On Dec. 3, 2009, Jan Davidson presented the keynote address at the Texas Association for Gifted and Talented (TAGT) Conference in Houston. Her presentation, titled “Thinking Big About Gifted Education,” challenged the audience to think in different terms about how our country educates its youth.
Jan spoke enthusiastically about how matching the curriculum to the student in each subject lets them soar in areas where they are strong and receive additional support where they need help. She showed a short video of interviews with students where they discussed the boredom, depression and lack of drive they experience when they are under-challenged. She then gave examples of 14-17 year olds who have performed graduate-level work because they were matched to appropriately challenging curriculum and found mentors who helped them excel. She went on to discuss The Davidson Academy of Nevada, a free public school for profoundly gifted pupils. At The Davidson Academy (www.DavidsonAcademy.unr.edu) the curriculum is matched to the student and the students thrive in this environment. A recent report by McKinsey & Company, http://www.mckinseyonsociety.com/downloads/reports/Education/detailed_achievement_gap_findings.pdf, states that current education gaps impose the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession, one much larger than the current recession. It also said that in 2008 our economy would have gained an additional $2 trillion if our high school graduates had attained the average skills of their peers in countries such as Canada, Finland and South Korea.
Jan challenged the audience to think in different terms, to imagine the possibilities of matching the curriculum to the student at their schools. She recognized this will be a lot of work upfront, but it will save time in the long-run because you can teach to students’ zone of proximal development and discipline issues decrease. She concluded with a video showing the positive results of when students are appropriately challenged and encouraged the audience to “think in different terms for the sake of our students and the sake of our nation. The nation is hinging its future on us.”
Your thoughts? Change starts with one person, one school, one district. What steps do you think we need to take to “think in different terms” and to match the curriculum to all students? Continue the discussion started in Jan Davidson's TAGT '09 conference keynote "Thinking Big about Gifted Education" on the free Gifted Issues public discussion forum.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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