Research Partnership on Gifted Education
The Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa, and the Davidson Institute for Talent Development just announced that they would be working together to research highly gifted children. Some of the proposed projects actually look at the questions we've been talking about on this blog, namely, the problem of measuring potential.
As Nicholas Colangelo of the University of Iowa points out in the press release, there is very little research in this area. Decades ago, Louis Terman started a longitudinal study of children who'd scored very high on IQ tests. Like many researchers in this field, Terman assumed he was tracking the future movers and shakers of this country. Certainly, most of his subjects did very well in life. But his study missed some of the highest achievers from that age group (i.e., people you would have heard of, Nobel Prize winners, etc.). Similarly, the Glamour Top Ten College Women contest has missed almost every high-achieving woman you would have heard of who's lived in the United States over the past five decades. You can look at high-achievers and try to trace back to things that made them great. But it is very, very difficult to look at a group of kids and figure out who has the most potential to advance the culture, science, the economy, or what have you.
I liken this to magazine diet stories (stay with me here). You can read dozens of success stories in any given publication. But last year, Redbook tried an interesting experiment of following three women as they attempted to lose weight over a 12 month period. The women had access to nutritionists, trainers, etc. Only one of the three lost more than a few pounds. Why did she succeed where the others failed? Similar columns in Shape and other magazines have encountered this exact same problem. You can screen hundreds of applicants, but it is very difficult to measure motivation, gumption, discipline, drive -- whatever you want to call it. Some people simply will not let themselves fail, be it at becoming healthier or doing scientific research. It's hard to move the needle in any field. People who do tend to have that certain moxie.
Hopefully this research will, long-term, help supply the answers. Colangelo states that he thinks the Davidson Fellows in particular will show up more on the radar screen in future years than Terman's kids, because their awards are based on actual accomplishments, not just a test score. I think there's something to that. Hopefully this blog will be able to report on lots of research updates over the next few years.
By the way, thanks for all your kind wishes on the baby! We're all doing great.