Which cognitive abilities affect academic achievement for individuals who are gifted or gifted with a learning disability?




Maddocks, Danika Leslie Sasha

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The relations between cognitive abilities and academic achievement inform a number of educational decisions, particularly for students who are exceptional, such as those who are gifted or have a learning disability. Although there is extensive research on the relations between abilities and achievement, little research has examined whether these effects are the same for gifted individuals, and no research has examined these effects among individuals who are gifted and have a learning disability (GLD). In this study, the effects of various cognitive abilities on reading, math, and writing were examined for individuals who were gifted and GLD, and these ability-achievement effects were compared to those for individuals who are not gifted. Data came from the nationally representative standardization sample for the fourth edition of the Woodcock-Johnson (WJ IV) co-normed Tests of Cognitive Abilities, Tests of Achievement, and Tests of Oral Language. Individuals were identified as gifted or GLD based on their cognitive and academic scores on the WJ IV measures.

A hierarchical cognitive abilities model with a latent general intelligence (g) factor was developed for use with the gifted, GLD, and non-gifted groups. The cognitive model demonstrated metric invariance across all three groups but only partial scalar invariance or no scalar invariance for multigroup models involving the GLD group. The cognitive abilities model was used to test the effects of specific broad cognitive abilities on academic achievement. Separate models were run for reading, math, and writing, with measured outcome variables for subdomains of these subjects. Results demonstrated some similarities in effects across groups as well as a number of differences. The ability-achievement effects and the differences across groups have implications for gifted and GLD identification and programming. The results also inform theoretical debates about the nature of intelligence and achievement in gifted populations and can inform future research on these topics.


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