Welcome Dear Reader!
I thought it might be fun to begin with an initial analysis, to prompt comments from others in the field and to serve as a baseline statement that I can revisit over time as this blog develops.
As I see it then, there are three broad and overlapping issues impacting on gifted and talented (G&T) educators worldwide.
Each issue can be defined as a polarity. Practitioners position themselves at some point between each of the two extremes, influenced by their personal beliefs and the context in which they operate.
The first polarity is familiar territory – it’s Nature versus Nurture.
At one extreme, there are those who see giftedness as predominantly inherited
- G&T learners are typically a small fixed percentage – an elite
- Attention is focused on identified G&T learners rather than on effective G&T education
- And the G&T concept is static – once identified as G&T a learner is always G&T
- And the emphasis is almost exclusively on academic ability
At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who see giftedness as largely achievable through effort
- All learners are potentially G&T
- Attention is focused on effective G&T education rather than the G&T learner
- The G&T concept is dynamic – learners may move in and out of the G&T population over time
- And the emphasis is typically on the widest possible range of abilities
The second polarity is Excellence versus Equity.
At one extreme, there are those who see G&T education predominantly in terms of higher standards
- G&T learners are supported to achieve the highest possible educational outcomes regardless of background
- Strong emphasis is placed on academic achievement and
- Identification of G&T learners tends to select in those who are already high achievers.
At the other, there are those who see G&T education primarily as a means to to narrow achievement gaps and strengthen social mobility
- Disadvantaged G&T learners are supported to overcome performance gaps that are attributable to factors such as gender, ethnic and socio-economic background
- Strong emphasis is placed on holistic support, often to strengthen motivation and self -esteem and
- Identification is concentrated on spotting untapped potential.
The final polarity is Special Needs versus Personalisation:
At one extreme, there are those who regard all G&T learners as having a special educational need
- As a consequence, G&T learners are typically educated separately rather than in ordinary schools
- Acceleration is the guiding principle of provision and
- It is common for G&T learners to be regarded as very different, even to the extent of having social and emotional problems.
At the other, are those who conceive of G&T education as a compartment of personalised education, designed to meet the needs of all learners
- As a consequence, G&T education is typically based in a standard classroom setting in an ordinary school
- Enrichment is the guiding principle of provision and
- G&T learners are typically regarded as normal.
It seems typical for G&T educators to incline consistently towards either the first or the second set of statements within each polarity – ie towards Nature, Excellence and Special Needs or towards Nurture, Equity and Personalisation, but their profile may be spiky, eg they may be relatively more ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ on one polarity than the others.
The polarities influence each other significantly: for example, a G&T educator who is focused on highly/profoundly gifted learners will find themselves more aligned with the first set of statements than they will the second.
But my sense is that, over the last few years, the international community of G&T educators has been shifting significantly towards the position described by the second sets of statements. This may continue, or there may be a backlash in due course.
Any community of G&T educators needs to understand these tensions, so as to accommodate the very different perspectives that may be held by its members.
Do you agree with this analysis? Where do you stand on each of the polarities?
16 May 2010