psychology

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Special Education: Overrepresentation of Male African American Students

Formulated in 1985 by human intelligence research Robert J. Sternberg, the triarchic theory of intelligence broke was a landmark in intelligence research as it defied the psychometrics and took a more cognitive methodology. He defined intelligence as “mental activity directed toward purpose adaptation to, selection and shaping of, real-world environments relevant to one’s life” (p. 45). This implies that intelligence is the ability of the individual to deal with changes in the environment throughout his or her life. His theory is subdivided into three salient parts: componential, experiential, and practical.

How the mind works involves a series of elements and components labeled as meta-, performance, and knowledge acquisition components (Sternberg, 1985). Metacomponents are utilized in solving problems and making decisions which require majority of managing the mind. These components are termed sometimes as the homunculus which is a metaphorical representation of the person inside an individual’s head which controls actions and often noted to attract an infinite reversion of homunculi that control each other (Sternberg, 1985). The next set of components according to Sternberg is the performance components. These are basically the processes that result in the perception of problems using long-term memory, relationships of objects with each other, and application of these relations to another set of objects (Sternberg, 1997). The last set is the knowledge-acquisition components which are employed in obtaining new knowledge and information. These are the components that selectively choose relevant from the irrelevant pieces of information. They can also merge selectively the bits of information collected. Gifted students show proficiency in the use of these components enabling them to learn more rapidly than regular students (Sternberg, 1997). While he explained the similarity of the three components in the triarchic theory, contexts and tasks vary depending on the type of intelligence (Sternberg, 2001).

The componential subtheory has a close association with analytical giftedness according to Sternberg. This aspect of giftedness is crucial in a person’s ability to recognize solutions not often perceived. Unfortunately, individuals endowed with this type of giftedness are not very creative with their ideas. This giftedness is most often tested. The second stage of the theory is the experiential subtheory. What is dealt in this stage is the manner by which the task is completed with regard to the degree of familiarity. The role of experience in task performance is divided into two: novelty and automation. In a novel situation, the individual has had no previous experience. Individuals who are excellent in dealing with novel situations are capable of taking the task and seek new methods in solving problems that most people would not consider (Sternberg, 1997). In an automated process, the task has been performed more than once and can be completed automatically without too much thinking. If the process becomes automatized, it can proceed parallel with similar or other processes. The concern with these two concepts is that being skilled in one task does not signify being skilled in the other (Sternberg, 1997). This subtheory is seen to be correlated with synthetic giftedness which is exhibited in the study of art forms, intuition, and creativity. Persons having synthetic giftedness generate new concepts and ideas in solving problems. The third subtheory is referred to as practical/contextual which “deals with the mental activity involved in attaining fit to context” (Sternberg, 1985, p. 45). Individuals are able to create a perfect fit between the environment and themselves by undergoing the processes of adaptation, shaping, and selection. Adaptation happens when the individual is changing aspects of him or herself so that he or she becomes adjusted to the surroundings. Shaping on the other hand is the process of changing an individual’s environment to suit his or her needs and selection involves replacement of an unsatisfactory environment with a wholly new environment that is able to sustain the goals of the individual (Sternberg, 1985).

Emotional Intelligence Theory

Mayer and Salovey (1997) defined emotional intelligence as “the set of abilities that account for how people’s emotional perception and understanding vary in their accuracy. More formally, we define emotional intelligence as the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others”. He emphasized that those with high emotional intelligence “generate a larger number of future plans and better take advantage of future opportunities” (p. 199) and show “persistence at challenging tasks” (p. 200). They also have a positive outlook in life leading to better results and rewards for others and themselves.

The model of Bar-On in 1997 answered the reasons why some individuals have the capacity to better succeed in life compared to others. He reviewed characteristics based on psychological literature and found five areas of functioning which is pertinent to success. These are the following: intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, stress management, and general mood. Under each area, there are several subdivisions. For instance in the area of interpersonal skills, it is divided into independence, self-actualization, self-regard, assertiveness, and emotional self-awareness. He described intelligence as “aggregate of abilities, competencies, and skills that represent a collection of knowledge used to cope with life effectively” (Bar-On, 1997, p. 15). The use of the adjective emotional lays emphasis on its distinction from cognitive intelligence. The theory of Bar-On combined mental abilities with characteristics not traditionally cognitive in nature like self-regard, personal independence. In spite of the model’s breadth, it appears that Bar-On claims the details of his theory with caution. Though the model predicts success, the success is ‘the end product of that which one strives to achieve and accomplish”. His emotional quotient is related to “the potential to succeed rather than success itself”. Looking at it from a broader perspective, he maintains that emotional quotient and intelligence quotient provide an objective representation on the general intelligence of an individual.

Perkins’ Theory on Intelligence

In 1995, Perkins did an examination of voluminous studies on how IQ is measured and the various programs that enhance IQ. He explained that IQ is composed of three major dimensions: neural intelligence (precision and efficiency of the individual’s neurological functions), experiential intelligence (the person’s experience and knowledge that has accumulated over time in various areas; it could also refer to the sum of the person’s expertise), reflective intelligence (ability to come up with strategies that are useful in solving problems, learning, and approaching tasks that are intellectually challenging; includes attitudes that promote imagination, systematization, persistence, self-management and self-monitoring).

Mounting evidence suggests that intake of cocaine and alcohol during pregnancy is detrimental to the child’s neural intelligence. Exposure to lead can severely damage neural functions. Vitamins or the lack of it can influence neural intelligence. In addition, scientists generally agree that neural intelligence has a "use it or lose it" characteristic which means that when neural intelligence is used more frequently, it is increased and sustained. The second component or experiential intelligence is based on the duration or period of time accumulating knowledge and experience in both formal and informal learning settings. This knowledge and experience result in becoming more adept in at least one field of expertise. Individuals living in "rich" learning settings are significantly at an advantage intelligence-wise over those in environments characterized to be less intellectually stimulating. Experiential intelligence thrives and increases in the former. Reflexive intelligence which is the third component can be perceived as the control system where both neural and experiential intelligence are put to effective use. Strategies that encourage effective use of both components of intelligence can be learned by an individual.

Creative Persons Traits Theory

Harper (2000) in his snowflake model enumerated six characteristics which may vary in degrees in creative individuals. Differences among creative persons but may not be successful, moderately or highly successful as artists, contrast with respect to how they developed each of these traits. For instance, a man may be found to excel at personal aesthetics and able to connect new ideas, and being impartial or unbiased, but unless his motivation is sufficient to act upon a tangible medium what he visualizes inside his imagination, his vision will not be shared with the rest of the world. He may be in himself creative but may fail as an artist. In contrast, a visionary and at the same time a motivated man can potentially find success in the field of science or artistry. These qualities are as follows: high commitment to personal aesthetic, excellent in finding problems, mentally mobile, willing to take risks, objective, and motivated inside.

According to Omni magazine published in 1989, a strong commitment to personal aesthetic means “the drive to wrest order, simplicity, meaning, richness or powerful expression from what is seemingly chaos”. Creative individuals always feel the need for self-expression by recreating the world around them. They invest a significant amount of time in recreating the vision as perfectly as possible, wrestle and manipulate ambiguities until appropriately expressed in their vision. The second quality denotes the ability to ask the right questions and find the right problems. When they are able to do these, creators have a definite view of which fields can be broken or extended. Finding the solution is not the initial step; it is preceded by asking the question focusing on the vision and the potential created by the vision. Mental mobility allows creative individuals to seek new avenues or perspectives on how to approach problems. It is asserted that creative persons think of contraries and opposites and synthesize both to form new ideas. In the June 1993 issue of the Newsweek magazine, an article stated, “In genius there is a tolerance for ambiguity, a patience with unpredictable avenues of thought”. If a person is willing to risk, he or she has what psychologists termed as the Type-T personality. According to this model, “By working at the edge of their competence, where the possibility of failure lurks, mental risk-takers are more likely to produce creative results”. This trait is said to require three aspects, as follows: constant mental stimulation, acceptance of failures and shortcomings, and ability to learn from mistakes. The fifth quality is being objective. If objectivity is not present in a creative person, his or her private world is devoid of reality; if present, he or she can judge and evaluate own projects and ideas and allow criticism. The keys to achieve objectivity among individuals lie in their ability to set aside ego so that ideas and projects are honestly evaluated by themselves, ask the advice of colleagues and peers, and test the ideas. The last quality is inner motivation which is the driving force that create not for want of reward but challenge, satisfaction, or enjoyment. Research has demonstrated that supervision, evaluation, limited choices, and prizes restrict or undermine inner motivation and creativity among workers.

Sternberg’s Theory of Mental Self-Government

The theory of cognitive styles by Sternberg (1997) explained mental self-government comes in four forms, namely: hierarchical, monarchic, oligarchic, and anarchic. When the style is hierarchic, multiple goals are held simultaneously then set priorities. For the oligarchic style, there are similarities shared with the first type but it varies in its difficulty in making priorities. In the monarchic style, the individual focuses on one task until it is completed. Lastly, the anarchic style does not conform with "systems, rules, or particular approaches to problems". In addition, his theory also cited that mental self-government has two levels, either global or local. The former focuses on problems which are more global and abstract while the latter, more concrete and specific problems. Mental self-government has two scopes- internal and external. If the individual prefers to independently work on a task, then the internal style is applied while working in collaboration is referred as external style. He also explained the four leanings of mental self-government which are the following: liberal, legislative, executive and conservative. If the style is liberal, the individual attempts to modify "existing rules and procedures"; legislative, a requirement is added to the modifications conforming with the ideas of the individual; executive, when tradition is followed; and conservative, when a requirement is incorporated or added making the ideas uniquely the individual’s.

Sternberg (1988, 1997) described thinking styles and their significance in education. He mentioned that these styles are different from abilities as these are the ways individuals prefer in using their abilities. Moreover, Sternberg and Grigorenko (1993) asserted the link between thinking styles and giftedness. First, individual variations among exceptional students could not be accounted solely by the diversity of talents; it is also because of their varying thinking styles. Second, the most gifted are those demonstrating a strong match between abilities and thinking styles.

Basing on these observations, they together proposed that in educating gifted individuals, thinking styles must be considered. What is the relevance of thinking styles for gifted educators? These theorists argued that varying the type of instructional methods and assessments could either be a benefit or hindrance to a gifted individual depending on his or her thinking style. Thus, they suggested that educators need to employ a wide variety of methods and assessments in identifying, instructing, and evaluating gifted students. In using various strategies, students exemplifying unique thinking styles are provided opportunities to express themselves in the classroom. In addition, thinking styles may vary depending on situations and tasks. Therefore, students will be a step ahead if they show flexibility, capitalize on their strengths, and compensating their weaknesses. It is therefore of significant value to understand the styles of students in order for educators to come up with instructional methods that promote and develop the styles preferred by students. It was postulated by Sternberg and Grigorenko (1993) that gifted educators should not only take into account the students’ abilities but also thinking styles.

While the theory offered an explanation regarding the association between thinking styles and giftedness, both has suggested ways to improve schemes in improving instruction and identification. However, empirical studies on this regard are limited, particularly those that concern with context and age. First, research that examine the ability-creativity and ability-thinking styles relationship were limited to male students in the secondary level and adults (Lubart & Sternberg, 1995; Yang & Lin, 2004). Second, research has focused on high school participants (Dai & Feldhusen, 1998; Park, Park, & Choe, 2005). From the research efforts, further studies should be conducted that aim to explore the effect of considering thinking styles in educating gifted students.

Gruber’s Evolving Systems Approach to Creativity Theory

Gruber and Wallace (1999) said that evolving systems approach or ESA is a representation of both theory and method in understanding how a creative person works on an assigned task. It has no involvement on the discovery of generalizations regarding creative individuals. The theory primarily aims to analytically and developmentally account a creative person that is considered and formulate the "theory of the individual". The term "developmental" does not mean that the description should commence from birth, but wherever practicable. The evolving systems in describing a creative person, analysis will include three major subsystems: knowledge, purpose, and affect. Creative acts result from the functioning of the system, and each episode and facet of creative work necessitates all the three subsystems. The evolving system approach employs the conduct of case studies guided by these ideas: "The creative person is unique, developmental change is multidirectional, and the creative person is an evolving system".

Gagne’s Conditions of Learning Theory

Stipulated in this theory are the different levels and types of learning. The implication of classifying each different type is the necessity for a different instructional type. Gagne identified five major learning categories, namely: attitudes, motor skills, cognitive strategies, intellectual skills, and verbal information. Different sets of conditions either internal or external are required in each learning type. For instance, in learning cognitive strategies, the learner must be given a chance to apply relatively new solutions to concerns or problems; gain knowledge of attitudes; and immerse in persuasive argumentation and credible role models.

It is suggested in the theory intellectual skills can be learned hierarchically starting with the simplest to the most complex task: stimulus recognition, response generation, procedure following, use of terminology, discriminations, concept formation, rule application, and problem solving. The principal connotation of this hierarchy is to recognize that learning is a step-wise process; meaning the lower level should be accomplished first before proceeding to the next. In performing task analysis of a task related to training or learning, these prerequisites should be identified. Learning hierarchies form the basis on how instruction should be sequenced. Moreover, the theory provides an outline of nine instructional events and cognitive processes corresponding each: gaining attention (reception); informing learners of the objective (expectancy); stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval); presenting the stimulus (selective perception); providing learning guidance (semantic encoding); eliciting performance (responding); providing feedback (reinforcement); assessing performance (retrieval); and enhancing retention and transfer (generalization). These elements should be present to facilitate learning and guide the design of instruction and selection of suitable media (Gagne, Briggs & Wager, 1992).


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