Growth, Development, and Learning || Meaningful Learning and Retention: Intrapersonal Cognitive Variables

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  • Meaningful Learning and Retention: Intrapersonal Cognitive VariablesAuthor(s): James J. GallagherSource: Review of Educational Research, Vol. 34, No. 5, Growth, Development, and Learning(Dec., 1964), pp. 499-512Published by: American Educational Research AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 28/06/2014 14:02

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    Meaningful Learning and Retention: Intrapersonal Cognitive Variables


    SINCE AUSUBEL and Fitzgerald wrote their chapter concerning intra-

    personal cognitive variables in meaningful learning and retention for the December 1961 issue of the REVIEW, a number of trends seem to have been established which will form the major categories in the present chap- ter. There has been (a) increased interest in the differentiation of intel- lectual structure, (b) renewed attention to the emphemeral construct of creativity, (c) additional efforts directed toward the measurement of cog- nitive style, and (d) concerted attempts to stimulate cognitive growth.

    The research has tended to become programmatic, with large research organizations or groups of investigators doing series of studies. The indi- vidual worker who carries out isolated research studies appears to be taking a secondary role. This trend toward cooperative research has re- sulted in a highly systematic exploration of concepts and problems as well as a tendency for research reports to appear as books and monographs rather than as single research articles.

    Intelligence Tests as Models for Cognitive Structure

    Intelligence tests have served in three rather distinct capacities: (a) prediction, (b) classification, and (c) diagnosis. Each of these functions has tended to be limited in its portrait of the intellect. Long-range predic- tion demands test items that are developmental and consistent from one age level to another. Classification requires a single index from which to make decisions: for example, is an individual mentally retarded or not? On the other hand, diagnosis necessitates a multiple scale of abilities from which to judge individual strengths and weaknesses.

    The results of earlier longitudinal studies (Bayley, 1955; Sontag, Baker, and Nelson, 1958) cast doubt on the validity of the concept of constancy of the IQ for a significant percentage of children. There now appear to be not only environmental but also intracognitive variables which sys- tematically influence gains and losses in IQ scores over time.

    Kagan and Moss (1962) reported on a longitudinal study of 89 children which has been conducted since 1929 at the Fels Institute. Of particular interest was the relationship of motivational and personality factors to

    cognitive growth. They found a high correlation (0.50) for boys between


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    (a) measures of childhood fearfulness at ages three to six years and (b) indexes of intellectual mastery in adulthood. A negative correlation of similar magnitude between sets of measures corresponding to athletic mastery at 10-14 years and eventual intellectual competence also suggested that the building of superior cognitive structure in adulthood may depend on certain habits established in childhood.

    Those girls who were bold and daring in physical activities during ages 10-14 became intellectually oriented adult women. Those with withdrawal tendencies and a high fear of failure tended to shy away from adult intellectual concerns. However, the generalizability of these results was limited by the special sample, which included individuals with high IQ scores from homes of relatively high socioeconomic status.

    These findings tended to reinforce an earlier report by Sontag, Baker, and Nelson (1958) on the differential effect of certain learning and atti- tudinal sets upon the progressive development and eventual maturation of cognitive structure. The tendency to search beyond the traditional IQ test for a greater understanding of intellectual processes has taken a number of different tacks.

    Structure of Intellect

    A major continuing effort in broadening the concept of intellectual performance has been provided by Guilford (1959) and his research group, who have invested 15 years of research in factor-analytic studies of intellectual behavior. Guilford's Structure of Intellect has formed the basis for a flow of reports on intellectual processes from the University of Southern California. Moreover, a large number of other research studies owe an ancestoral debt to the Guilford paradigm.

    According to the Guilford model, there are as many as 120 distinct types of intellectual performance. They are marked off in a three-dimen- sional model which includes operations, products, and content. How use- fully this conceptual model can be applied remains to be demonstrated.

    One potential use of the Guilford schema is to increase basic knowledge of such constructs as problem-solving ability. Merrifield and others (1962) administered a six-hour test battery to 219 Navy air cadets to ascertain whether the structure-of-intellect measures could account for variance obtained on marker tests of problem-solving abilities. Forty-two test scores, including several tests of problem-solving ability and many tests from the structure-of-intellect battery, were placed in a centroid factor analysis which yielded 14 factors. The authors arrived at the following conclusions: (a) there was no evidence for a unitary problem-solving ability, and (b) much of the variance in the problem-solving tests could be accounted for by structure-of-intellect factors. The results suggested that the development of a search model or of an anticipatory schema plays an important role in problem solving.


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    Although most of the research of the Guilford group has been concerned with constructing tests to fit the structure-of-intellect model, one recent application attempted to relate structure-of-intellect abilities to such aca- demic areas as algebra and mathematics. Petersen and others (1963) gave 400 ninth grade students in Los Angeles County high schools a battery of 25 tests and carried out a factor analysis of the intercorrelations of these tests as well as of several standardized achievement tests. An attempt was made to forecast whether standardized tests of achievement predicted grades as accurately as, or more accurately than, the relevant construct scores of tests built on the Guilford factors. In mathematics, the scores on Guilford's tests were not able to improve on the degree of prediction realized from scores on standardized achievement tests. An incidental finding was that the number of factors related to a basic mathematics course was 6, compared to 10 demanded in a course of accelerated algebra.

    Another consequence of Guilford's conceptualization of the nature of intelligence was a noteworthy study by Getzels and Jackson (1962). From a university-school sample of 449 children in grades 6-12, they chose 28 individuals who had scored in the top 20 percent on IQ tests but not in the top 20 percent on creativity (the high IQ group); these were compared with 24 students who had scored in the top 20 percent of the total sample on creativity tests but not in the top 20 percent on IQ tests (the high creative group).

    The results indicated that the authors found two rather different styles of student performance. Even though the high creative students were, on the average, 23 IQ points below the high IQ children, their performance was equal on achievement tests. Among other findings, the high creative group did show more humor and aggressiveness in story telling and did seem to take more intellectual risks than did the high IQ group. The families of children in the high creative group tended to stress values such as openness to experience, whereas the families of children in the high IQ group tended to emphasize having friends who come from a so-called good family, showing good manners, and being studious. The authors concluded that the distinctive patterns of the high creative group reflected intellectual risks and independence, whereas the patterns of performance of high IQ children indicated considerable stress on adaption to proper or conven- tional standards.

    This research study received widespread attention and criticism. Almost every aspect of the study was attacked, from the adequacy of sampling procedures and statistical methodology to the use of the term creativity in measures of cognitive activity in the absence of any validation of the tests and scales employed. One example of such criticism was set forth by Thorndike (1963). However, whatever the faults of this research, it had one virtue: several of the findings could be replicated.

    Although Torrance (1963) followed the same type of sampling pro- cedures, he extended his study over eight different schools and essentially confirmed Getzels and Jackson's findings on achievement and cognitive



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    style. However, in schools that seemed to stress more traditional learning and discipline, the child judged to fall in the high creative classification did not fare so well in achievement as did the child who placed in the high IQ category.

    Flescher (1963) did not replicate the findings of Getzels and Jackson. From a sixth grade sample in a New England community, he obtained 110 children who were divided into four groups: (a) the intellectually talented (children who received IQ scores above 130, but failed to place in the top quarter in performance on creativity tests), (b) the creatively talented (children who obtained scores in the top quarter in tests of creative thinking, but earned IQ scores below 130), (c) the twice talented (children who placed in the top quarter in tests of creativity and obtained IQ scores above 130), and (d) the nontalented (who did not fall in the top quarter in the tests of creativity and did not achieve an IQ score as high as 130).

    A factor analysis of the intercorrelation of scores on 23 variables, includ- ing measures of achievement, IQ tests, a battery of creative thinking tests, and tests of anxiety, revealed that although the intelligence test scores were related to achievement test performance, the tests of creative thinking were related to neither achievement nor anxiety. Some of the divergent thinking subscales did not even relate significantly to each other. These results underline the importance of establishing criteria for determination of the validity of the new flood of creativity tests and of related scales intended to assess divergent thinking.

    McGuire (1961) provided evidence that should operate as a deterrent to overgeneralization regarding these new cognitive factors and to their influence on educational variables. He gave a battery of 22 cognitive and 22 noncognitive measures to 144 junior high school students drawn from four different Texas communities. McGuire found that factor loadings varied meaningfully from community to community as well as in terms of sex. When scores on the language portion of the California Achievement Tests were used as a criterion, multiple-regression analyses also indicated different patterns of weights between sexes and communities on these factors.

    Torrance (1963) reported on the effect of sex roles upon the fluency and flexibility of primary age children. After 259 primary grade students were given a nurse's kit, a fire truck, and a toy dog, they were asked for ideas on how to improve each as a toy. Differences were found in the number of expressive ideas produced by boys and girls depending on whether they saw the toy as feminine or masculine in nature.

    Psycholinguistic Models

    Freed from the responsibility of using test items that had to correlate highly with the total test score or with a general factor as well as from


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    the need to find items that would predict performance over a wide age range, test constructors could concentrate on cognitive areas that might have important diagnostic implications.

    McCarthy and Kirk (1961) attempted to provide more adequate diagnostic information on children with learning disorders than has been available. The Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities (ITPA) was devel- oped primarily to furnish an improved picture of developmental strengths and weaknesses in deviant children which could provide the bases for up- grading the effectiveness of remedial educational programming. Patterns of performance are obtained along three major dimensions: channels of communication, processing of information, and level of meaningfulness in stimuli.

    This test, which was standardized on 700 normal children from two and one-half to nine years of age, is currently being used in a wide variety of research projects in which the patterns of psycholinguistic performance of various deviant groups are being investigated. Moreover, it is being employed to ascertain the trainability of specific psycholinguistic deficits. Nothing seems to direct the flow of research energies so much as a well- constructed measuring instrument!

    One applica...


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