Mary M Frasier

MARY M FRASIER

My name is Mary M. Frasier. I’m a professor of educational psychology at the University of Georgia. I’m also cor—coordinator of the gifted and creative education program.

OK. Um, first of all I think that the gifted and talent—that there should not be such a thing as the gifted and the talented. I firmly believe and from my experiences that we are talking about gifted people who express their talents in different areas. So with that said, to me gifted uh—gifted people are people who have the potential to go to the ultimate in any uh particular area that best suits their talents, their combinations of talents. Uh, I once had a—a diagram that I use to do this and I kind of had gifted in the center and I had spokes coming out from it. And the idea with the spokes was that they had no top on it because we, you know, it can go on and on forever. But for me they are people who are capable of—of uh performing at the ultimate. I need to tell you one more thing about it. Um, I think that we are doing an injustice sometimes in not helping people to understand that we are not talking about children. We’re talking about adults. And what we’re really doing with children is identifying the potential for gifted performance and then our job as educators is to develop that potential so that those talents can be expressed uh later on in life. So for me also giftedness is developmental.

Yeah. Well, thank you. It’s been a—a mission of mine in life to find a way to pull together the data that we need from the variety of sources that we should gather it from to make decisions about children’s need for advanced educational services. I kind of started out with this as my way of trying to uh answer the challenge of how to find gifted children from different cultural groups and I got to the point where I realized that that’s not the question because their shouldn’t—if giftedness means anything, it should mean the same thing no matter what the group is. So the question is really not how to find a way to identify black gifted children or Native American children or white gifted children, etc., um the question is to figure out what is giftedness in terms of the traits, aptitudes, and behaviors which is kind of like a key stone of my research. Um, and then look at ways in which those were expressed to give us some indications that children—we’re talking about children who are uh performing—who have—who show the potential for performing at extreme levels. And so my research then has primarily focused on—it’s kind of a little bit beyond minority and disadvantage, to really look at all of those children that we don’t easily identify when we use traditional procedures. And, of course, that includes minority and disadvantage. But that was, again, for me a breakthrough of thinking because as long as we kept categorizing it by this group or that group or this group, I didn’t think we were going to get the answer. But anyway, as a result of that my research centers around what I call some core attributes of giftedness. And the thesis behind that whole notion is that I’m not really looking for universals, but I am saying of giftedness means something, it means the same thing no matter where. So I’ve identified 10 things that I feel core to people that we refer to as gifted. Um, and they are motivation or a strong evidence of a desire to learn. Interests or passion for something, communication skills, the ability to—to uh communicate one’s ideas with using whatever the symbol system is. And that doesn’t always mean words. It could be colors, it could be musical notes, you know, whatever. But gifted people tend to take whatever that symbol system is and use it very effectively. And we can see its use in young children. We can see its beginning using young children. And then I talk about problem solving skills not in the typical sense that people talk about but that ability to come up with inventive ways of solving problems and seeing problems that others don’t see. And I think all gifted people do that. They can be from any country, any economic group, any ethnic group, you know, what—however you want to say it. And then I talked about memory. And basically to me I say gifted people have the ability to acquire information rapidly, to retain it, and to retrieve it when they want to bring it forth to solve the problem. To me that’s universal. Then I talked about inquiry. And what I wanted to do with inquiry, Sally, was to get away from um—to get away from talking about—asking a lot of questions which is something that we use because immediately when I do that I penalize certain kids who don’t ask a lot of ques—that’s not their way of finding out things. And so inquiry for me is a universal trait and so what I need to find out—what I use it to say, gifted people are very effective at finding out things. And then insight. They are very good at grasping meanings and they grasp it rapidly. Um, and then imagination creativity. (background noise) And then imagination creativity, and that is that ability to manipulate information in new and unusual ways regardless as to what the area is. And then humor. And that’s that ability to just suppose ideas from seemingly, unrelated sources and to put them together in such a way that they communicate a very strong meaning. So for me those ten things have allowed me to focus on children’s abilities regardless of their background and getting away from this notion that there’s a special way to identify a gifted black kid or a gifted white kid or—or whatever. Plus, finding out that information about children I think provides us with the data we need to make good pedagogical decisions about how to serve them. So that’s the coax of my research and as a result of that, I’ve developed a system that says, “OK, you’ve gathered all this information from all of these sources, now what are you going to do with it?” And so it’s a tele-assessment profile where I um pro—have provided a system for organizing that data so that you can make decisions about ability using both subjective and objective information. But the ultimate point is to apply it to some education experience—to develop an educational experience. So that’s what my research is about.

Creativity to me is the ultimate expression of giftedness um and I—I’ve never looked at creativity being separate from giftedness. But to me the things that makes people gifted is their ability to apply the creativity to whatever it is that they’re working on. So I always think about creativity as being the manipulation of information in unusual, original, flexible ways. Um, and I think that we make some kind of mistakes sometimes and we try to say, “This child is gifted. This child is creative.” We need to say, “That this child is gifted now let me figure out some ways to allow that creative—to allow those gifts to develop.” And the only way it can is through creativity because that’s what causes us to extend the boundaries. So it’s the ultimate expression of giftedness to me.

Oh, that’s a really favorite subject of mine. My master’s (interruption) Bibliotherapy is really a favorite subject of mine. Um, my master’s was in coun—guidance and counseling and I’ve always been concerned with how to help people to get head and heart together. And I particular became concerned with this about—with gifted children because to me people tend to think that these are children who don’t have any problems. And, in fact, maybe problems is the wrong words. I have typically talked about challenges. And what I have done with that area is to suggest that there are four big areas where gifted children face some unique challenges and that books or the use of books—which is what bibliotherapy is about—is the way to address those. And one of those areas is educational and I mean finding a way to make their—make education appropriate for them. Another one is social and that’s interaction with others uh be it at school or at home or with peers, whatever. Another is interpersonal and that’s just understanding who I am and getting in touch with myself. And the uh last is vocational career and that’s figuring out what to do to bring this talent together in such a way that I can make, you know, some meaningful contribution. So I then have been about the business of searching for books that had in them—uh that met two criteria. One, the characters needed to demonstrate some of the characteristics of gifted children and two, they needed to be wrestling with one of the issues, challenges that gifted children wrestle with. I use the books, however, as a discussion point not as a solution giver because one of the things that I really strongly believe about bibliotherapy is that I cannot give you a solution but I can give you the where with all to explore some possible answers for yourself. But ultimately, you have to make the choice yourself because it has to fit you. So to me that’s probably one of the most important things that we can do for children. Sometimes I like to think that um—that we could—if we could help gifted kids understand who they are and how to effectively interact with other and how to negotiate the educational system to get what they want, the rest of it will just take care of itself. So I think it’s very important and I really think books are an answer to a number of things.

Well, that’s one of those very tension-producing topics—ability grouping is one of those tension-producing topics when we talk about it in gifted and talented—gifted education. Um, one of the things—I—I believe ability grouping is good and bad and let me explain very quickly. It’s good because it is very important for children of like ability or people of like ability to have appropriate opportunities to interact together in learning experiences. And I think that’s very important. To me what’s bad about ability grouping is how we determine who gets into which groups. And I think we need—need to work on that. But as far as ability grouping is concerned, it’s just common sense that I need to be with people who are of like talent. Sports has no problem with the ability grouping. As educators I think we need to figure out how not to make it a problem. But—cause—because one of the things that sports does is it puts together people in the basis of their—some demonstrated abilities or talents, not a test score, not any one thing, but a combination of things and it’s—and then they proceed to work with them in that fashion. So it’s good and bad.

Faculty and staff development in my opinion is one of the critical, critical parts of educating gifted children, of even providing, even training for educating people who are going to work for gifted an—gifted children. One of the things that I think is really important about faculty development, though, and staff development is that we are always telling people what to do and we really don’t spend enough time trying to tie in what we want them to know to the context in which they operate. When I work with teachers and I’m going to take the smaller word, teachers instead of faculty—when I work with teachers, one of the things that I think that I know about giftedness is that if we want—going to help them understand the concept and understand children who show potential in that area, we’re going to have to put it into the context in which they operate in their classroom. We can’t give them these phrases like, “Ask a lot of questions.” It just doesn’t tie into real world. And I think that um it’s—it’s a—it’s the critical component. Sometimes more critical then identification because if I get people to know and understand what it’s about and understand the developmental nature of it and how to approach it, they’re going to find the talent and probably not need all the fancy methods that we go through.

Gifted education is not elitist and it’s one of those things that I think is an answer people give when they want to not do anything about it. It is not elitist to provide children with the appropriate education. Um, it is not elitist if you—if you um provide children with the opportunity to grow and develop according to their capacity. The problem, I think, that we run into with elitism and gifted education—and this is something that I think as a field we need to come to grips with—is that we will always have that criticism as long as the way we allow students to have the opportunities for gifted education, experiences reflects a homogenous view of the people who can be gifted. And let me say that in another way. Um, our gifted programs do not serve diverse populations, they serve predominantly one population and then they serve predominantly people who of high socioeconomic levels and things like that. And that to me is what’s elitist. But the pro—the concept of giftedness being elitist is absolutely not so. People need to have an opportunity to learn at the pace at which they are capable of learning and that’s what gifted education is about.

Uh, minority parents’ role in the education of their gifted and talented children is critical as is the involvement of any parent, even non-minority parents in the education of their children. But let me tell you what I think is really unique about minority parents and their need to be involved in it—in the education of their children. If the parents aren’t involved to the degree that they can advocate for their children, the children are not going to get the services. Secondly, uh when—if I am going to encourage my child to participate in certain advanced opportunities—and that’s what I think good parents do and good minority parent do also—then I need to also let them see that I am involved in this also. We shouldn’t send kids in harms way, that is send them out into experiences where they don’t see—they don’t—they don’t see the parents involved uh, you know, in—in the kinds of pursuits that they are doing. So I think that they are very important um in that regard. Uh, beyond that I’m not sure that I feel that minority parents’ role in the education of their gifted children is any different from the involvement of—any parents involvement in the education of their children. Helping them to gather the information that they need to make decisions, uh guiding them in making choices, being a catalyst for them, uh you know, being a person who facilitates the exploration of ideas. Uh, you know, those kinds of things I think are just good for all parents but particularly with minority parents the involvement is what—one of the things that’s missing when we look at gifted programs and who makes—makes up gifted programs and then we see efforts made to try to get more children in there but we don’t see parents involved.

Yes, I have been involved—I have been involved in the history of the Javits legislation. Um, primarily um I directed one of the projects that was taking place at the University of Georgia. One of the critical things that we were doing was looking at how to better identify gifted LE—limited English proficient students and gifted children from families um whose backgrounds were disadvantaged. We contended that there was not a single answer out there but that we needed to look at a number of variables. And those variables included behaviors, self-perceptions of ability, um and uh the uh—they—they included behaviors and self-perceptions of ability. Familio factors and familio factors that help to, you know, support the development of giftedness. And so we felt that all of those together needed to be considered. As a result of that um and as a result of the work that I have done at looking at core attributes of giftedness, we were very successful in our project in helping to lead the state of Georgia into the use of multiple criteria in what I think is a very model way and it continues to develop will be a way that will be um a model to emulate for the entire country. But to get them to do that—to—to do that, one of the critical things we had to do in our research and it had to make people believers, was to say, “We are going to try a different way of looking at the array of abilities that a person exhibits to become gifted but you must understand that I am still talking about a bonified gifted student.” We do not want them to say these kids are gifted by traditional means and these kids are gifted by um multicultural needs. I mean sorry—gifted by—these kids are gifted by traditional means and then these kids are gifted because we use mult—multiple criteria methods. Um, we felt that those things needed to, you know, be put together. So we were very successful infield, really proud about the leadership that we provided in setting that model uh, you know, for the state of Georgia and other places that are also involved.

If I had my wish and I could change one thing in the education of the lives of gifted children it would be to do away with the test as the single way of determining whether or not a child is gifted. Um, I think that until we are able to put that particular method of identifying giftedness in its place and understand that it is still one piece of information, we will still by marred into the problems of trying to find the right test and the right, you know, whatever to identify students. So I think that that would be the one thing that I would hope that would go away. Um, I have—you asked me only one, I would like to tell you about two things. The second thing is to get people to understand the whole development. I would—I would want to invent this pill that would help people to understand that giftedness is developmental. It is not something that is bestowed upon one and so that every point along the way, they would adopt my “At PIT” theory and that means parents, teachers, and other people that come in—in contact with children would do whatever they can do at this point in time—that’s my “At PIT” theory—at this point in time to assist that child for the period of time that they have in moving to the next level. So to get—to invent that pill that would help people to understand the developmental nature of gifted and to get them to understand the period of time that they have to work with these children and to focus their energies on taking them to the next level, would be um my prime accomplishment in life.

Interdisciplinary collaboration. Um, in terms—OK, I’m going—how do I feel about interdisciplinary collaboration in education. Let me look at this in two kinds of ways. First of all you’re talking about just pulling a lot of disciplines together um because they, you know, are set with definitions of that, but in general that’s what we’re talking about. And I think it is just absolutely the way education should go. Education was not meant, I feel, to occur in boxes like math, and science, and English. I also was an old English teacher and um I also taught music and I use to use my music background to teach kids how to understand paragraph construction and also to teach them to understand things about appreciation. And I think any ways that we can help to break down those lines that divide curriculum into subject areas or content areas and help kids to understand learning across the broad spectrum of the experiences that they have, has to be the best thing