on education

thoughts from a graduate student at the university of mary washington
Browsing EDCI 540

Required Prompt: Philosophy of Giftedness

February23

I think that I pull from a couple of different theorists’ ideas on giftedness when I picture my own idea of what giftedness is or looks like.

I believe:

  • There is a difference between giftedness and talent. (Gagne)
  • You can be gifted in something without ever having developed the talent that goes with it. But certain factors come together and act on that giftedness, and talent is developed. (Gagne)
  • There isn’t any one way to be gifted.
  • There are many areas and ways in which one can be gifted, and they can co-exist. You can be both highly intelligent and highly artistic. You can be gifted in sport. You can be book smart. (Gardner, Renzulli,Tannenbaum, Sternberg, Gagne)
  • Gifted students often display task commitment (Renzulli).
  • Gifted people are born with the predisposition to be great in one or more fields, but these gifts need to be nurtured in order for them to amount to anything.

I believe that gifted students deserve to come into the school setting and have a safe place to learn and express themselves. We owe them the same opportunity that we afford to every other student – to realize their potential. They deserve to be in classrooms with their intellectual peers and have stimulating conversations and learning environments that go above and beyond the scope and sequence of the general curriculum. They need differentiated instruction in the classroom and pull-out programs, and depending on their area of giftedness may even be served best in a magnet school setting. Because gifted students may have social and emotional needs that differ from their age peers, they should have access to group and individual sessions with a school counselor to help them with their unique needs.

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reflection – 18 February

February18

Getting together in my task force to do the the identification simulation was great. Even though I’ve had a few classes with my group mates, I’ve never really had the opportunity to work with them on a project before. We mesh really well, and we all are, I think, largely on the same page.

Having those discussions is difficult. I liken it to being given the key to your mom’s car for the first time. You read the Driver’s Ed book and you took the test, but how does that really help you drive?! It doesn’t. Maybe if you’re at a stop sign and you need to know who has the right-of-way or if you need to interpret one of those wacky yellow signs. In theory, it’s great to be able to come together at a round table and say, “Yes! This child looks gifted!” Or maybe you’d rather all say, “Nah, I think this has some serious SPED written all over it.” By and large, our consensus on the simulation was that we couldn’t place the children in question because we didn’t have any relevant information. Sometimes, we had some good information, but it just wasn’t enough. But that draws out the question, then, when DO you have enough information? At what point will you have collected enough stuff to look at to be able to definitively say that you want to identify a child as gifted or no?

This lack of a consensus on what makes a child gifted drives me a little bananas. Funny, for someone that likes to be able to implement her own philosophies of education and management freely. I don’t want something like my humble definition of giftedness to be the barrier or golden gates to somebody’s future. In one of the articles we read for this week, the author mentioned that the identifiers for giftedness (sometimes despite a state’s definition) remain IQ and achievement tests. Okay, fine. But at our discussion tonight, we talked about the struggle we were having with putting a finger on giftedness in other arenas. Yes, we recognized that we needed more information to determine if so-and-so was a gifted musician or if so-and-so was gifted in leadership — but WHAT information do you use?! What should I be asking for?! SURELY, we can come to a consensus on that and write it down so that I know to say when looking at somebody’s file for theatre arts identification, “Oh, they don’t have this interview. Let’s get that.” I know it’s not so cut and dry. My cut and dry brain just wants it to be so.

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Reflection: 11 February

February11

The readings for this week had me highlighting and writing in the text a lot more than I usually do. I’d say my markings were half because of “wow! I didn’t know that!” moments and half because of its importance to the topic at hand. This is truly the piece of the puzzle that makes me the most nervous: identification. Actually, that may not be true. I think the piece that makes me the MOST nervous is knowing what to do with these kids once they’re in my classroom! But next to that, I’m definitely apprehensive about being able to pick out which kids get gifted services and which don’t.

I was certainly grateful for the lecture on this topic. Like it or not, that’s how I grew up learning, and it’s where I’m most comfortable: listening to my teacher or professor and writing down what I think I need to know from what they’re saying. Sometimes, it’s really difficult for me to take a large amount of information via text and get the main points out of it. I’ll highlight things, but I may not really register what the text is trying to tell me. Being able to draw out the diagram of the identification process and hear how the process works was so, so helpful for me.

The chapter that sat the best with me (because I like things that are straightforward and regimented and labeled nicely!) was chapter 9 – basically he how-to manual for identifying gifted students. Axioms and postulates galore! I really had no experience with the gifted education realm, and I wasn’t even sure when or how kids got tested (because I thought that’s what it was – you took a test and got in or got out) and when or how you knew you were gifted. In the reading, the authors mention that an “exemplary practice” is an ongoing screening for giftedness. Does this mean you revisit everyone in your student population each year? It seems so cumbersome to do that. Or do you revisit the files that the committee marked as “has potential” or something of this nature?

I wasn’t sure what this chapter really meant by the multiple criteria smokescreen and the matrix mirage until having this conversation in class (again, thank you for all of the talking!), but now I understand. I never knew that your pass/fail score was actually a range. I also, having thought that being placed in GT meant taking and passing a test, never really considered looking at any other means until I started this course. In my mind, giftedness was very narrow – are you book smart, do you have a high IQ? Yes? Welcome to GT. It’s definitely not that simple.

While I’m sitting here thinking, another thing that really grabbed my attention from this week’s readings was in chapter 10 under the section of under-representation. Having my interest in twice exceptional students already stoked, reading a couple of “wow! no way!” sentences really got me thinking about them. I’ve often thought this – that because of their disabilities, their superior abilities may be mistaken for average and nothing special. Seeing it in writing strangely hit me like a brick. Also the sad statistic – 11.1% of students with disabilities were participating in GT programs. Big sad face. Why is this? Do they feel discouraged? Unwelcome? Are the teachers just unwilling to believe that a disabled person can also be gifted? So many questions.

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Reflection: 4 February

February4

The cubing activity that we did on the characteristics of gifted learners was interesting. Being with a group of people I didn’t know that well made it difficult to really follow their thoughts along. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but that’s how I felt while we were doing the activity. There were also a couple of people in the group that really wanted to get their ideas out there, which made it a little harder to focus on my own thoughts about the questions. Even when it was my turn to go, I didn’t even get to answer my own question because somebody else jumped right onto it.

I do like cubing activities and found it to be very useful when I came home and tried a couple for myself. Going over all of the questions in class was helpful too. It certainly helped in synthesizing the abundance of information from all of the reading that we did for this week.

The most helpful of the assigned readings for me were the charts that compared a bright child to a gifted child. Some of the characteristics seem kind of indistinguishable to me, but I’m sure that with time I’ll hone the differences. My confidence was bolstered with the Truths and Myths activity that we did; I only got one or two wrong, which means I’m largely on the right track! Something that surprised me in that activity was that gifted students may need help with study and test taking skills. I definitely figured the opposite would be true, but looking back now, I can see how and why this would be the case. I spent much of my education being taught how to take a test (boring!).

I think that my favorite read for this week was the gifted visual-spatial learner packet. This one really hit home for me because of my autistic son. In trying to figure out how to reach him, I have spent countless hours researching the characteristics of autism (which.. I mean.. good luck, they’re all different from each other). One thing that does seem to be fairly steady among the kids lucky enough to have normal or above normal intellectual capacities is that they are very visual learners. As I kept reading on, I would highlight and star phrases and ideas that reminded me so much of my son. I guess you could say that I ended up making a distracted connection with my text, but I think that reading this piece of literature sent me down the path of researching twice exceptional students. In connecting gifted visual-spatial learners with autistic children, I found that I wanted to know more about what happens when you combine the two since they seem so similar.

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Reflections: 28 January

February3

Studying the five theorists this last week has been a little dizzying. Some of them I know better than others because of their coverage in educational psychology courses like Gardner and Sternberg. Others, I hadn’t yet heard of. I can see merit in all of them, and taking the time to get to know their beliefs has helped me hone mine.

Something that I know about myself is that I don’t enjoy relying on other people to bring me information. Sitting in our jigsaw (or any jigsaw for that matter) makes me feel like I could be missing a major piece of the puzzle. It’s not that I don’t trust the group I work with. It has more to do with, I think, us thinking dissimilarly sometimes. I remember listening to one presentation and I wasn’t sure what to takes notes on because I completely didn’t understand what she was saying. I had to go back and read her theorist for myself. Once I saw it with my own eyes and made sense of it with my own background knowledge, it made perfect sense to me.

Gagne’s differentiation between being gifted and being talented is interesting. I think I believe this! I’ve seen people develop talent. I’ve seen it in music and in art. I’ve seen it in writing. But, can you be talented without being gifted? I say no (perhaps because of my definition of talented?), and my husband says yes. Thank goodness I’m married to somebody who will sit and have conversations about gifted learners with me on a Monday night. It makes sense to me that a person is born with some innate ability (and I love that he includes virtually all possible fields) and then various factors converge to develop a talent in that field.

I’m not sure how I feel about Renzulli’s Three-Ring Model. Yes, I believe that a variety of factors interact with each other and act upon the giftedness. But where is the talent portion? I definitely believe that you can be gifted without nurturing a talent for something. I personally knew a few gifted kids whose lives melted away into nothing because they never cultivated their passions and talents. One thing I can get on board with is the idea of task commitment. This is definitely a characteristic that I think gifted people have.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences have always sat well with me. Acknowledging that there are many different arenas that people can be gifted in or stronger in is kind of a no-brainer for me. The shortcoming that I do see with this theory, though, is that it is hard to put a finger on what makes a person gifted in one area. As teachers, I think we all too often mistake intense interest for giftedness, and this theory lends itself well to that. Maybe I believe in this more as a way to run my classroom and plan my lessons to fit a variety of learners than I do as a way to identify gifted students.

I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about Sternberg. This is the one that is hardest for me to wrap my head around, I think.

Tannenbaum I just don’t like. To say that children only have the potential to be gifted is doing them a disservice, I think. You’re born with a gift! It’s already there, and the potential to cultivate that talent is what exists! I also had a problem with his 8 categories of gifted people, and the idea that they have to be contributing something profound and meaningful to society in order to be truly gifted. What if nobody ever hears you sing, sees your painting, or reads your treatise? Does that mean you’re not gifted? Do you have to be seen and heard for it to count? I don’t like that.

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Reflections: Gifted Education – 14 January

January21

I have had such ┬álimited experience with gifted education. Truly, I’ve never been exposed to it. I had friends growing up that were in “GT” or “TAG” pull-out classes, but we never talked about what they did there. In middle and high school, I got onto the “Honors” and “AP/IB” track and to my knowledge, there were no more gifted and talented programs. They were mixed in with us common folk.

Something that sticks with me that one of my AP English teachers said in high school was this: This class, anyone can do. Anyone can be here. You don’t have to be insanely bright or have breakthrough ideas. You just have to be motivated to do the work. And it hit me at that moment. It was SO true. After all, I had never been identified as gifted, and there I was, sitting next to a couple of brainiacs doing the same work. Being in those kinds of classes is only about motivation. Do you want to read four books each semester? Do you want to spend your summer working on dialectical journals? Or would you rather sit glassy-eyed in a classroom staring at a teacher diagramming sentences for the fourth straight year? Of course the gifted kids would pick the former.

I guess it never occurred to me that their academic needs weren’t being met. I mean, if they were doing the same work I was, maybe they were insanely bored where I felt challenged. I remember one run-in in that same AP English class where a kid named Justin was just belligerent with the teacher. We were discussing Paradise Lost and he was thinking about it on a level so different than the rest of us (including the teacher) that she was writing him up for being a distraction. After the talk we had in class about how gifted students can sometimes be seen as behavior issues, I look back and wonder: was that him? I don’t think that teacher was overly concerned with meeting his needs. She was more concerned with him meeting hers.

In chapter one of Fundamentals of Gifted Education, I put a star by the paragraph that talked about the “Would, Could, Should” test: would all students want to do it, could all students do it, and should all students do it? If the answer is yes to any of them, then what you’re doing isn’t appropriate for gifted students. So, you can’t shove them in a class that differs only in motivation level of the students from the “regular” curriculum and expect that to satisfy their needs. We talked in class about how some schools will label these AP/IB courses as their gifted curriculum and not offer any additional support to students identified as gifted/talented. How is this okay? When we were told that only two cents are spent on each gifted child’s education, I was a little shocked. Surely that’s doing them and their talents a disservice.

On the top of my notes page for our first class, I wrote a question to remember for my own someday students: How do I meet your needs? How do I make sure that you aren’t being written up for divergent, higher-level opinions and outbursts of creativity? How do I challenge you? I need to learn a lot more about you, that’s for sure.

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