How do I know if my child is 'gifted?' What is gifted? In ten years, this is perhaps the most widely asked question I am asked. On a national level, there is no true 'definition of giftedness.' If you dig deep into research, you'll quickly see that no two researchers agree on this. Today, the most widely accepted definition of giftedness comes from Joseph Renzulli from the University of Connecticut. Err. I should say that he defines 'gifted behavior.' So, here's a brief overview of Renzulli's thinking:
Joseph Renzulli identifies three key characteristics that contribute to gifted behavior: above-average ability, task commitment and creativity. These three key characteristics are referred to as the "three-ring conception of giftedness." Renzulli makes the distinction that these three key characteristics, combined, result in demonstrated gifted behavior. This is notably different than a potentially gifted person. He also theorizes that an individual can demonstrate temporary gifted behavior. You can read his full research here.
So, what does this mean? What should you do with this information? If you are a teacher, educator or school administrator then you may want to consider studying at the University of Connecticut or attending Confratute over the summer. Renzulli developed a School Wide Enrichment Model based on his theories on gifted behavior. The SEM is a set of strategies and philosophies that help educators increase student performance and encourage a wider, deeper learning career. If you are a a homeschool parent, the SEM might also be of interest to you.
Unfortunately, Renzulli doesn't really provide us with any great advice regarding 'how to identify gifted students.' I don't think he ever will. Since his theory states that every individual possesses the ability to, at some point(for some task), demonstrate gifted behavior, a concrete measure of assessment just wouldn't fit the bill. Observation is key. I don't quite agree with 100% of what Renzulli says. However, I whole-heartedly agree that we should be seeking out gifted behavior and not so-called gifted potential. A high degree of potential is a moot point if the student is not commited to the task at hand. As my mom always says, "Smart and Lazy won't get you anywhere in life."
Smart and Lazy won't get you anywhere in life.
In the future, I hope to create a new identification tool. I want to combine the characteristics of IQ testing, achievement testing and observations to assess and identify students for gifted behaviors. I believe that the best way to assess a young students' potential for success in gifted programs is by teaching them and observing their learning process. I'm a long way off from this. For now, I use achievement testing at HEROES Academy. We don't identify children as 'gifted.' Now, you are probably asking yourself "Why? What? This whole resource page is about 'giftedness!' To be honest, I'm not overly concerned with your child's so-called potential or lack-thereof. If some individuals do truly have 'lesser' potential, but they are willing to work harder then that is A-okay with me. I will not hold a child back from excelling if they are willing to put the effort in. On a similar note, I could care less about a student's "immense potential" if the child isn't willing to work. You can find out more about our placement test here.
I will note that this does pose a sort-of dilemna. There are many students who possess the potential, creativity and task commitment to demonstrate gifted behavior yet lack the resources to excel. This population is my strongest motivator in creating and maintaining this resources page. Unfortunately, I do not currently possess the real estate or resources to provide programming for everyone that comes in my door. It is difficult to place a 9th grade student in one of my Algebra classes because some of these students may be as young as 7 or 8 years old. That is why I started this page -- for those students and families who want more for their education. Take some time to explore. You'll find math practice, reading lists and more.
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