Do Academically Gifted Children and Adolescents Also Score Well in Executive Functions?

Project: Research project

Project Details


This proposed project is to investigate the executive functions (EF) and academic ability of children and adolescents identified as gifted through above-grade-level testing (e.g., a student takes an ACT test in 7th grade). Approximately 583 students and 583 parents will be recruited through the Northwestern University Midwest Academic Talent Search (NUMATS) program. These students take one of the two national standardized tests (i.e., the ACT, or ACT Aspire test) through the NUMATS program and score (either subject or composite scores) at the 90th percentile and above. Students’ executive functions will be measured with the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) self-report (BRIEF-SR) and parent-report (BRIEF) versions. Both assessments consist of eight subscales, indicating eight dimensions of executives functions, including inhibit, shift, emotional control, initiate, working memory, plan/organize, organization of materials, and monitor. These eight subscales load onto two broader indices: the Behavior Regulation Index (BRI) and the Metacognition Index (MI) which collectively contribute to a Global Executive Composite (GEC) score. Their academic ability will be indicated by their mean subject and/or composite scores from the ACT, or ACT Aspire tests. Major research questions include: (a) How do students of high academic ability and their parents rate their daily executive functions? (b) Are high academic ability students’ own ratings of their executive functions consistent with or different from their parents’ ratings? (c) Do high academic ability students’ profiles of executive functions vary by their developmental level, academic ability level, or domain specific strength (e.g., excelling in math or verbal)? and (d) What specific dimensions of executive functions (e.g., working memory, inhibit, cognitive flexibility, planning) are associated with academic ability in gifted students above and beyond other potential confounding factors? In line with the different research questions, different statistical analyses will be conducted, including descriptive analyses, bivariate correlational analyses, multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA), multivariate analyses of covariance (MANCOVA), and hierarchical regression analysis. In sum, findings from this proposed project of a large scale assessment of executive functions and academic ability of gifted children and youth have the potential to (a) provide insights into the relationship between gifted students’ executive functions and their academic ability measured with above-grade-level tests, and (b) offer research-based evidence to inform educators the possible addition of executive function assessments to talent search and identification programs which could have a substantial positive impact on gifted students’ growth and development, and on the larger psychological and educational community.
Effective start/end date10/16/148/15/16


  • American Psychological Foundation (Agmt 9/22/14)


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