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Assessing intellectual potential in rural Tanzanian school children

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Assessing intellectual potential in rural Tanzanian school children
  Assessing intellectual potential in rural Tanzanianschool children Robert J. Sternberg a, *, Elena L. Grigorenko a,b , Damaris Ngorosho c,d ,Erasto Tantufuye c , Akundaeli Mbise d , Catherine Nokes e , Matthew Jukes e ,Donald A. Bundy e,f  a   PACE Center, Yale University, PO Box 208358, New Haven, CT 06520-8358, USA  b  Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia c  MAKWAMI—Partnership for Child Development, Tanzania d University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania e University of Oxford, Oxford, UK  f  World Bank, UK  Received 1 July 1999; received in revised form 22 March 2001; accepted 25 May 2001 Abstract What do conventional intellectual-ability tests tell us about the abilities of Black Africans living innon-Westernized environmental contexts? We examined an aspect of this question in a studyemploying dynamic testing, conducted in rural villages near Bagamoyo, Tanzania. A total of 358experimental-group children in 10 schools, ranging in grade levels from 2 to 5, participated in thestudy. An additional 100 students of the same ages served as control participants. All experimental-group participants received three dynamic tests (administered in Kiswahili) of largely fluid intellectualabilities: Syllogisms, Sorting, and Twenty Questions. Each test given to the experimental groupcomprised administration of a separately scored (a) pretest, (b) intervention teaching cognitive skillsand strategies contributing to success on that kind of test, and (c) posttest. Control participantsreceived only the pretest and posttest. In addition, scores were available for the experimental-groupchildren on reference tests of intellectual abilities and school achievement. We found that scores of children in the experimental group increased significantly from pretest to posttest relative to scores of children in the control group. Pretest scores of experimental-group children were relatively weak  predictors of posttest scores, whereas pretest scores of control-group children were significantly 0160-2896/02/$ – see front matter   D  2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.PII: S0160-2896(01)00091-5* Corresponding author.  E-mail address : (R.J. Sternberg).Intelligence 30 (2002) 141–162  stronger predictors of posttest scores. Posttest scores on the dynamic tests generally were better  predictors than were pretest scores of the reference ability and achievement measures.  D  2002Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction A researcher from the developed world who has spent much of her life studying schoolchildren in developing countries commented to one of the authors of this article that in order to reach children in the developing world, one should treat the children as EMR (educablementally retarded). This comment seems to reflect the beliefs of at least some psychologistsabout many children in the developing world (e.g., Herrnstein & Murray, 1994).Individuals who have spent some or all of their careers investigating the intelligence of Black Africans might question this assertion (e.g., Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen, 1992;Cole, 1996; Mundy-Castle, 1967; Serpell, 1993; Wober, 1974). However, much may dependon what is meant by intelligence (Berry, 1974; Gardner, 1999; Sternberg, 1985, 2000;Sternberg et al., 2000; Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998; Wober, 1974). To the extent that onevalues IQ-based measures, one legitimately might wonder why some groups of Black Africans seemingly perform at low mean levels on such measures relative to White American populations as well as other populations.In this article, we propose that one often cannot interpret conventional test scores amongcertain groups of Black Africans in the same way one might interpret these test scores amongmembers of White majority groups in the United States. In particular, we suggest that conventional tests often may fail fully to elicit the abilities of these African children, in part  because the children are not accustomed to the vagaries of taking these tests (see also Cole,Gay, Glick, & Sharp, 1971; Greenfield, 1997; Serpell, 1993). There is nothing new about thisclaim (see, e.g., Berry, 1974; Greenfield, 1997; Laboratory of Comparative Human Cog-nition, 1982; Serpell, 2000). We go beyond this claim to suggest an alternative toconventional testing, however. It may be possible to administer conventional types of testsof intelligence, but through a different mode of administration, in order to allow a more nearlycomplete display of these children’s abilities.Conventional measures of cognitive skills quantify developed abilities. Thus, they indicateabilities only as they are realized in developed performance, which, in turn, is affected bymany variables, such as amount of education, test-wiseness skills, parental support, and so on.Often, we wish we could know the extent to which developed abilities reflect latent capacities, and the extent to which they do not—in other words, the difference betweenlatent capacities and developed abilities. Dynamic testing has been proposed as a way of uncovering some of this information (Grigorenko & Sternberg, 1998; Sternberg & Grigor-enko, 2002). If it is successful, then it is also revolutionary. We, at last, may have a way to seethrough the effects of some of the environmental variables that can impede cognitive performance (see Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Nokes, 1997) and thereby have a basis better for understanding a person’s potential for cognitive growth.  R.J. Sternberg et al. / Intelligence 30 (2002) 141–162 142  The basic idea underlying such testing is to develop an evaluative model of children’s potential,addingtestingthatis dynamic innaturetothe  static testingusedwithintheframework ofconventionalpsychometrictests.Inotherwords,insteadofjustquantifyingtheexistingsetof abilities and level of knowledge and viewing them as a basis for predicting children’ssubsequent cognitive development, dynamic testing has as its further aim the quantificationof the learning potential of the child during the acquisition of new cognitive operations.Three major differences are stressed when static and dynamic paradigms are compared.Although these are not the only differences, they are the most salient.First, the procedures differ in their relative emphases on developing versus developed processes. In  dynamic testing  , there is an emphasis on measuring the psychological processesinvolved in learning and change, whereas in  static testing  , the primary emphasis is onevaluating products formed as a result of preexisting skills.Second, the procedures differ in their respective uses of feedback. In dynamic testing,feedback is given. The examiner presents a task and often a sequence of progressively morechallenging tasks; but after the presentation of each task, the examiner gives the test-taker feedback, often continuing with this feedback in successive iterations until the examineeeither solves the problem or gives up. Testing thus joins with instruction, and the test-taker’sability to learn is quantified while she or he learns. In static testing, an examiner presents agraded sequence of problems and the test-taker responds to each of the problems. There is nofeedback from examiner to test-taker regarding quality of performance.Third, the two paradigms differ in the quality of examiner–examinee relationships.Specifically, within the framework of dynamic testing, the test situation and the type of examiner–examinee relationship are modified from the one-way traditional setting of theconventional psychometric approach (where neutrality and lack of involvement on the part of the experimenter are considered necessary to ensure standard measurement conditions) toform a two-way interactive relationship between the examiner and the examinee. This tester– test-taker interaction is individualized for each child: The conventional attitude of neutralitythus is replaced by an atmosphere of teaching and helping. In static testing, the attitude of theexaminer toward the examinee is as neutral as possible.The most important application of dynamic testing perhaps has been in work with certaindisadvantaged children who have performed exceptionally poorly on conventional static tests(e.g., Feuerstein, Rand, & Hoffman, 1979). The category  disadvantaged   (or, sometimes, challenged  )  students , as opposed to  advantaged   ( nonchallenged  )  students , is used to refer to alarge class of pupils viewed as having unequal learning opportunities due either to deficient  previous education, lack of match between previous and current cultural and educational practices, or to learning disability or mental deficiency. The claim that these students should be tested dynamically is motivated by the belief that dynamic testing in its proper applicationshould reduce educational inequalities by providing what are seen as compassionate, nearlyfair, and nearly equitable means for assessing students’ learning capacities. For disadvantagedchildren, quantifying their learning in action, with the assistance of and under the supervisionof an adult, might be the only way to evaluate their true level of functioning.Credit for introducing the concept of dynamic testing to modern psychology is usuallygiven to Lev Vygotsky (1962), although it is arguable who deserves credit for the modern  R.J. Sternberg et al. / Intelligence 30 (2002) 141–162  143  concept of dynamic testing. Some research, such as that of Brown (e.g., Brown & Ferrara,1985) and Guthke (e.g., Guthke, 1992), has been derived directly from Vygotsky’s theory (seeLidz, 1987), whereas other work (e.g., that of Feuerstein et al., 1979) has been presented as of independent srcin (Kozulin & Falik, 1995). In any case, there have been a number of  productive programs of research in dynamic testing (e.g., Budoff, 1975, 1987; Carlson, 1989;Day, Engelhardt, Maxwell, & Bolig, 1997; Embretson, 1987; Ferna´ndez-Ballesteros, Juan-Espinosa, Colom, & Calero, 1997; Ferrara, Brown, & Campione, 1986; Guthke & Stein, 1996;Haywood & Tzuriel, 1992; Lidz, 1995; Samuels, Tzuriel, & Malloy-Miller, 1989; Swanson,1995) that cannot all be reviewed here for lack of space but that are reviewed elsewhere(Grigorenko & Sternberg, 1998; Lidz & Elliott, 2000; Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2002).The relatively newly reestablished interest in dynamic testing has been attributed to thedevelopment of certain societal needs and to the formation of more mixed and even critical professional opinion on the usefulness of static testing (Tzuriel & Haywood, 1992). Withregard to societal needs, researchers recognized the desirability of (a) more nearly culture-fair tests that could be used in work with immigrants for the purpose of integrating them intosociety; (b) tests that would be useful for comparing results obtained in culturally diverse populations; (c) developmental tests appropriate for testing of individuals with deprivededucational experiences; and (d) the measurement of learning potential as distinct from what has been learned, regardless of the culture, population, or social group of a tested individual.Such measurement is especially attractive when one considers the relatively modest tomoderate forecasting power of most static ability tests for many predictive purposes (e.g.,Sternberg, 1996).One of the major concepts of the theory underlying dynamic testing is that of the zone of  proximal development (ZPD) (Vygotsky, 1978). One of Vygotsky’s followers and colleagues,Leont’ev, in his discussions with Bronfenbrenner (cited in Bronfenbrenner, 1977), summar-ized the meaning of this concept by saying that it tries ‘‘ . . .  to discover not how the childcame to be what it is, but how it can become what it not yet is’’ (p. 528). Thus, the ZPDreflects development itself: It is not what one is, but what one can become; it is not what hasdeveloped, but what is developing. The ZPD is elicited in social interaction and is created bythe interaction. The developmental, interactive, and forward-looking nature of the ZPDresulted in its becoming one of the ideas of Vygotsky that has received the most attention inthe West. According to Newman and Holzman (1993), the popularity of the ZPD is due to thefact that it (a) lends itself well to contemporary interests in social cognition and classroominteraction, (b) delves into the essence of learning and development, and (c) is an expressionof the individual in society.We believe that dynamic testing, based on the theoretical notion of the ZPD, may helpone elucidate mental abilities of school children in the developing world that otherwisemight remain hidden. To this end, we devised a set of three tasks to be administered to ruralschool children in villages near Bagamoyo, Tanzania. The tasks were similar or identical tothose found on conventional tests of intellectual abilities. Our mode of administrationenabled us to obtain both static and dynamic test scores so that we could compare theefficacy of the two methods of testing for illuminating the abilities of the rural Tanzanianschool children we tested.  R.J. Sternberg et al. / Intelligence 30 (2002) 141–162 144  2. Method 2.1. Participants2.1.1. Experimental sample A total of 358 children, 161 boys and 197 girls, participated in the study. The childrenwere spread throughout four grades (2–5) in 10 schools, even though their age was limited to11 through 13 years of age. 1 In terms of grade levels, 4.5% were in second grade, 37.7%were in third grade, 31.8% were in fourth grade, and 26.0% were in fifth grade. The reasonfor this spread in grades relative to ages was primarily that children first enrolled in formalschooling at different ages. 2.1.2. Control sample To verify whether the expected changes in performance were due to the impact of test-specific intervention rather than an outcome of repeated test administration (i.e., a practiceeffect), we recruited a sample of children to whom the intervention was not administered.The sample included 100 children—40 boys and 60 girls—spread out through Grades 2–5(11 through 13 years of age). In terms of grade levels, 5.0% were in the second grade, 30.0%were in the third grade, 35.0% were in the fourth grade, and 30% were in the fifth grade. Thechildren were recruited from 5 of the 10 schools from which the experimental sample’s participants were drawn. No control sample’s participants were included in the experimentalsample (and, in fact, the control sample data were collected after the completion of theexperimental study). 2.2. Materials2.2.1. Dynamic tests There were three tasks administered dynamically to children in the experimental group:Syllogisms, Sorting, and Twenty Questions. Each task measured analytical skills of variouskinds. Specifically, both the Syllogisms and Twenty Questions tasks were indicators of the 1 Primary school education, which constitutes a 7-year program, is compulsory for all children in Tanzania.Children are supposed to enroll in school at the age of 7. However, in the coastal region, children enroll a littlelater, often at the age of 9–11 (especially the boys). The delay in enrollment is due to several reasons. Some parents will wait for a child to be old enough to be able to walk to school, which might be located severalkilometers from the home, especially in the rural area where the study was conducted. The distance between twoschools can be 2 or more kilometers. The small number of schools in the district contribute a lot to large classsizes. While there can be 45–50 children in one classroom in some schools, in others, it is possible also to find aclass with 60 or more children. Another possible reason for delayed schooling is financial rather thangeographical. For example, a parent with a low income may wait for 2–3 years before enrolling another child if he/she already has one in school. School expenses such as school fees, school uniforms, and other contributionseither for new school buildings or renovations contribute not only to low school enrollment but also tononenrollment. Children also come and go as they are needed at home, or as they marry, in the case of girls, oftenat very young ages.  R.J. Sternberg et al. / Intelligence 30 (2002) 141–162  145
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