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GT Best Practices: Developing Specific Talents

May 1, 2011

by Kendra Rosenbaum

All too often, we speak and hear of “Best Practices” of gifted education without truly understanding what that means.  As a result, each of our Campus Reps has undertaken the challenge to evaluate and research the “Best Practices” (as based on the book, Best Practices of Gifted Education by Robinson, Shore and Enersen).  The following article is part of our 15 part series, GT Best Practices.

Kendra Rosenbaum is the Pinkerton campus rep, 2010-2011.

In the chapter on Developing Specific Talents in “Best Practices in Gifted Education, ” it is noted that talent development involves the individual, the home, the school, and the community.  However, the book is broken into sections, Home/Classroom/School.  The authors explain in the introduction, “…the research often focuses on one arena more than the others, so the practice is placed in the section where the actions are most likely to take place.”

Note: this topic is placed in the Home section.  From my reading and knowing the constraints of public schools especially, I can see why the authors would say this is most likely to take place at home.  Specific talent development is very much on an individual basis and is difficult to even “cluster” or “group” as even those with musical talent, for example, may excel in a variety of different instruments.  And, if an individual seems to be talented on the piano or keyboard, he/she could be more inclined to play by ear or more inclined to read music well.  Therefore, it is likely that parents/families play the most significant role in developing specific talents for an individual.

Factors that have been found to influence talent development

Note:  This data is based on different studies ranging from studying successful adults and what influenced them as children to studying what successful students do on a day-to-day basis.

  • Nurturing and supportive family
    • providing opportunities to study/experience
    • understanding that a child may identify profoundly with a talent area and be happy in it–not necessary to become alarmed about the intense interest or to worry about well-roundedness
  • Encounters with important teachers along the way
    • At a young age, it would be a supportive and encouraging teacher.  An example of what this might look like is noted below.

From article “ Significant social-emotional influences on the motivation of gifted students.  How can teachers foster healthy ‘hearts’ and ‘minds’? by Lynda Garrett from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Faculty of Education.

Being motivated to engage in learning, and experiencing success in learning, is also dependent on the extent to which the curriculum meets individual student needs. If gifted students are to display optimum levels of achievement motivation within the classroom, it is crucial that learning tasks incorporate optimal challenge and provoke positive responses in students (Hoekman, 2003). Experiencing success in tasks which incorporate appropriate challenge leads to an increase in self-concept, a sense of personal competence, and motivates a positive response in students to similar learning experiences (Sousa, 1995; Ainley, 2002). This is a crucial factor in developing specific talents within students, (bold added for emphasis) especially for those students with non-traditional talents. Success, as a result of a task incorporating an appropriate level of challenge, motivates students to take the initiative and set appropriate goals for themselves. Such success tends to enhance personal commitment to talent development (Feldhusen, 1996; Porter, 1997 b).

-At an older age, it might be more of a “taskmaster” teacher.

-Still later, it might be more of a master teacher or expert in the talent area.

  • Participation in competitions to try out one’s talent and develop a sense of standards.
  • Considering the talent area to be useful in the culture.
  • Exhibiting “learned habits” conducive to cultivating talent.

The topic of “learned habits” is addressed at length in a paper on personal talent presented by Sidney Moon at the 8th Annual Conference of the European Council for High Ability in October 2002.  It can be found here:

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