Donna Ford

My name is Donna Ford and I’m a professor of special education at Ohio State University and at O OSH I teach courses in gifted education.

Well a lot of people want to know who the gifted and talented are and that’s really a complex question because um several people say that giftedness displays itself differently in different groups and in different cultures. So I think you really have to be careful in terms of trying to com up with one definition of gifted and looking at only certain characteristics of giftedness. But if I could list about 4 or 5 then I would say that in terms of characteristics gifted children tend to be very very inquisitive, have a strong language background or vocabulary, they tend to be very insightful, have an extensive memory, and um seeing relationships that others don’t see. And as I’m thinking about it I guess I’d probably add many have a keen sense of humor and a strong um sense in terms about justice and equities. And I think those characteristics um cross cultures.

Identification issues are probably, in terms of how to identify gifted children, um that’s probably one of the most controversial issues in the field of gifted gifted education. Some people believe that you can use one test of intelligence or one of achievement and that will effectively identify gifted children. And others believe it is unethical maybe even immoral um to just use one test. And I happen to be one of those people. You know intelligence is so complex that we have to use more than one instrument to identify the children. So for me it’s looking at um the child, his or her background, in terms of race in terms of language, in terms of age, even in terms of gender, um as well as social economic state and then trying to find a really um effective measure. So for example, if one is looking at identifying gifted children who come from limited English proficient backgrounds then it might be good to use um a numberal of tests of intelligence. Um but again, don’t just use one test, try to use more than one measure. So get um information from a test for example intelligence and achievement scores ah have an interview with the child, talk to the parents, or whoever the primary caregiver is and always get information from the teachers or the person primarily responsible for educating that child. So use multiple sources and try to assess that child’s strength in multiple ways. 

Um many minority children, especially African American and Hispanic students live in poverty, so when one thinks about how we could promote achievement among those students we really have to I think um um adopt a talent perspective model and our 1993 federal definition of gifted children gave us that opportunity, it opened a lot of doors to identify more minority children as gifted. So if many minority children, I think it’s about 50% black and about 50% Hispanic children live in poverty that won’t work.(interruption)(laughter) I’m really pleased that the field of gifted, I’m really pleased that the field of gifted(laugh) I’m really pleased that our field, meaning gifted education, um has started to focus more on this motion of gifted potential or talent development. And that really gained momentum in 1993 with our federal definition um which has talent um in in it. And it’s really important that we look at this concept of talent development or potential when it comes to minority children. About 50 % of African American and 50% of Hispanic children live in poverty and children who live in poverty regardless of their racial background often don’t come to school prepared to um work effectively um in an academic setting. So for example if you(interruption)I’m really pleased that the field of gifted education has started to pay more attention to this concept of potential(interruption)I’m extremely pleased that the field of gifted education has started to look more carefully and seriously at this concept of potential and talent development and I think that it’s especially important that we look at potential and talent development when it comes to African American and Hispanic children because so many of them live in poverty. Not all, but um research indicates that about 50% of black children and Hispanic children live in poverty. So the children can very well be gifted, meaning be critical thinkers, be insightful, um be intuitive, have an extensive vocabulary, but not have a lot of basic skills. So you know we have a choice, we could either believe that children come to use gifted in the classroom or that they come to us with a potential to be gifted and when it comes to minority children including those who um speak a different language meaning our limited English proficient we have to look at talent development. There was a study that came out in 1997 that looked at the number of books in the homes of three communities in California. Beverly Hills, Watts, and Compton, and in Beverly Hills children had an average of 199 books, in Watts it was .4, and in Compton it was 2.7. So if you are going to try to assess children in those three communities as gifted, the children from Beverly Hills would look more so like they were gifted because they had been exposed to books and exposed to language, exposed to reading. You know and those are the things we value in the field and and that’s one of the characteristics is the child ah be very vocal uh very very verbal. So we really need to look at what we can do to level the playing field or close that um not just achievement gap but resource gap too. Again there are many many promising children uh black and Hispanic children um who could be identified as gifted if they had more resources and more opportunity, more exposure.

I’ve been in the field of gifted education for about 11 years meaning since around 1990 and a major uh gap or oversight to me was that we often talked about using literature with children but we seldom talked about using multicultural literature. And so I’ve started writing more and more and more about how we could use literature that has a multicultural focus or even if a book is not multicultural or a piece of literature is not multicultural how could we make a connection um to a multicultural issue, topic, or concept for gifted children. Um I believe that when children um are reading books um we are giving them um mirrors to see themselves in those books and if you are talking about African American children or an Asian child or a Hispanic child they should be able to puk pick up books, read books that would look like them, the characters look like them and um the concepts are relevant and meaningful and uh significant in their lives. So we have to be real conscious that the books we choose are high quality books that also have a multicultural focus. Again that means having multicultural um characters or focus on multicultural concepts and themes um as a student I always felt that I was neglected when in the books because I would look at a book and very few of them would have African American characters or very few of them would have people of color in the books and I always wondered where am I? Am I so invisible or insignificant or unimportant um so the concept is how can we give children mirrors and windows to see themselves reflected in the curriculum? To see themselves reflected in books and when you open up a book it’s like you know a mirror, you get to see yourself well, and that could be motivating, inspiring, help engage these children, just peek their interest and make them want to um read where before they may not have cared at all because they couldn’t make a connection. So give children mirrors and windows.

I think one of the most exciting changes in our field has been the a new emphasis on this concept of potential and talent development. And I really think that came about based on our 1993 federal definition of gifted. Um some children come to us um in terms of a schools setting you know pretty much prepared to be successful. And so many of them look like they are gifted and do well in school but there are lots of other children especially African American and Hispanic children who are just as bright and just as capable but haven’t had the same opportunities so educators really need to be focused on this concept of potential and talent development and realize that some children just haven’t had the same enrichment the same experience, the same exposure. Um in ’97 what was the study that looked at um the number of books in the home in three California communities(interruption) In California there was a study it was about 1997 that looked at the number of three, in the homes of children in 3 California communities, Beverly Hills, Watts, and Compton. Beverly Hills Hills children had an average of 199 books, Watts children had an average of .4 books and Compton had 2.7. So when those children come to a kindergarten classroom um children um in Beverly Hills will probably be reading or know how to hold a book(interruption) Um so those children who come to us from the home in Beverly Hills will know how to read probably, will know how to hold a book, will be pretty comfortable with literature. But the children in Beverly Hills, I’m sorry the children in Watts and children in Compton may not be as comfortable in a literate environment(interruption). So because children come to us from different environments and because they have different resources um schools need to really try to tease out um whether children aren’t doing well in school because of lack of resources or whether children are doing well in school because they have so much. So this notion of talent development is really proactive, is really positive. Um and it really gives children and opportunity to have some experiences and exposure that they might not normally um have. The other thing I think um teachers need to keep in mind, or educators need to keep in mind is that children of color are more likely to live in poverty that white children. So for example, I think it’s about one fourth of white children live in poverty where black and Hispanic for Black and Hispanic children it’s about 50% so you have more Black and Hispanic children coming to school who come from economically uh disadvantaged backgrounds and so they may not um look like they are gifted when they are in reality they probably are we they just haven’t had resources, they just haven’t had exposure, and they just haven’t had opportunity so a talent development model model is really a healthy model um for educators to have.

When we when people think about gifted children they often think about how children, gifted children love to read and I think that it’s certainly true for most children, gifted children and not all gifted children but from minority children meaning Black and Hispanic children if we want them to love reading I think it’s really important that we give them multicultural literature. Um so we can do it in two ways. One give them literature that has multicultural characters in it. We can also give them literature that doesn’t have a multicultural focus um but kind of tweek it a little bit to give it a little multicultural focus that we can bring out important multicultural issues, concepts and themes. So when I’m working with teachers a concept I always always want to remember is that when a child opens up a book that we are giving them um mirrors so they can see themselves in the curriculum. Mirrors so they can see themselves in in the book. And when you see yourself in the literature, when you see yourself in books, when you see yourself in assignments um I think it has um a high probability of increasing motivation, increasing engagement, I think it can improve self concept, it improves students racial identity, um it ultimately I think improves children’s achievements. So the concept would be when children are reading material um when children are exposed to literature do they see themselves reflected in the curriculum? Which would mean give them mirrors to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.

Um staff development is really important for all teachers but I think especially for gifted children. Um I have I heard a speaker say a few years ago that teachers today and that was like 1998 are being prepared for classrooms that no longer exist. And because of that that um that statement or situation alike that we really need to do a better job for making sure the teachers are prepared for classroom that exist and classrooms today are more culturally diverse, they are more linguistically diverse, um they are more ethnically diverse, and they’re diverse in terms of ability and social economic status uh ability, social economic status and achievement. So for teachers to be effective they really have to we really have to meaning educators and administrators prepare them to work in a real worked setting so some of the topics that I think are important to focus on is and this is a concept that came to me a few years ago but, a few weeks ago. A lot of times when I walk into classrooms I see children labeled with a learning disability and um I really believe that part of that is a matter of instruction, so maybe we need to start talking about a teaching disability in some ways. In other words are teachers able to re a provide culturally responsive classrooms for students. That means do they know how to choose good books for children and if not good multicultural books for children and if not perhaps we need professional development on that. Um do teachers understand this this concept of culture meaning beliefs, values, norms, traditions, and customs and how they impact teaching and learning as well as interactions with others. A concept that I really like is that the body is the hardware and and uh culture is the software. The body is the hardware and culture is the software. And so when children come into your classroom if they are gifted they’re gifted all day long and if they are culturally diverse they are culturally diverse all day long. So staff development should focus on helping teachers understand this concept of culture and how it can impact teaching and learning. So that means looking at different ways of learning, different ways of communicating, different ways of behaving and just looking at different values and how they impact the learning situation(interruption) So some of the topics I like for staff development to focus on would be helping teachers understand norms, values, traditions, and customs from different cultural groups uh understanding communication style, understanding learning style, understanding behavioral style and how all of that impacts teaching and learning. And when you have that understanding, meaning you’re responding to cultures in an affirm in a firming way you can provide culturally responsive classrooms for students um and it’s it’s just really essential again because, well I don’t know what to say. Teachers seldom are prepared to work with minority children and this is an opportunity to build relationships with teachers. I’m sorry we this is an opportunity to build relationships with children um who come from different backgrounds um then we come from. Uh that I think we need to start that one over(laugh) 

If I could have a wish list um for what I’d like for staff development to entail it would be how to create multicultural curriculum how to teach um effectively children who learn differently so meaning multicultural learning styles, how to build relationships with parents coming from diverse backgrounds or families coming from diverse backgrounds, how to understand respect and not tolerate because I don’t like the word tolerate but how to understand respect and value differences that children bring into a classroom differences in um norms differences in behaviors, differences in traditions, customs, language, um we can’t get away from that. Our classrooms, our society is extremely diverse and is becoming more and more diverse. I think the more we understand respect and and respect diversity the um better our diverse students will do in a classroom setting.

Our field meaning gifted education has um some really important issues that we often struggle with as we try to do what’s best for all children. But especially what’s best for gifted children. And I think one of the struggles that we have one of the limits is this quest for equity in gifted education and I think that the philosophy is simple and by this I mean if we are really going to do a better job of meeting the needs of all of our gifted children and not neglecting those who live in poverty and not neglecting those who come from um culturally diverse backgrounds then we need to understand that gifted education is a need and not a privilege. Children need gifted education services, it should not be considered a privilege meaning we provide services to students if they come from a certain background or have a certain economic level or speak a certain language. That makes gifted education a privilege and that’s an injustice and that’s not what education is about because education should now be considered or it is to me, a civil right, it’s a basic right, it’s a human right. Um so this quest for equity has to be centered on this notion that the children we are serving need gifted education service otherwise there will be no need for our field to exist. 

Um I teach a course on the social emotional need gifted students have as well as one on counseling gifted students and the first statement I try to make to my students is that gifted ah giftedness is a cognitive and an affective entity. And so many of us in the field may teach from the neck up, meaning the cognitive portion, we also need to teach to the heart and if we’re working with African American children, Hispanic children, Asian American children, Native American children, it’s essential that we focus not just on self esteem, not just on self concept but this notion of racial identity. How do people of color feel about being a person of color? Um as an African American I can think of times in my life when I did not like being black, I would have preferred being say white because um I always thought that whites had a better life or more privilege and in many cases that’s still true. Um um but the times that I did not feel good about myself as an African American I didn’t do well in school. When I felt good about myself as an African American I did extremely well in school(interruption). So one and another a notion that educators really need to understand is that there are many African American children or children of color who aren’t doing well in school but they feel good about themselves. So how can we have them be both, meaning be confident(interruption)so how can we have them be have both. OK(laugh).(interruption). There are many African American children who aren’t doing well in school but who still feel good about themselves so they have a high sense of who they are, self concept or self esteem but they aren’t doing well in school and that concept that notion needs to be explored because many people might believe that in order to feel good about yourself you have to be doing well in school. Uh we really need to look at how, you know at this um inconsistency or this dicotomy and get children not only to feel good about who they are as people of color feel good about who they are as gifted children, feel good about who they are as male or female(interruption)We have to have children feel good about who they are you know based on the characteristics, for example I need to feel good about who I am as an Afriacan American, I need to feel good about who I am as a female, and as someone who grew up in poverty(interruption) When you have a strong sense of self but es but especially racial identity one being a person of color you could succeed in school and ultimately in life uh uh and so it’s really important that teachers try to educators try to do the best they can to make sure the learning environment is set up(interruption) it’s really important that children that that (laugh)(interruption) It’s essential that educators create learning environments where children feel affirmed and they have a strong sense of who they are, it’s not just gifted children, but also children of color. 

There are at least 2 ways that children could be motivated. One is motivated from within uh which is intrensic motivation and the other is from outside which which is extrensic motivation. And some children come to us motivated from within but there are others who for a number of reasons don’t come to us intrensically motivated so we have to ask ourselves as educators how can I get the these children who I think are very capable, but are underachieving to be intrinsically motivated? And so uh we need to talk about say motivation traps for children. Motivation traps would be things like if you have a child who is very very talkative um and wants to say tattletale, let’s say we’re talking about a first grader, well you can make that child become like a little news reporter in the classroom, one who takes notes on important events in the classroom and shares that information with students. If you have a student who says I can’t count and I hate math and let’s let’s say a young man and and he likes baseball, how can you use baseball to help him realize that he needs to understand math and that you can apply math, not just in school but outside of school. If you have a child who is fascinated by horses and again says I don’t like math, how could you use horses and numbers to help that child appreciate math so it means using your observation skills and using your listening skills and talking to students. Finding out what they like and then finding a way to use that in your lesson plans, use that in your curriculum. So that means we we begin to tailor children’s interests to what we’re trying to teach them and that traps them into learning and they don’t even know that they’re learning because they are focusing on something they are interested in and learning becomes fun. And learning should be fun.

If I had um a wish list and I could you know wave a magic wand and change you know life for gifted children it would really be um helping teachers see that African American children, Hispanic children, are diamonds in the rough. They are really really smart, really really brilliant, but unpolished. We haven’t had a lot of exposure, we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be successful, and schools should be places of talent development where children get an opportunity to be all that they could be. That means looking at children in different ways. Don’t look at what’s wrong with them all the time, don’t look at what they don’t have. But look at what they’re doing right, look at what they do have and use that to nurture ability, nurture potential, in children who might fall through the cracks. But many children, those who live in poverty and children of color are diamonds in the rough.

Well I’m Franc Gagne, I’ve got a PHD in Pshychology, I’ve been teaching at the University of Quebec in Montreal for the last 20 years or so.

The concepts of giftedness and talent are are really very complex in a way even though um people in the field like to use them as synonyms and I’ve been fighting for the last 15 years to bring about the change in that saying that giftedness and talent are quite different things and the way I see these 2 concepts is talking about gift as natural abilities, the strong genetic component. As compared to talents as being systematically developed abilities in any field of human activity. So natural abilities on one side, giftedness and the word gifts conveys the idea that something’s been given. And the idea of talent unfortunately has been used too often to describe also giftedness so that’s the major change that makes this model um a bit difficult to be um to be bought by people, you know to become popular. The idea of talent in the popular literature and outside gifted education is to talk about natural talents and developed talents with the same word, which I don’t like. So natural abilities are are are four types. I’ve been using this taxonomy of intellectual giftedness, creative giftedness, social affective giftedness, and sensory motor giftedness. And that’s important because I feel that when we talk abut a person being gifted we should always qualify the type of giftedness. We use in our field to just think about intellectual giftedness and think that this is but, we are using the idea that there is much more to giftedness than just intelligence. In terms of talents, well the the the areas of talents or the fields of talents are as large as the fields of human activity. You know it can be arts, it canbe professions, it can be ah people work in I’m trying to find the English word for metsia, but uh um crafts, you know, it can be sports, any area where you have skills to learn to become proficient or competent then you have the possibility of people becoming talented which means that they will be in the top 10% of those who are trying to master these skills in the same way people uh are considered gifted will have above average abilities, those natural abilities in the top 10 % of the population at large. Usually same age population in terms of natural ability.

So you(cough) when we think of indesis of giftedness and talent then we’ve got to think in terms of what’s natural and what’s systematically developed. Um the best the best know index of intellectual giftedness is an IQ test, it’s intelligence as measured through these tests that have been developed over the years and are recognized as quite good measures of uh intelligence or cognitive abilities in the area of creativity. There is also some tests and there is a renewed interest in terms of trying to measure creativity in a more psychometrically efficient way. Uh in the area of socioactive abilities, that’s where there is much more difficult it is still too young and has not been recognized for long enough for psychologist to develop good measures of socioactice abilities. I mean there’s emotional intelligence for example and there’s a pro professor Mayor in north north eastern US who’s been working for the last 5,6 years in putting together a test of emotional intelligence. That would be interesting when we finally succeed in doing and finally succeed in sensory motor domain you know tests of fitness which I use in grade schools measure differences between youngsters in terms of how good they are in different motor abilities. In the uh uh talent side well I mean it’s so easy to measure a talent um in in classrooms it’s it’s the GPA for example, it’s grades, it’s achievement tests. In um in in sports you done I mean every sport has it’s measures in terms of comparing people in terms of achievement you know it’s speed, it’s number of things, it’s baseball, you have all these measure to uh identify the best baseball players or basketball players or swimmers or whatever so in in the talent area there’s usually a lot of good measures to identify those who emerge as talented within that specific field. OK?

So the concepts, the concepts of giftedness and talent um are the backbone of a model of talent development in which the gifts, the natural abilities are building blocks of the talents of the skills that are developed. And this process is achieved through long deliberate practice and learning and training and things like that. So it’s a long process that can last for months, years, depending on the level of talent you want to achieve. If you want to become world renowned in some area then you’ve got many many years of practicing and learning and training in that specific area. But this process of development is facilitated or endured through 3 other components in the model. The first one is called intrapersonal catalysts. The catalysts include motivation, interest, values, what is called technically volition, but could be described more sim more simply as persistence, effort, resistence to failure, bouncing back you know, also components in the intrapersonal catalysts are um self management, time management, organizing your schedule when you’ve got many things to do, um temperament, aspects of personality which are the more basic and genetically anchored, the temperament and also personality traits and other aspects of personality. There in create what I call the intrepersonal catalyst which will act on the process of development and help it or hinder it depending on which one plays, for example if someone is not very interested into some kind of area like math for example in school it might make his amount of study decrease because he doesn’t like it. As opposed to someone who loves it a lot, or a person who is very persistent as compared to a person who is as difficult as putting much effort into work. The other catalyst is called the environment catalyst and it’s a group of four elements. Similar and environment specific persons like mentors like parents, like teachers, the third one is called programs, and in it’s specific activities, structured activities that will facilitate the process of talent development like special programs, special schools, summer schools, things like that are ah into these environmental catalysts uh the program part. And the fourth one is called events, like winning a prize for example or getting scholarship, getting money or one the dark side of it having an accident, I I I discovered that in sports for example it’s a major element of being able to pursue in a sport or another. I mean you’ve got in an accident, it might be the end of the career in sports. So these are the four elements in the environment and the last component, the third one is chance. Bad luck or good luck and that component of the model has moved around in the figure of the model over the years and now it’s got its own little place in the model distinct from everyone else because I’m beginning to feel that chance is a major element in talent development in three ways. First the chance of the genes you get, I mean you don’t own the genome you get from your parents and it’s a major chance component. The second one is the parents you get, I mean the kind of parents you get, the kind of of of social demographic aspects of them. I mean are they rich are they poor, are they good at parenting or not, are they divorced are you in a monoparented family or whatever, so that’s a chance component when you are born, you don’t choose your parents. And the third element of chance is all the rest of the events in life that meeting someone or not, so in the environment catalyst there is a big element of chance which you cannot control except to some small degree. So this is the elements in the model in terms of the developmental aspects.

Giftedness and talent are normative concepts. Normative means that you are comparing people to an average, to a norm like saying someone is obese or someone is poor or someone is rich we’re situating a group as compared to an average. When you do that you need to assess the threshold at which that special group begins outside of the norm. And unfortunately in gifted education there’s been not a large degree of agreement. Some people will say well you know there are something probably like 15-20% gifted individual or talented individuals, others will be much more selective going as low as 1%. Like Terman did in the 20’s for example. So there is a large difference and just think that the difference between 1% and 20% means 20 times more people would be considered which is a huge difference, I mean already twice as many would be big, but 20 times as more is huge. SO there is a need somewhere in this field to come to some agreement and there is no way to have an objective answer there needs to be consensus because the threshold is a fuzzy zone between begin above average or clearly in the gifted or talented area. So my decision was to propose some kind of middle point. Saying between the more generous and the more selective I propose a 10% threshold and it’s related to the metric system because I’m French Canadian and we use the metric system and it’s used all over the world except in the US probably(laugh) so I chose that system and found that then from that first threshold in terms of deciding are you part of the in group being in the gifted zone or the talented zone then within that zone I create four additional levels, which are again at 10% of the previous level. So it’s one in 10 1 in 100, 1 in 1000, 1 in 10000. It makes for balanced um system of levels. Each level is the in the same relationship of the proceeding one as compared to those who are using IQ’s for example you know with the 125, 135, 145, highly gifted and things like that. The proportions are quite different so I’ve been building this system saying there are 5 levels. The lowest one will be called mild mildly, the second one moderately, the third one highly gifted or talented, and the fourth one exceptionally, and the last one extremely. So you’ve got these five levels and I think it’s quite important in our field to keep in mind when we do research when we start thinking about case studies to keep in mind at what level the person is because it’s not the same thing when you are exceptionally gifted or talented in in an area as compared to just being mildly gifted or talented, I mean a young person or even an adult who is playing good piano who got the BA degree in piano, it’s not the same thing at all to achieve that level as compared to becoming an internationally renowned soloist in piano. This would be the extremely high level of talent in in piano. OK, so this is the way I I I the system is built but also the importance I give to the prevelence of giftedness and talent as having to be part of the good definition of what giftedness and talent are.

So the model includes five causal components: the gifts which the letter J, G, the intrapersonal catalyst with the letter I, the practice and learning with the letter P, the chance component with the letter C, and the environmental catalyst as the letter E. So these five causal components can create an acronym GYPCE. G Y P C E which in fact represents my own convictions in terms of their relative importance as causes of talent development. So I’m putting all of my cards on the table saying that if I had to choose I would prefer to be gifted if I had to become talented. That would be my first more important component and then going down the GYPCE scale and intrapersonal components, effort, motivation are the second most important element to becoming talents and then the practice element in terms of the number of hours you are putting, and then the chance component, and then the environment component. And probably people will be very shocked by the fact that I’m giving so less importance to environment but these are my convictions based on what I’ve read and seen in research on the development of abilities. OK? That’s it for that.

Now being gifted or being talented means that you can at the same time have multiple abilities. You can be at the same time physically gifted or physically and physically and or physically intellectually gifted. But on the other side it’s the same thing, you can develop talents in many areas and there are people who are quite the object of envy of their peers because they seem to become talented in so many areas. Anything they touch, they become talented. So we did a study a few years ago trying to find a few of these people who are at the same time in the top 10 % of the talent area of at least 2 different talent areas. When I say different it means they cannot be two sports, it cannot be two musical instruments, it has to be distinct not closely related fields of abilities. So we found these individuals and they were interviews with their parents with the persons the adolescents themselves, they were in the high school, college level persons and some of them were really high achievers you know they were in the national for something or they had won big prizes in music or they had one big prize like validictorian in high school and things like that. So some of them were very high level achievers in their different fields. And the one thing we found was that all the parents without acception mentioned that their children were totally accomonous in terms of deciding how they would organize their life to pursue these different activities. And each on was like we had not planned that we had not um anticipated that kind of comment but it put an enourmous amount of importance to the I component of the intrapersonal catalyst componency. These people can organize their life, they are intrensically motivated, they are persistent, they do all the activities they need to keep achieving higher and higher in their different fields, whether it’s in school in arts, in sports, and this is so that what I would call the self management component of the intrapersonal catalyst appears to be a major thing when you want to pursue many talents and achieve highly in each of them.

The expression identification of the gifted is already an interesting term by itself. It conveys different ideas when I look at it through my model. When we think of identification in the school environment, let’s stay there for the time being, in fact what is being done in practice is identifying what I call IGAT student. IGAT means IG intellectually gifted AT academically talented students. That’s what we do in practice. How come? Because we use intellectual abilities tests, IQ tests, groups or individual ones and this is a good measure of intellectual giftedness. And then we use grades, achievement tests, things like that that go get the academic talent aspect of these abilities. SO in fact we’re looking at 2 different things. Gifted kids, intellectually, and talented kids academically and we are using those 2 in fact we are identifying 2 types of persons. The gifted and the academically talented. These are the persons who are usually selected for special programs in schools. So the instruments I’ve named them, they are IQ tests, and the other instruments that are sometimes brought in like rating scales by teachers and things like that just are peery ferry, they are also looking at some of these aspects in terms of behaviors of intellectually gifted kids or the kids of behaviors of good learners in school which make them achieve like being motivated and things like that. The intrapersonal catalyst part of my model which connects giftedness and talent, so this is what I see in terms of uh what is done uh for identification. But I mean we could think of other types of identification. Like looking at other types of natural abilities which is not being done usually in gifted. OK, but when we go to these other areas we can see that in sports for example they will start looking at youngsters and they will ask the phys ed teachers who are the more adgile or the more physically fitted or have the best physical aptitudes because in sports they don’t care about not having the specific skills of a given sport, what they want is people who are physically gifted, that’s what they’re looking for. So they will have these fitness tests or they will ask phys ed teachers to point out those who are better and they will try to woo them in their sport and say well come and train in our sport because then we will teach you the specific skills of that sport. What we want form you is those natural abilities that will help you. It would be the same in art ah I don’t know about all the art, but in music there are well know music aptitude tests that have been used off and on in music schools to try to identify those who show more aptitude for musical training. So these are are the ways that identification can progress. But there is another way in which um identification can be done and is sometimes done, it’s through pace of learning. People begin training in something and you pinpoint those who shoe special apptitudes just though the speed through which they progress uh during the first phases of their training and so the fastest will be like look at that person has good potential. So in the in the learning process itself that would be the learning, training, practice, you can like um imply infer the presence of gifts just through the ease and speed of learning. And this is in my view what I call the trademark of what giftedness is when you don’t have tests. You measure the apptitudes. Look at the person who’s trying to learn something new and look at the speed at which that person is learning and you will have a good idea of what giftedness in that area.

OK let’s try it on language. What I call the D DMGT the Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent which is my model to explain the transformation of gifts into talent, that model has potential major impacts on the way we should look at talent development. That impact has not yet uh uh happened, it’s still potential. There are, there’s lots of resistence, but what I think the impact should be or could be is first when you think giftedness you should think many types of giftedness when you think talent you should think many types of talent. And then you should qualify that type and say that person is intellectually gifted or physically gifted or talented into music and talented to this. That would be one way of understanding the whole breath of the the domain. Second thing we could think in terms of language impact is in terms of understanding from the model, from the components of the model the gift the catalyst and the chance and the practice that talent is the result of a very complex developmental process. Sometimes we are trying to understand what is happening to a child by saying oh this is what happened, we have one cause. But when you think about the model you are thinking that the results you are looking at is probably the result of concurrent action of the five causal components, the gifts, the intrapersonal catalyst, the environmental catalyst, the practice effect and the chance component. So we should always try to keep in mind the complexity of the process and recently I prepared a chapter for the handbook in gifted education and I entitled my chapter Talent Development A Complex Choreography Between Five Causal Components. So it’s really a choreography which some have more importance than others but it also changes from person to person and from field to field. So these would be some of the majors and the last element in terms of using the model and the language in the field is also when we qualify the level of giftedness or talent we should use a system of levels. I mean I’m proposing my five system metric based system. But I mean if you have a three level system like um moderately, highly, extremely, at least we would keep in mind that there are differences depending on the level. 

The concept of differenciation is a concept I do not like at all. It might surprise you if I say that but we used to use some years ago the concept of enrichment. It could be that enrichment has lost it’s popularity because it’s not politically correct enough, I don’t know why, but I’m very surprised that in this field they are using more and more the concept of differenciation which is much more global, vague and not specific to gifted education. Differentiation of the curriculum can um concern any type of special population. It can be for mildly deficient people, it can be for physically misadapted people, so I don’t like the concept the word deferenciation because of it’s vagueness. I prefer to use enrichment. And I would prefer that people come back to it. When I think of enrichment there are four types of that which I use when I talk about enrichment and they call the four D’s of enrichment because of the letter D which begins all of them. Enrichment in density, enrichment in diversity which is called sometimes horizontal enrichment, enrichment in difficulty, and enrichment in depth which corresponds to let’s say Renzennie’s titrick activities for example which would be enrichment in depth. So density, diversity, difficulty, and depth would be four different forms of enrichment which are usually combined in different activities or program. It’s rare to find a pure presentation of one of these four types. But for example enrichment in density is typical of what is Regerly calls curriculum compacting for example which is used, it is compacting or creating more density in terms of the amount of content that is presented by unit of time. But at the same time if you present more content in density then you get into more difficult contents so you’ve got for the student a better chance to access rapidly in a short time more difficult concepts. So this is my view of differenciation.

Underachievement is in a way a very simple thing and in a way a very complex thing, always it’s the same. My model is quite interesting because it makes underachievement very clear. When you think of students who are intellectually gifted in the IG part and who are not achieving in school, they are not academically talented then you’ve got this diverse between the giftedness part of the model and the supposibly talented part that should follow automatically. But you have these kids who do not follow from their gifts to some talent in an area. What I see as a problem is the fact that school curriculum form K to 12 is really easy for gift intellectually gifted person. It’s really easy so that not achieving in my view of a very serious problem. The the etiology of it, the causes of underachievement are not simple. I’ve seen simple explanations in terms of environment, it’s the teacher, it’s the school, it’s the parents. I don’t think it’s that simple. I would include at least two major components and the catalyst level of my model intrapersonalist catalyst. Problems within the person in terms of motivation, in terms of personality difficulties, in terms of physical difficulties when you think of ADHD for example. Or ah problems that might be brain related or um misfunctioning of the brain level. So you have causes that can be within the person and outside the person and the diagnosis is not simple to make and in my view should bring in a professional person. Psychologist, school pshychologist, to look at the whole aspect of it. So when I think of teachers, if I have one council to give, one suggestion would be more in terms of always being aware that behind non achievement might be high intelligence, not often, but sometimes. So they should always be watching for signs of giftedness in terms of being good at something else out of school, having some irregular occassional very bright reactions or getting suddenly interested in a specific subject. These are all little signs that should you know make you say whoop there’s something there and this not achieving child is possibly an underachiever. Then I would recommend that this person be assessed by a big professional.

Elitism is a word that really means when it’s defined offering some special favors to those who are already favored. I mean there’s no way to define elitism positively you can’t go out of it. But what elite has a ver positive meaning and I have positive meanings in terms of talking about a group of people who are really at the top in their field whether it’s in arts or sports or academia. So the elite is positive, elitism is not. Why I mean when people say oh gifted education is elitist my first reaction is the question why is it that in schools special programs are tagged, labeled elitist, where as in arts, in music, visual arts, or in sports, the opposite is true. I mean there is no elitism there, there is special programs to produce an elite in that area but there is nobody will accuse them of any form of elitism so why the difference? My answer in a very short answer would be there are three major myths or misunderstanding, or misconceptions that contribute to maintaining that attitude. The first one is that many people still believe that genetics has nothing to do with intelligence. I hope that there are fewer of them as the years go by that research is showing that more and more that genes have something to do with differences in intelligence. But when you believe the genetics has nothing to do then you must attribute differences to the environment. And then there is the second misconception that all gifted kids come from rich families. And in a way it’s not completely false, there is some truth, but the relationship when we say the corrolation in terms of measurement between the socioeconomic level of the parents and the IQ of the child the corrolation is 125 average over 100’s of studies which is a very low. It says that there are huge differences within a given socioeconomic level in terms of having kids who are very low in intelligence and others who are very bright and that would be the same in less affluent areas so the relationship is not that close. And the third misconception is related to the the dream in education and especially in the US education there’s this dream that you should finally some day reduce to nothing the gap in performance in high achieving and low achieving students. And reducing the gap is a kind of ideology. And people are trying to do whatever they can to do that and what do they do is putting lots of investment into those who are not achieving a lot. Lots of professionals, lots of money to try to bring them up to par as far as much as they can do. But the success of that is limited. There is some success, but it’s limited. My reaction to that is that the ideology of reducing the gap is contrary to common sense or to scientific sense because if you believe if you accept the fact that there are natural individual differences in abilities in in intelligence then what you what should you observe when you let these people learn at their own personal rate. What you should see is just like in a race. I mean those who can run faster after sometime will be further in front of those who are in the back and as the time goes back goes as the time goes by the distance between the slowest and the fastest will increase so the gap will increase and it should increase if we have a system of education which attends to the individuals needs of each learner. Those who learn fast and those who learn slow. So trying to reduce the gap is like going against nature, it’s like and then in a way in order to do that we have to cut gifted programs because these programs will increase the speed and pace of learning of those who are already learning fast. And well the gap will increases and we don’t want that at all. So you cut the programs there.

If I had a dream about changing something in the field of gifted education it would be to implement learning at one’s own pace. That pacing is the ideal for me of an education that respects every child’s abilities to learn. And if we could finally accept to accept to offer services that allow each child to go at it’s own pace then we would have a system that is very respectful of all students.

(He then repeats this last answer in French)