Talent and Giftedness

I have written a great deal in this blog about the impact CCK08 had upon my thinking and practice. Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with one of my on-line companions from CCK08, Carmen Tschofen. We came together to discuss talent and giftedness. Our conversation drew upon some exchanges we had during CCK08 and subsequently after I wrote this post about nature and nurture.

I was fascinated to learn from Carmen about the Lighthouse Program in Minnesota (some background information here). A Lighthouse Program student is:

  • In possession of an insatiable curiosity
  • Drawn to complex ideas
  • Comfortable with ambiguity in learning
  • Self–directed in learning
  • Eager to learn the practice of experts from discipline
  • Capable of working effectively with team members
  • Capable of a sustained focus to resolve questions
  • Recognized as highly able in performance, as well as, potential
  • Currently 7-18 years of age
The Lighthouse Program comprises:
  • Accelerated pace of learning
  • Non graded, multi-aged grouping
  • Integrated curriculum
  • Opportunities for On-line Learning
  • Opportunities to experience the practices of experts
  • Depth of study in complex Inquiry
  • Student focused learning
  • Teacher/facilitator focused on students’ learning
  • Connections to rigorous high school options
  • Collaborative and Competitive Opportunities

Meeting Carmen and her colleagues gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore and reflect on generic issues around talent and gift that had prompted me to write about performance and share some early ideas about the identification process.

Our conversation used Elluminate and this is a recording of our hour-long exchange that linked early morning Australia and lunchtime Minnesota.

During that time we discussed:

2:40 Supporting and defining talent on an individual basis

5:15 The role of personal volition/motivation/environment

8:30 The importance of allowing time for self-discovery and play

14:30 On being the same/being different

20:00 The meaning of growth potential and potential triggers for growth

23:10 Resilience, persistence, and the issues with electronic entertainment

27:50 Understanding personal talent development through biography and narrative

30:30 Who guides talent development?

33:40 Values and ethics in coaching and mentoring

36:10 The “Birth Year Effect,” the development of talent over time, and “the system”

40:00 Relationships and life lessons

43:00 The role of deliberate practice, the problem of instant gratification, and computer games

48:35 The difficulties of “elite performer” lifestyles, the problems with shallow praise

51:50 Extrinsic rewards and the issues of ownership and autonomy

54:00 Self-ownership and self-accountability

I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Carmen and her friends. It was quite difficult to go back to bed (4 a.m.) after such a stimulating conversation. I am hopeful that this is the start of a close link with the Lighthouse Program. Sport has a great deal to learn from innovative educators within and beyond its cultural contexts.

I am convinced that any approach to talent and gift must have a profoundly personal focus that celebrates learning biographies. I am keen to explore the interrelationship between context and opportunity that can permeate personal stories.

Photo Credits

Lighthouse

Girls skipping at an athletics carnival

Brain Games

This post has been in draft form for a while. This month a number of research reports have been sharpening discussion about the role the brain plays in learning compared to the mind.

Two items caught my attention and encouraged my own reflection on the brain and mind possibilities.

The Australian Stage reviewed Seven Boards of Skill performed at the Perth International Arts Festival. The performance is based upon the Chinese Tangram and in this stage version seven giant geometric shapes, five triangles, a square and a parallelogram are used as the set for fourteen performers. Paul Rand has suggested “that the main principle to be learned (about the Tangram) is that of economy of means – making the most of the least.”  Given the virtuosity of the performers in Seven Boards of Skill I wondered how coaches and teachers might transform learning environments and explore ‘the economy of means’. This is a French video report about the creator of the Seven Boards performance, Aurelien Bory.

In the same week that the Seven Boards was being performed in Perth, Deborah Ruf was in town too discussing pathways for gifted children. Her interview on Radio National’s Life Matters led me to her writings about giftedness. Her article on individualising opportunities for gifted children, for example, is a great stimulus to thinking about learning environments.

Photo Credits

Seven Boards

Practice