Dr Rosalind Walsh PhD Abstract
Catering for the Needs of Intellectually Gifted Children in Early Childhood: Development and Evaluation of Questioning Strategies to Elicit Higher Order Thinking
Young intellectually gifted children differ from their age peers in their cognitive and socio-affective development. It is important that early childhood educators respond appropriately to these children’s characteristics. The literature in gifted education contains descriptions of promising curriculum practices that foster young gifted children’s intellectual development in early childhood, but few of these have been evaluated empirically to assess their effectiveness. Furthermore, few early childhood educators have any specific training in meeting the needs of young gifted children.
In the current research, the effectiveness of a researcher-developed higher order questioning intervention was evaluated using a single-subject research design. Eight preschool-aged children, who had been assessed as gifted on standardised measures of intellectual ability, were asked lower order and higher order questions during storybook reading sessions. Their responses were recorded and analysed for linguistic complexity and abstract thinking.
The results indicated that the young intellectually gifted children often used more linguistically complex responses when answering higher order questions than when answering lower order questions. Additionally, the children’s responses demonstrated more abstract thinking when higher order questions were asked.
The implications of these findings for early childhood educators are twofold. They demonstrate that young intellectually gifted children have the cognitive capacity to respond to higher order questions, despite their reported infrequent use in the early childhood classroom. Furthermore, young intellectually gifted children who are asked thelower level questions typical of the early childhood classroom may not demonstrate their ability to function at a higher level unless challenged to do so. Changes to questioning practices and effective professional development are recommended for early childhood educators. Further research is needed to investigate the application in early childhood settings of questioning techniques used in the study.