawles, & Flavell, 1969), while children in Grades 1 and 2 develop organization strategies, using them when prompted but failing to apply them immediately when a memory task is given (Alexander & Schwanenflugel).

The phenomenon of having strategies but failing to use them spontaneously has been labeled production deficient (Brown, 1977; Flavell, 1970; Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 1993; Weinstein & Mayer, 1986) or utilization deficient (DeMarie-Dreblow & Miller, 1988; Gaultney, 1998). Thus, children can use a strategy when asked or guided, but act as if they do not possess this knowledge when given a relevant task without guidance (Nisbet & Shucksmith, 1986). Because younger children do not have a sophisticated understanding of strategy use (Fabricius & Hagen, 1984), they may get no, little, or less benefit from strategies than older children do. It is possible that as children acquire and maintain more refined strategies through experience, strategies can become more automatic and demand less memory capacity. Therefore, younger children may be reluctant to try to produce an effortful strategy. They may be neither adequately planful, foresighted, nor goal-oriented, at least in a memory-task situation (Flavell et al.).

Alexander and Schwanenflugel (1994) asserted that intelligence scores (assessed by Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised and Matrix Analogies Test-Short Form) of Grade 1 and 2 students did not seem to be directly related to strategy regulation and recall. More specifically, they indicated that intelligence played a small role in predicting strategy use and the number of items recalled when other factors such as knowledge base level, grade, and causal attribution were taken into account. However, it appeared that the intelligence scores of the children who participated in their study were limited to a narrow range around average intelligence. Thus, it is more appropriate to conclude that children of average intelligence can execute the strategy on the surface but have a vague or missing understanding of the purposes behind the use of the strategy.

Wong (1982) chose three different groups (e.g., gifted children, children with average intelligence, and children with learning disabilities) to investigate organizational strategies and self-checking behavior in selecting retrieval cues. Wong found that children of high intelligence who are gifted appeared to spontaneously generate adaptive-efficient strategies when selecting retrieval cues. The gifted children's organizational strategy for selecting retrieval cues was to operate by a nonverbalized scheme. It was observed that the gifted children rapidly scanned the pausal-idea units of the retrieval cues and then examined the cards in the smaller pile, ensuring the content and the number of cards of retrieval cues.

Wong's (1982) study indicated that gifted children can select and use appropriate strategies already existing within their repertoire spontaneously and without instruction. Unlike nongifted children, gifted children have greater factual knowledge about how their mind works and have a greater tendency to use strategies on tasks quite different from the task on which the strategy instruction was given (Carr, Alexander, & Schwanenflugel, 1996). …

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