With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, educators have had to adjust rapidly to a vastly different reality of how we provide schooling to our students. With little time and little preparation, and much dedication, worry, and creativity, educators are “flying the plane as we build it.” A major disruption has forced a major rethinking, and a retooling of educators and education.
While it is true that some tinkering has been done around the edges of education (think 21st Century Skills, project based learning, challenge based learning, personalized learning, online, virtual, and blended learning, maker space, genius hour), there has been little call for a dramatic revamping of education until recently. And yet some of us have been pondering what this bold new frontier might look like.
In this Teach Thought article, The Inside-Out School: A 21st Century Learning Modelauthor Terry Heick gave an interesting glimpse into what this new frontier might look like, and what we will have to do to prepare for it, communicate about it, deliver it, foster habits of mind around it, ponder it, and evaluate it. The Inside-Out Learning Model is based on the works of many educational thought leaders: the work of Lave (Situational Learning Theory), Bruner (Discovery Learning), Holmes (Communal Constructivism), Vygotsky (Zone of Proximal Development & More Knowledgeable Other), Kolb (Learning Cycle), Thorndike, Perkins and Wiggins (Transfer), Costa and Kallick (Habits of Mind), Paulo Freire, and the complete body of work by Wendell Berry.
The article begins by talking about learning activators, and considers things such as “project-based learning, play -- both directed and non-directed, video games and learning simulations, mentoring, and an examination of academic practices.” There has been much discussion in academic circles about all of these activators, and many of us in gifted education have participated in these discussions, and have tried many of these options, as we try to understand motivation and engagement in our unique students.
The article then moves into the area of changing habits, and this delves into some of the habits of mind that are necessary for effective education, whether traditional or novel. According to the author, we need to consider these things: to “fertilize innovation & design, acknowledge limits and scale, reflect on interdependence, honor uncertainty, curate legacy, support systems-level and divergent thinking, reward increment, and require versatility in the face of change.” Those of us who work in the field of gifted education have wrestled with many of these habits of mind as we try to change educational systems for our often non-traditional learners, and instill productive mindsets into these learners.
The third area that is highlighted is the necessity for transparency. Teaching in new ways will require us to be transparent between communities, learners, and schools. The author suggests that we will need to “make learning standards, outcomes, project rubrics, and performance criteria persistently visible, accessible, and communally constructed. Gamification and publishing may replace grades.” In the last several decades, many schools have begun considering these factors as they move toward new ways of constructing curriculum, learning outcomes, and measurements of learning. New ways of teaching require new ways of assessment, and I have seen many of us in gifted education tinker with new ways of assessment .
The fourth area to be developed is self-initiated transfer. The author describes this as “applying old thinking in constantly changing and unfamiliar circumstances as constant matter of practice, constant practice of prioritizing big ideas in increasing complexity within learner Zone of Proximal Development, and project-based learning, blended learning, and Place-Based Education made available to facilitate highly-constructivist approach.” As a gifted and talented educator, I find this area most promising. All learners, including gifted learners, benefit greatly when they are challenged at their level of understanding, and are encouraged to transfer and apply their current learning to new learning.
The fifth area addresses mentoring and the community. Promising practices in this area include “accountability via the performance of project-based ideas in authentic local and global environments, local action linked to global citizenship, active mentoring via physical and digital networking, apprenticeships, job shadows and study tours, and communal constructivism, meta-cognition, cognitive coaching, and cognitive apprenticeship among available tools.” While many schools have made forays into this kind of support from the community, a full scale-up will require much more commitment from everyone, and the payoff will be worth it.
Because education will be changing, the roles of everyone will change. Here are some ways that the author cites, “Learners will become knowledge makers, teachers will be experts of assessment and resources, classrooms will become think-tanks, communities will become not just audiences, but vested participants, and families will serve as designers, curators, and content resources.” As I think about the magnitude of this kind of change, it becomes apparent that schools will be teaching whole communities of learners about new ways of learning. This will prove to be a monumental task! My experience has shown that, while teachers and administrators and sometimes school boards understand the need for change, parents and community members need extra support in this transition. This is not the way they remember school!
New learning will necessitate new ways of assessment for and of learning.The author suggests these shifts that will need to be made: “Constant minor assessments will replace exams, data streams will inform progress and suggest pathways, academic standards will be prioritized, and products, simulation performance, and self-knowledge will delegate academia to a new role of refinement of thought.” While I have seen progress on some of these fronts in recent years, we still have a long way to go.
The next area that the author tackles is thought and abstraction. He states that, “In this model, struggle and abstraction are expected outcomes of increasing complexity & real-world uncertainty. This uncertainty is honored, and complexity and cognitive patience are constantly modeled and revered. Abstraction honors not just art, philosophy, and other humanities, but the uncertain, incomplete and subjective nature of knowledge.” Again, I feel that this change will be wonder-full for gifted students. So often they are the wonderers, the thinkers, and the tinkerers, and are intrigued by ambiguity. This shift in the educational paradigm may free our creative kids to dream and actuate.
Finally, the author states, this educational shift will expand literacies…it will encourage learners to “analyze, evaluate, and synthesize credible information, promote a critical survey of interdependence of media and thought, encourage a consumption of constantly evolving media forms, promote media design for authentic purposes, require self-monitoring sources of digital and non-digital data, and facilitate artistic and useful content curation patterns.” It seems to me that this is the kind of thinking that many adults use everyday in their lives and their work. When our young learners begin to build these educational habits, they are preparing for their futures.
At this point in time, I have no idea where the current disruption of learning will lead. I hope that many of the predictions in this article will come true for all learners. I know that many of them will be highly welcomed by our gifted learners.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. Together we grow.
Jackie Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
If you are like me, you may often be drawn to articles that talk about intelligence, and how it affects our daily lives. If you are like me, you may often wonder about the qualities that will help our children be most successful (in many ways) as they navigate life, and you think about how to instill these qualities in the children in your care. And, if you are like me, you may be skeptical about some of the things you read; conversely, you may also feel a certain affinity with the thoughts proposed by some. Finally, if you are like me, pondering these things occupies quite a bit of bandwidth in your mind as you search for ways to put the research to use with gifted kids and their families and educators...
So keeping all of this in mind, it was with great curiosity that I approached this article, If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? by Faye Flam in the Bloomberg Opinion on Economics. Basically the article asserts that “new research suggests that personality has a larger effect on success than IQ.” The article begins with the assertion that science doesn’t have a definitive answer (why IQ plays such a minor role in success), although luck certainly plays a role. But another key factor is personality, or personality traits, according to a paper that economist James Heckman co-authored in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Heckman found that “financial success was correlated with conscientiousness, a personality trait marked by diligence, perseverance and self-discipline.” Furthermore, the article explains, “The study found that grades and achievement-test results were markedly better predictors of adult success than raw IQ scores. That might seem surprising -- after all, don’t they all measure the same thing? Not quite. Grades reflect not just intelligence but also what Heckman calls ‘non-cognitive skills,’ such as perseverance, good study habits and the ability to collaborate -- in other words, conscientiousness. To a lesser extent, the same is true of test scores. Personality counts.”
Additionally, John Eric Humphries, the co-author of the paper, says, “he hoped their work could help clarify the complicated, often misunderstood notion of ability. Even IQ tests, which were designed to assess innate problem-solving capabilities, appear to measure more than just smarts.” He, too, attributes diligence and effort with success.
So what does this mean for those of us who live with and work with gifted kids? How do we recognize their intelligence, AND provide instruction and guidance that will ensure success? Here are some tips that I believe may aid us in this quest:
Above all, I’ve often thought that the biggest gift we can give our gifted kids is to encourage them to “do good life, not just good school.” The benefits of a good life are long lasting and deeply satisfying.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. Together we grow.
Past President, WATG
As we at WATG work on our preparations for the fall 2020 conference entitled, “Hands On, Minds On,” at the Wilderness Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells on October 18-20, 2020, I have been thinking a lot about teaching, learning, and educational coaching, and how metacognition (minds-on learning) enhances the experiential learning (hands-on learning) that has become so popular.
With the myriad of learning opportunities that celebrate hands-on work (think Problem Based Learning, Project-Based Learning, Challenge-Based Learning, STEM, Maker Spaces, Genius Hour, Project Lead the Way, Service Learning, etc.), sometimes, it seems, the hands-on “doing” has become the holy grail, and the minds-on thinking processes behind the work may not be given their full attention or full credit.
So it was with great interest that I came across this article, Experiential Learning: Hands-On Doesn’t Mean It’s Minds-On by the late Grant Wiggins in December 30, 2019’s Teach Thought. In particular, this quote by Wiggins spoke to me, “ Just because work is hands-on does not mean it is minds-on. Many projects, problems, situations, and field trips do not yield lasting and transferable learning because too little attention is given to the meta-cognitive and idea-building work that turns a single experience into insight and later application.”
As a teacher, a parent, a grandparent, an educational coach, and a fellow learner, I have often focused on what I believe to be the three big components of learning -- Why are we learning this? What are we learning? And how do we do this? In teaching and learning, if one of these components is missing, I have found that the learning usually fails, or is not as complete, satisfying, or long-lasting. When we don’t understand why we are learning something, this can lead to apathy, confusion, or failure to connect the current learning to future learning. When we are unclear as to what we are learning, we may not understand the content, context, or the scope and sequence of the learning. When there is confusion about the how, we may have false starts, poor procedures or execution, or poor final products. Failure to adequately teach the why, the what, and the how almost always affects performance. In much of our hands-on learning, it is common to teach the what, and especially the how, but sometimes, I think, the why is not fully processed.
Wiggins, in his article, talks about checking for understanding by using metacognitive questions during the learning process to address this deficiency. He suggests asking these questions:
So how have you made hands-on learning come to life with minds-on thinking? What questions and strategies do you use? How has this enhanced teaching and learning? As always, I look forward to hearing your ideas. Together we grow.
Jackie Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
Many years ago, while at Upham Woods Camp, I tried out an idea that was new to me. I chose to have my student campers predict and record causes of erosion by drawing symbols and sketches to capture their ideas. Not seeing myself as a very “visual” person, and having never experienced “note-taking” in this way, the idea seemed somewhat foreign to me, and almost too “elementary” for my sophisticated fifth graders. So, imagine my surprise when ALL of my students could, in great detail and with no prompting, list and explain the myriad of ideas that they had brainstormed with their fellow campers and recorded in simple sketches. Not only was their thinking accurate and precise, the amount of vocabulary recall was phenomenal, and the thinking behind the sketches was as complete as when we first generated it. Additionally, students often remarked that this had become their favorite way to remember things, and were using this technique often in other situations. Apparently I had stumbled on a wonderful technique for remembering!
Years later, it was no surprise to me when I came across this article in Edutopia, The Science of Drawing and Memory - Edutopia. The best thing about this article was that it explained the science behind the practice of drawing to aid memory. Citing evidence from a study in SAGE Publications, by Myra A. Fernandes, Jeffrey D. Wammes and Melissa E. Meade, The Surprisingly Powerful Influence of Drawing on Memory, researchers found that “specifically, we have shown this technique can be applied to enhance learning of individual words and pictures as well as textbook definitions. In delineating the mechanism of action, we have shown that gains are greater from drawing than other known mnemonic techniques, such as semantic elaboration, visualization, writing, and even tracing to-be-remembered information. We propose that drawing improves memory by promoting the integration of elaborative, pictorial, and motor codes, facilitating the creation of a context-rich representation. Importantly, the simplicity of this strategy means it can be used by people with cognitive impairments to enhance memory, with preliminary findings suggesting measurable gains in performance in both normally aging individuals and patients with dementia.”
Youki Terada, the author of the Edutopia article further explains, “Importantly, the benefits of drawing were not dependent on the students’ level of artistic talent, suggesting that this strategy may work for all students, not just the ones who are able to draw well...it requires elaboration on the meaning of the term and translating the definition to a new form (a picture). Unlike listening to a lecture or viewing an image—activities in which students passively absorb information—drawing is active. It forces students to grapple with what they’re learning and reconstruct it in a way that makes sense to them.
The researchers also suggest that drawing results in better recall because of how the information is encoded in memory. When a student draws a concept, they must elaborate on its meaning and semantic features, engage in the actual hand movements needed for drawing (motor action), and visually inspect [the] created picture (pictorial processing).”
The most intriguing finding for me was that “at a neural level, the strength of a memory depends largely on how many connections are made to other memories. An isolated piece of information—such as a trivial fact—is soon forgotten in the brain’s constant effort to prune away unused knowledge. The opposite, however, is also true: The more synaptic connections a memory has, the more it resists eventually being forgotten.”
When I think of the thousands of gifted kids that I have worked with over the years, and I consider the rich synaptic networks that their busy brains have access to, I really am excited by the promise of this kind of learning and remembering. Some ways that this technique can be incorporated into learning opportunities (at home and school) are to encourage STUDENT drawing whenever possible - having STUDENTS create visual word definitions, anchor charts, study guides, and sketches and doodles that aid their memories.
Visual thinking like this is also showing great promise in the world of work, with a new field of Visual Coaching emerging to enhance corporate, governmental, and not-for-profit events. Google “Visual Coaching” and find out about this intriguing new field...it might be the perfect fit for some of our gifted kids’ or gifted adults’ talent sets.
The most promising aspect of visual thinking, I believe, is that the method is simple, and the payoff might be immeasurable. Without a doubt, this also necessitates a call for more art at the heART of our curricula, and I’m sure many of our students would welcome this change. Let’s use the research to make it happen.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. Together we grow.
Jacquelyn Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
It all begins in late September and early October; the holiday decorations begin to replace all of the summer items on store shelves. Holiday music wafts over the airwaves. Toy ads pop up on our online media. And commercials on TV, especially on kid channels, begin hawking toys and other “stuff.” Parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles begin thinking about holiday giving. The message is clear: BUY! BUY! BUY STUFF! But what if there was another way to celebrate with our children, and to give experiences rather than things?
Many of you may have already thought about this, and many of you may already choose experiences over “stuff” when holiday shopping for your favorite children. But perhaps there are some things you’ve not thought about, and this article, 50 awesome experience gifts to give—instead of toys may give you some additional ideas. Basically, the experiences suggested include classes - lots of them - to enrich your child’s life. Some of them are for the child only, and some of them include a parent/guardian/significant adult, or an entire family. These are opportunities to learn something new, to share precious time together, and to make memories that last a lifetime.
One of my favorite suggestions on this list, though, is giving to a charity or cause of a child’s choice. Though adults may be familiar with this concept, children may not be. Indeed, children may not often think of giving as more important than receiving, and may need some help understanding why this is important. Working through this learning might include researching charities, choosing a charity, performing the act/service, and experiencing the joy that comes from altruism, from giving without the thought of receiving. The gift may be money, but it could also be time, and/or talent. This giving will probably become a significant life-changing experience.
Dr. Michele Borba, internationally recognized educator, speaker and best-selling author on character and social-emotional development, bullying prevention and parenting, featured in this memorable 2016 TED Talk, Empathy Is a Verb: My TEDx Talk to Start an UnSelfie Revolution, speaks to the lessons learned from empathy and giving to others. She suggests that empathy is a verb; it is active, it is meaningful, and it is real. Human beings, she asserts, are hard-wired to care, and through empathetic moments, we see ourselves and others in a different light. Empathy strengthens human connections, learning skills, communication, collaboration, and perspective-taking. And, after practicing empathy and giving, we never remain the same as we were; we grow as others grow. Dr. Borba further shares that empathy requires us to practice “habits of the heart” -- learning to think WE instead of solely ME, and learning to START WITH ONE -- one act, one kindness, one gift.
If you choose to introduce empathy through contribution to a charity or cause with your favorite chiId or children, I can imagine that some may find it a bit strange and puzzling. In fact, I hope that it is strange and puzzling. I hope, also, that it stretches the comfort zone of the child (and perhaps the comfort zone of the giver.) We only grow when we reach the boundaries of our comfort zones and press through them.
May this holiday season be a chance for all of us to grow as givers and receivers. Peace and joy to all of you.
Past President, WATG
For years, I had this quote by Albert Einstein hanging in my office in our Professional Development Center, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I thought about this quote often, particularly as it related to the gifted children and families that I worked with in my district. So often during the years, I had students tell me things like, “I just knew it,” or “My brain just told me,” or “I feel it in my gut,” or “I don’t know how I know this. I just know it.” or “This just doesn’t feel right to me…” In many cases, these words were spoken by otherwise rational thinkers who seemed to have a “second sense” about things. I also had a second quote in my office that read, “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next,” by Jonas Salk. For me, linking these two quotes together gave me some real insight into how some of my gifted students thought and worked. And yet...the missing link for me was how these two kinds of thinking, the intuitive and the rational, worked together, and how I could help strengthen the bond in my students, and in myself.
Recently I came upon this article by Bruce Kasanoff in Forbes, Intuition is the Highest Form of Intelligence, and once again it got me thinking about this conundrum. Is intuition really a form of intelligence? And could it be the highest form of intelligence? And if so, how do we honor it, nurture and develop it, and reconcile it with rational thinking? In his article, Kasanoff suggests that intuition is indeed the highest form of intelligence, “especially when we are talking about people who are already intellectually curious, rigorous in their pursuit of knowledge, and willing to challenge their own assumptions.” Voila! Could this be the key to marrying the two kinds of thinking? What if we cultivated both the rational mind, “the faithful servant,” AND “the sacred gift of intuition” simultaneously? What could that look like, sound like, and feel like in our homes and our classrooms, in our children and ourselves?
Here are some ideas I have for cultivating the rational mind, “the faithful servant” in ourselves and others:
And here are some ideas I have for cultivating the intuitive mind, “the sacred gift” in ourselves and others:
As a thinker, a parent and grandparent, and an educator, I am convinced that there is so much about teaching and learning that we are just beginning to understand. I hope that these Gifted in Perspective articles stretch your thinking, make you wonder, and challenge you to dig deeper. As always, I welcome your thoughts. Together we grow.
Jackie Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
If you have been engaged in the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), you have probably also been aware of the emerging insistence that STEM becomes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the ARTS, and Mathematics). For those of us who have been inveterate supporters of the arts (and the humanities), this inclusion is both highly welcome, and, we believe, incredibly necessary.
Recently, while reading in the educational section of TheConversation.com (Academic Rigor, Journalistic Flair), I came across this article, STEAM, Not STEM: Why Scientists Need Arts Training, which gave me more food for thought on this issue. In this article, Richard Lachman, associate professor at Ryerson University, details the schism that often exists between the sciences and the arts in the academic world. He further points out that modern-day populism (with its often attendant anti-intellectualism) may also be contributing to this schism, and that this could cause difficult problems in the future, and may have caused unintended problems in the past and present. He stresses the need for a marriage between the arts and the sciences, especially at the university level with these words, “I am a computer scientist who studies digital culture. I try my best to bridge the divides, but constantly ask the question: How can universities train our scientists, technologists and engineers to engage with society, rather than perform simply as cogs in the engine of economic development? I believe we need our educational system to engage students with issues of ethics and responsibility in science and technology. We should treat required arts and humanities courses not as some vague attempt to “broaden minds” but rather as a necessary discussion of morals, values, ethics and responsibility.”
In today’s world, scientists, technology specialists, engineers, and mathematicians are dedicated to inventing, creating, and solving problems that have the potential to help humankind, or, conversely, to cause irreparable harm. I vividly remember a conversation with a highly gifted fifth grader who realized this and asked the simple, yet profound question, “So...just because we CAN do some things, does that mean we SHOULD do these things?” Think of the myriad of possibilities that her question could affect.
The arts and the humanities demand that we ask ourselves this very question at every juncture of the creation process. The question is grounded in ethics - in morality and responsibility. The arts and humanities can often best help us question, illuminate, and debate. So how do we do this?
In the words of Lachman, “We need to make sure STEM graduates working in these fields are able to engage with the toughest questions of our time: What, where and how should our new inventions be engaged?
I would like to see university curricula in STEM subjects expanded — to discuss whether we should develop certain technologies at all, with ethical concerns a common thread throughout our studies. The risks to society of anything else seem paramount.”
I would submit that we need to stress the marriage of STEM and STEAM at a much earlier age -- to children, as they wrestle with the problems of the world that need solving. Imagine a child hearing Britten’s War Requiem or Kurt Bestor’s The Prayer of the Children, or viewing a collection of photos from the Jewish graves in Prague following the Holocaust, or the photos depicting Hiroshima, or wrestling with Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken as he experience science and social studies curricula. Imagine all children, (and eventually all adults) asking the question, “Just because we CAN do some things, does that mean we SHOULD do these things?”
All of us, and especially those of us who ponder deep questions, and sometimes feel that we are alone, deserve the probing guidance and solace of the arts and humanities as we make sense of our world.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas. Together we grow.
Jacquelyn Drummer, Past President, WI Association for Talented and Gifted
A number of years ago, I had the great fortune to attend the World Gifted Conference at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. If my memory serves me correctly, there were about 900 attendees, representing over 90 countries. I was astonished to find that about 100 attendees were from Singapore, and even more astonished to find these attendees packing all of the workshops on curiosity and creativity. Naturally curious, I asked many of them why they sent so many participants, and what attracted them especially to the innovation-type workshops. Their answer was, essentially, “We lead the world in preparing our youth in academic pursuits as evidenced on global measures. What we lack is creative students. We need to learn how to find and nurture creativity to remain highly competitive in the 21st century.”
As we continue to forge our way into the 21st century, I often think about that conference, and those encounters. Much of the work of 21st century educational leaders, such as Sir Ken Robinson. Tony Wagner, Ken Kay, and Wisconsin’s own Jim Rickabaugh, has also highlighted the need for nurturing curiosity, creativity, and following personalized passion in our students. America has long been known for its emphasis on individualism, creativity, and innovation, and increasingly other nations are following in our footsteps.
Therefore it did not surprise me to come across this article in Forbes Magazine this past May, Japanese Teachers On Curiosity: 'All This Time, They Have Kept It Inside. Now It Is Pouring Out.' According to Peg Tyre, the author, Japanese teachers are under great pressure to teach in new and different ways. “The government, which determines what knowledge and skills are taught, is changing the national curriculum to stress creativity, critical thinking, and self-expression. That's on top of detailed subject knowledge of history, Japanese, science, math, and English. Next year, the all-important college entrance exam (the "Center Test") will be changing, too. The goal? To spark a new generation of Japanese innovators.”
Teachers in Japan say they need to learn new ways to teach in order to meet the new standards. They are looking to America’s project or problem-based learning model (also known as challenge-based learning, or personalized learning) to guide them. According to Sato Fujiwara, who runs innovation workshops for Japanese teachers, “The big idea is that humans acquire knowledge better, faster and more deeply when they are interested and connected to the material... This kind of teaching/learning is perceived as less teacher-driven, less top-down, less about memorizing atomized facts and more about integrated knowledge.”
The changeover in teaching and learning in Japan has been difficult for teachers and students. One teacher summed it up this way, "In the beginning, it was very difficult," says Minote Shogo. "I would ask a question, and they would stop and couldn't respond. But now they are getting accustomed to it. Gradually, they are speaking about their ideas. And I see that all this time, they have kept this inside, and now it is pouring out."
We in gifted education have known and celebrated creativity as one of our five identified areas of giftedness. We know that kids have this deep desire within to question, to wonder, to create, to hypothesize and experiment, to build, draw, perform, design...and the list goes on and on. We know that the building blocks of creativity include fluency with ideas, flexibility with those ideas, originality, and elaboration. And we also know that our youngest children express creativity most freely. It is, I believe, our duty to protect the creative spirit in our children, and to keep it burning brightly as they age - in spite of often rigid and narrowed curriculums, frequent testing, and standardized learning outcomes that can stifle creative kids and teachers. As other nations are moving toward more creative teaching and learning, we in America need to fight to preserve it.
My greatest hope is that the entire world embraces and nurtures the creative spirit in all of us, and harnesses it to solve the many problems facing our existence.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Together we grow.
Past President, WI Association for Talented and Gifted
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think