Keep It in Mind

Understanding and improving your working memory.

Giftedness: What Are We Testing?

A recent article in the NYT on testing for giftedness suggests that the test scores let in the well-prepared students rather than those who are “gifted”. This made me wonder: What are we testing when we test for "giftedness"? Test taking skills or an ability to think creatively and innovatively? Read More

Wrong about working memory

Working memory as "the parameter" to test for giftedness?

No way. Better parameters are the Verbal Comprehension Index and the Perceptual Reasoning Index. Working memory (and Processing Speed) are often lowered in truly gifted individuals, and are less dependable than other indices.

Take a look at the Gifted Development Center info about these indices.

@Wrong about working memory

Thanks for your comment. But that is the point of my blog post: why is there a range of working memory performance in those identified as 'gifted' based on the Verbal Comprehension Index and the
Perceptual Reasoning Index. The former especially draws heavily on prior knowledge, and is linked to socio-economic levels (which means those from wealthily backgrounds have easier access to the knowledge included in these IQ tests). Again, my point in the blog post is that all we know from such scores is how much knowledge a child has gained. While this is a first step, what you do what that knowledge is a much better predictor of academic success. In my own research lab, I have tracked students over a 6- year period and found that working memory is a key skill necessary for academic success.

@wrong about working memory

Directly from the NAGC position statement on the WISC-IV:

"Testers of the gifted know that abstract reasoning tasks best identify cognitive giftedness, while processing skills measures do not. Gifted children with or without disabilities may be painstaking, reflective and perfectionistic on paper-and-pencil tasks, lowering their Processing Speed Index scores; to a lesser degree, they may struggle when asked to recall non-meaningful material (Digit Span, Letter-Number Sequencing), lowering their Working Memory Index, even though they excel on meaningful auditory memory tasks that pique their interest. "

The issues of slowed processing speed and working memory are especially true of the highly and profoundly gifted (as well as the 2E gifted students). Any changes that elevate the importance of working memory over other criteria in the inclusion determinants for gifted classes will hurt the brightest of the bright (and also the 2E students).

Why so much variability? The range of giftedness begins at 120-130 IQ and goes beyond 200. Those who have IQs in the 120-130 range think and process information in an enormously different way from those who are in the 200 range. 2E students also have "different minds" capable of immense creativity despite lowered IQs.

Most schools already shun the highly and profoundly gifted by an inability to differentiate properly at their level. 2E students are also discriminated against in many gifted classrooms. Basing inclusion criteria on working memory may be the legal way to further shun both of them. By putting up barriers against both of these diverse creative minds, is that what gifted education is ultimately trying to do to increase GPA in the gifted classrooms?

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Tracy Packiam Alloway, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Memory and Learning in the Lifespan at the University of Stirling, UK.


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