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Cortney Amber Greenslet

Gifted and Talented Research Project

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Cortney Greenslet

Child Development

Robert Ponzio

Final Exam Essay

 

 

Gifted and Talented Children: The real story

 

What is Gifted?

            To introduce you to the idea of being gifted is a fantastic notion, and one that you will probably find personal experience in. Yet, it is difficult to pinpoint one definition to represent all gifted and talented children. In our text, Kail refers to being gifted as “[an] individual with scores of 130 or greater on intelligence tests.” (2004, p. 262) A different definition is found in the American Heritage Dictionary, which states that being gifted is “[being] endowed with great natural ability, intelligence, or talent.” (2000) The definition of giftedness and the way it is interpreted within the education system is now mandated by state law, and not until 1996 was there any legislature to protect or guide gifted education. According to the Vermont Council for Gifted Education, the state definition is “Gifted and talented children" means children identified by professionally qualified persons who, when compared to others of their age, experience or environment, exhibit capability of high performance in intellectual, creative or artistic areas, possess an unusual capacity for leadership or excel in specific academic fields,” (Definition of Giftedness, 2004). In my experience and throughout my involvement with gifted literature, it seems that the most widely accepted definition was developed by a group of respected professionals in the field of gifted called The Columbus Group. This definition was developed in 1991, and can be found in almost any gifted literature or website.

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (Definition of Giftedness, 2004)

Gifted children have always been present, yet it is a newer concept to recognize those children and an even newer concept to support those children within the education system. There are many ways that people can be gifted, and many ways that these gifted characteristics can be focused into talents. As a pre-service teacher, and for some of you as parents, the concept of gifted and talented is one that I am sure that you will have some personal experience with, or exposure to.  According to the genius denied website, there were “1,037 students identified as gifted and talented in Vermont during 2001-2002” (Vermont Statistics of Gifted, 2006).

Common Gifted Characteristics

Although there is not a “typical gifted student,” because all gifted students are individuals, there are a few more common characteristics and traits. In my personal experience, I have found that gifted children can be very intense, have a great sense of humor, are often very sensitive to tragedy in the news and community, and are often aware of others feelings and intuitively can pickup almost anything. According to Dr. Silverman’s gifted development website, other common traits are: exceptional reasoning ability, passion for learning, keen sense of justice, complex thought processes, intellectual curiosity, and a rapid learning rate. (Silverman) Within the general gifted characteristics are subject specific ones such as musical, mathematical, and scientific or verbal. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences helps to break the gifted realm into different intelligence theories and from there, can actually be broken into characteristics specific to that subject area. “Gardner believes that schools should foster all intelligences, rather than just the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. Teachers should capitalize on the strongest intelligences of individual children.” (Kail, 2004, p. 247) Generally, gifted children operate as far outside of the “norm” as children who require special education services, and yet they often go without a support team or aid that a child on “the other side of the fence” receives. I have found that most often, being a parent of a gifted child is very intense at times. A conversation about volcanoes can quickly become a very exhausting and drawn out process, which can easily be followed by the same exhausting process regarding a completely different topic – and my son is only five years old!

 

 

Common Misconceptions

 

            The most common response to the topic of gifted and talented that I get when I speak about it, is the idea that gifted students have the easy life. Or, I get a response from a parent whose child was not allowed to be in their local gifted program and they have resentment about this exclusion. I interviewed Dr. Carol Story, a Gifted and Talented Consultant who has recently retired as a facilitator of the Gifted and Talented Masters program at Johnson State College and who founded the Green Mountain Center for Gifted Education. She has extensive experience and training, as she has written articles for the Gifted Child Quarterly, worked with Joseph Renzuli, a particularly well-known researcher of the Gifted, and she has made several presentations at the National Association for Gifted Children Annual Conference and at the World Gifted Conference. In her interview, she articulates the misconception about gifted children very eloquently when she said,

“Too many people believe gifted children should “make it on their own” and that gifted children know everything. They believe that children will not only be advanced academically, but socially and emotionally as well – and some believe they’ll even be advanced in their physical development. This means that gifted children are all too often overlooked in the public school – not identified and not appropriately educated. It also means that funding for gifted education at the national, state, and local levels is woefully inadequate.” (Interview, Story)

 The misconception that gifted children are privileged is one misconception that has actually caused a local program to be shut down here in my hometown. There was a rather enriching gifted and talented program in the elementary school here, but it soon became a negative experience for some parents because of the lack of support from community members. Many people whose children were not involved in the gifted program thought of it as an elitist group, and others were not willing to spend their tax dollars on a program their child was not accepted into. This situation frustrates me because even though every child is bright in their own way, there are students who need the extra support that a pull-out program can offer. A pull-out program is one where the school has enrichment activities guided by a gifted and talented professional.

 

Programs for the Gifted in Vermont

 

            “Only about one in ten schools in Vermont have programs for gifted children. These programs range from after school chess clubs to a few schools (e.g. Georgia Elementary and Middle School) that have full time pull out programs with teachers who have master’s degrees in gifted education.” (Interview, Story) Although this is a disappointing statistic to someone like myself who plans to get their master’s in gifted education, it is also a motivating fact as well. As the mother of a gifted child, and as a pre-service teacher, hearing such things motivates me to seek out, help create, and plan for new programs to help other children in Vermont. As a student, it is more of a statistic of possibility, but as a mother of a gifted child, it is a difficult statistic as I look for a school for our gifted son. Also, there are organizations such as The Vermont Council for Gifted Education, programs such as the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont, Talent Development Institute, and advanced placement classes. As Dr. Story pointed out, “Some classroom teachers will differentiate their classroom curriculum for different learners; again this varies from district to district. Some schools have policies that allow for various kinds of acceleration – grade skipping being the most well known form of acceleration.” (Interview, Story) One of the more difficult hurtles to overcome, not only in Vermont - all across the country, is that there just is not enough awareness to create a large enough demand for more funding. In 2001-2002, there was only $90,000 dollars allocated for Gifted and Talented programming. (Vermont Statistics of Gifted, 2006)This was out of the $1,010,657,000 total dollars allocated for education in general. Also, to promote the education of new gifted and talented teachers is difficult because Johnson State College is the only school which offers a gifted and talented master’s program. This has also factored into my relocation efforts as I must keep this in mind as I look for a place to live.

 

Current and Future of Gifted and Talented

 

            According to Recent Studies and a Look at the Future of Research in Our Field, from the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, there are many current research reports and projects which are helping to address many prevalent questions regarding the future of gifted education. Challenges such as “the needs of low-income [gifted] students,” the need for “practical applications for teachers, administrators, parents and policymakers,” and the “improvement of theory, research, and practice in the field.” (Renzulli, 2003)At the University of Connecticut where the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented is located, they are constantly addressing these issues and attempting to create solutions and winning formulas to help the students who are affected by them. In this article, they refer to the work of Carol Tomlinson et al, when they say “equality of opportunity becomes a reality only when students receive instruction suited to their varied readiness levels, interests, and learning preferences, thus enabling them to maximize the opportunity for growth.” (Renzulli, 2003) By grouping students together according to readiness level rather than chronological age, we would be better serving the students in the future. The most universal and important factor of being a teacher of or parent of a gifted child, is flexibility. Being flexible not only allows room for the child to grow in, but also it allows the teacher or parent to adjust their method of interaction, and teaching to an individualized method which is then much more effective. It is proven that flexibility and differentiated instruction are the most relevant of gifted education aids from the teacher.

 “Even if practices are relevant and appropriate to meeting the needs of students in academically diverse classrooms, teachers must be willing to change their instructional styles, which are effected by their personal history, level of knowledge of the content they teach, facility with pedagogical content knowledge, and self-efficacy…” (Renzulli, 2003)

 

 

References

 

Definition of giftedness. (2004). Retrieved Apr. 10, 2006, from The Vermont Council for Gifted Education Web site: www.vcge.org.

 

GenThe Davidson Institute for Talent Development, (2006). Vermont statistics of gifted. Retrieved Apr. 11, 2006, from State Policy Details Web site: www.geniusdenied.com.

 

Kail, R.V. (2004). Children and their development (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.  

 

Renzulli, J., Gubbins, J., & Koehler J. (2003, Dec ). The national research center on the gifted and talented: recent studies and a look at the future of research in our field. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 2/3. Retrieved Apr 15, 2006, from http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.

 

Story, Dr. Carol. E-mail interview. 10 .

 

Silverman, L. (n.d.). Characteristics of giftedness. Retrieved Apr. 15, 2006, from Gifted        Development Center Web site: www.gifteddevelopment.com.

 

Turnbull, R., Turnbull, A., Shank, M., & Smith et al, S. (2002). Exceptional lives: special education in today's schools . 3rd ed. Columbus, OH: Merrill Prentice Hall.

 

(2000). The american heritage dictionary of the english language. 4th ed. : Houghton Mifflin Company.

 

 

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"Education is a companion which no future can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate it and no nepotism can enslave."
-Ropo Oguntimehin