In this Q&A with Robert A. Schultz, Ph.D., he shares the myths about gifted students that he hears most often. This is a portion of an interview that originally appeared in a Davidson Educators Guild Newsletter.
The statement is only the first half of the thought—it is usually followed up with a negative statement or excuse (either said or inferred). Something like “…so there is no need for special programming…” or “…differentiation covers everyone’s needs…”.I have yet to ever hear the second half sound something like this: “…so we are investing the resources and finances to individualize curriculum for every student…” Perhaps before I retire. We’ll see.Indeed, I’ll offer a parallel statement that would infuriate the masses as much as the aforementioned frustrates those of us advocating for the needs of the gifted. “Everyone is disabled in some way…”Zing!This half-baked, half-truth is as much on target as Myth 1. And, points out the absurdity of generalized statements based more on impression than intelligence.
There are dozens if not hundreds of myths associated with gifted learners. They are attempts to explain phenomenon, tendencies, and behaviors based on anecdotal information; observations of one or two situations; or, the experience openly shared by teachers who have “been there, done that.” Myths are the folklore of our field.
Folklore is based on broad generalizations aimed at explaining tendencies that are often unique to a small group or even one individual. When we rely on folklore, we ignore the individual and are not open to learning. Folklore keeps us “in the dark,” causing us, at worst, to repeat mistakes; or, at best, to ignore real needs.Benevolent ignorance or outcomes based on folklore are not behaviors or tendencies of professionals—unless, of course you are hunting zombies or vampires. Seriously, if educators are to be received as professionals on a societal level, we must police our ranks and address ignorance and folklore at every turn. We owe gifted students the respect to address their needs with empirically based evidence and our best approaches to enhance or enable learning.There is a three-phased process to learning about gifted/talented learner needs I’ve discovered working with educators and schools for the past 15 years. First, there is basic acknowledgement that this population exists. Second, awareness that GT individuals have learning needs. Lastly, enactment of strategies to address these needs.Single day in-service doesn’t provide much past phase 1 in the process. At the core level, educators just being introduced to the literature/scholarship in gifted education aren’t “open” to actually believing it. Being told you must differentiate is one thing; but, if you don’t believe there is a need to do so, you won’t.As a field, we need to get past this approach to train educators. We need to get to the Awareness and Enactment phases or our efforts will have exactly zero impact.
Think back to your general teacher education or induction program. How much emphasis was placed on exploring giftedness or the nature and needs of gifted learners? A wager I would place is that most of you took a Special Education survey course where gifted learners might have been presented to you in 2-3 paragraphs in one chapter. And, I’d also bet you can’t remember much about these paragraphs other than gifted kids learn quick.Very few educators have training (awareness or enactment phases of learning) in the nature and needs of gifted children. Taking on-line courses, or developing lessons or curriculum away from your classroom does not provide the opportunity to test ideas and reflect on their impact running “live” with kids in a classroom. And, listening to so-called professionals who happily tell you “how it is”, is a far cry from watching these same people actually work with students in a classroom, in your school.Can you be expected to intuitively know what to do with gifted kids in the classroom? Can we rely on your use of differentiation to meet these learners’ needs?The answers are obvious to me—heck no.Ask your building level professional development committee or Principal to provide awareness and engagement training on gifted learner needs. Get knowledgeable about tendencies and behaviors, advanced curriculum strategies, content/process/product modification, and assessment strategies that work with various types of gifted learners. (And, yes, there are different types of gifted learners!)
See also:Competing with myths about the social and emotional development of gifted studentsLet's get real about gifted kids
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The following disclosure is provided pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 598.1305:The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a Nevada non-profit corporation which is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt private operating foundation. We are dedicated to supporting the intellectual and social development of profoundly gifted students age 18 and under through a variety of programs. Contributions are tax deductible.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.