The fluidity of ‘giftedness’

By:

Nov 6, 2008

It’s been an exciting week in the U.S. An historic presidential election concluded with a landmark result of which all of us can proud regardless of our political views. We look forward to seeing what an Obama presidency will mean for the future of education. In the President-elect’s past remarks, he has spoken eloquently about the potential for technology to play a game-changing role in education. We hope he continues to embrace this potential and helps open disruptive paths for such innovations as online learning that hold the potential for game-changing transformations.

An upcoming book helps show why this is important. Titled The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span, it has some interesting insights on the nature of giftedness—namely how academic talent can wax and wane over time and how it can be nurtured and taught, according to an Education Week article previewing the book.

One implication of this work is that the structure of schools doesn’t always support this fluidity. “Children might move in and out of ‘gifted’ programs more frequently, based on their individual needs,” says the article in paraphrasing the book’s co-editor, Frances Degen Horowitz.

There are obviously many problems in doing this in current schools. For example, I imagine moving children in and out of gifted classes might crush their confidence and hurt their feeling of self-efficacy. It goes to the problem of how social promotion and holding a child back both have inherent problems associated with them.

Online or computer-based learning introduced disruptively can help solve this tradeoff. By being individually paced but not taking a child out of his or her social environment in essence, it allows for children to take what is most relevant for their individual needs at any given time. In theory it can also allow children to match with others from around the world that are in similar places, but not create static environments that could have negative effects on development. And for those children who remain “advanced” compared to their social peers, it can allow them to continue to work through challenging material to grow and expand their horizons without becoming bored—an exciting proposition to allow all children to realize their fullest potential and promise.

– Michael B. Horn

*Note: I will be out of the country and on vacation starting tomorrow for the next two weeks. I will not be posting to my blog during this time. I will resume my regular weekly posts upon my return.

Michael is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently works as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions.