Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Fundamental Principles of the Cultural-Activity Approach in the Psychology of Giftedness

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Fundamental Principles of the Cultural-Activity Approach in the Psychology of Giftedness

Article excerpt

Attention to the problems ofgiftedness is determined largely by public interest connected to the provisionof progress in different spheres of human activity. Gifted people are seen notonly as a source of national pride but also as a "strategic resource" becauseof their achievements. For this reason, in many countries including Russia theprograms for gifted children and youth are carried out by the government, andthe relevant diagnostic, educational, and developmental issues are elaborated.Special attention is given to providing gifted people with help and support,specifically psychological.

There are more than 100 definitions of"giftedness" in contemporary psychology as well as dozens of theories, many ofwhich turn out to be "local" and application-specific (Freeman, 1995; Babaeva,2008; Babaeva & Voiskounsky, 2003). Such abundance complicates rather thansimplifies giftedness identification and exploration of its patterns and of thepsychological mechanisms of its genesis and development. The lack of generalmethodological publications results in empirical research and applied work thatis ineffective; they do not have a strong methodological foundation.

In my view the cultural-activityapproach, which is attracting rising interest, can be such a foundation. Themethodological potential of classic works by L. S. Vygotsky, A. N. Leontiev, S.L. Rubinstein, and A. R. Luria has not yet been fully explored. These works arenow being successfully revealed in contemporary studies that are carried outusing new psychological techniques and modern methods of data analysis.

The aim of this article is thesubstantiation of the possibility of using this approach, which is based onVygotsky's ideas, Leontiev's activity theory, and the theoretical-experimentalconcepts developed in O. K. Tikhomirov's scientific school, as a strongfoundation for solving the many problems that the modern psychology ofgiftedness faces. Among the essentials of this approach are the principles ofpolymorphism and of dynamics, together with the holistic analysis of thephenomenon of giftedness (Babaeva, 2008).

The principle ofpolymorphism

The principle of polymorphismunderlines the qualitative diversity of different types of giftedness. Itrefers also to the impossibility of reducing this complex and multiaspectphenomenon to a single item, as is suggested by proponents of the single-factormodel of giftedness, which obtained wide acceptance in the past. This model isbased on the hypothesis of a G-factor that does not vary according to the typeof task and that determines the success of intellectual activity. In this waygiftedness was identified with intelligence, particularly with the quantityindex of its development, the intelligence quotient (IQ), which is measured bypsychometric tests. The popularity of this model can be explained by therelative simplicity of its application and its unambiguous identification ofgiftedness. Vygotsky (1983) criticized this approach, noting the unacceptablesimplification of the giftedness phenomenon. According to critics, abandoningthe G-factor idea and accepting the qualitative diversity of different types ofgiftedness will facilitate radical changes in understanding its nature.

Critics of the single-factor model andthe uncritical devotion to tests noted that using this model for theidentification of giftedness can lead to gross errors caused by ignorance ofthe child's potential opportunities, his or her personal traits, and the socialenvironment (Heller, 1997). Students may not achieve their learning potentialfor various reasons. Their development may be negatively affected by differentsocial-psychological factors; they may, for example, come from dysfunctionalfamilies. As a result, the giftedness of many children may be unnoticed, andthey get no help and no support. But, despite serious criticism of thesingle-factor approach, it still quite often forms the theoretical base formany empirical studies and for practical work with gifted children. …

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