Thursday, November 12, 2009

Myths of Gifted Education

Gifted Child Quarterly recently ran a package tackling various "myths" of gifted education. This page has a list of the short articles, with links to PDFs of each of them. They're all written by big name researchers in the field and are worth checking out.

I particularly enjoyed reading James Borland's take on the problems of specifying what percentage of the population is gifted, mostly because he weaves in the movie Spinal Tap when discussing IQ. Obviously, any scale of measuring something as varied as human intelligence is going to have some arbitrariness to it, much like the amp in Spinal Tap that is extremely cool because it goes to 11, rather than 10.

Many an advocate of gifted education has gotten caught in this argumentative trap. The problem is then when people -- acknowledging this issue -- get sucked into another logical fallacy, such as that just because something is difficult to measure it must not exist or must not exist in differing quantities. Even if we had absolutely no good way to measure intelligence, or creativity, or things like that, that wouldn't mean that some people wouldn't be better at coming up with new solutions, or solving problems, than others. The fact that relying on IQ tests as a measure of giftedness has historically excluded some bright people from programs doesn't mean that no one's gifts should be nurtured. The answer is to individualize education -- to challenge everyone to the extent of their abilities. That involves turning teachers into coaches, developing everyone's talents as best we can.


Anonymous said...

Libby Wistrom said...

I find that the biggest challenge is in dealing with educators - and their persistent belief in the notion that gifted "programs" are the same as individualized instruction. What is the difference if my child is in a one-size-fits-all regular ed. classroom or a one-size-fits-all gifted classroom? None.
I also am repeatedly frustrated by the notion that because my 2E child struggles with spelling...he must not REALLY be gifted. Ugh. We just started an awesome spelling program at home ( I feel that his spelling needs are not taken seriously at school.

(Sorry. Had to first delete my post because, ironically, I had forgotten to check my own spelling before posting.)

Anonymous said...

I think everyone knows--certainly all good teachers know--that what's needed is individualized education for all students. The problem is how to do that!

Smaller class sizes would certainly help, but it only takes one or two disruptive kids to make it *really* hard for the teachers to teach and the other students to learn. So sometimes we try pulling the disruptive kids out--but then what do you do with them? Warehouse them all together in "junior jail"? There goes any chance of helping them get better.

I know this is somewhat off the subject, but my son is in an elementary school that feels like a jail. The administration clamps down to try to keep a handle on a few of the kids. Those kids don't follow the rules anyway, and everyone else feels punished for nothing.

The school says, "This is a place to learn, not to socialize." They have a point, and one hopes that school is not the only place kids learn how to socialize--but if elementary school is structured like a boot camp, how on earth do they expect the kids to know how to handle themselves when that supervision goes away?

Anonymous said...

I go to school in a very "structured environment", We've tried very hard to get our very rude principal to understand my Advanced classes were boring and not allowing me to grow educationally. I really need to be in accelerated classes