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Different views about and conceptions of intellectual giftedness are discussed in this chapter, including the work of Sternberg, Gardner, Renzulli, Reis, and other new and emerging theorists. Four case studies of diverse students with intellectual gifts and talents are used to summarize the challenges in defining, identifying, and providing programs for these students, particularly those from culturally diverse backgrounds and with both gifts and disabilities, called twice exceptional (2E) students. Characteristics of various students with intellectual giftedness are summarized, as are interventions in the areas of acceleration and enrichment, both widely used in the field of gifted education. The chapter concludes with a call for educators to challenge and engage academically talented and high-potential learners, and the importance of the development of a continuum of services in schools, with services focusing both on students’ academic needs and social and emotional needs.
This chapter will deal with two aspects of providing teachers with guidance about encouraging more creative thinking in their classrooms. The first part will focus on a few basic principles and strategies underlying creativity training and how these principles and strategies can lead us in the more practical task of developing creativity- training exercises. This section uses a “learn-by-doing” approach and will prepare you for the more advanced challenge of developing your own activities.
The second part of the chapter focuses on using the basic principles of creative thinking to develop your own activities. In this section you will be asked to examine any and all topics that are part of the regular curriculum or prescribed curricular standards and to design and infuse creative thinking activities into standards based curricular topics. This section is purposefully designed to develop your own creativity, and by so doing you will not only be enriching the regular curriculum for your students but also modeling the creative process for them.
PART 1: BASIC PRINCIPLES AND START-UP ACTIVITIES
Three Major Starting Points. Although a great deal has been written about fostering creativity in classrooms, relatively few basic teaching strategies have been effective in encouraging creative development. The starting point for teachers who would like to promote more creative behaviors in their students is a basic understanding of the difference between convergent and divergent production. In most traditional teaching-learning situations, major emphasis is placed on locating or converging on correct answers. Teachers raise questions and present problems with a predetermined response in mind, and students’ performance is usually evaluated in terms of the correctness of a particular answer and the speed and accuracy with which youngsters respond to verbal or written exercises. Thus, the types of problems raised by the teacher or textbook and the system of rewards used to evaluate student progress cause most youngsters to develop a mindset that is oriented toward zeroing in on the “right” answer as quickly and efficiently as possible. Although this ability has its place in the overall development of the learner, most teachers would agree that impressionable young minds also need opportunities to develop their rare and precious creative thinking abilities.
The September 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine was dedicated to “America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences” – 37 people under the age of 36 who are making names for themselves and are well on their way to eminence in their fields. Most of them can trace their passion and career focus to a few key experiences. Cristián Samper, for example, Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, says in his editorial introduction,
My own love of science came from a love of nature. As a Boy Scout, I camped and hiked in Colombian rain forests, returning home eager to organize my collections of plants and animals.…At 15, I joined ornithologist Jorge Orejuela on a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) summer expedition to the remote rain forests in the Choco region of Colombia. This was my first experience in hands-on fieldwork, and as I saw scientific data, field observation, conservation biology and environmental policy all coming together, I was hooked.
(Smithsonian Magazine, 2007, p. 3)
The unfortunate truth is that schools are not places where youngsters gain these kinds of experiences nor places where creativity thrives, especially in the current educational climate where the emphasis is on increasing the academic achievement of underperforming students (Renzulli, 2005; Robinson, 2001). Academic achievement has become the focus of most of the thought, finances, and energy expended in education, and yet, we have an ambiguous relationship with academic achievement.
The record of human accomplishments and the progress of civilization can, in many ways, be charted by the actions of history's most gifted and talented contributors to the arts, sciences, and all other areas of human performance. As early as 2200 B.C., the Chinese had developed an elaborate system of competitive examinations to select outstanding persons for government positions (DuBois, 1970), and down through the ages almost every culture has had a special fascination for persons who have made notable contributions to their respective areas of interest and involvement. The areas of performance in which one might be recognized as a “gifted” person are determined by the needs and values of the prevailing culture, and scholars and laypersons alike have debated (and continue to debate) the age-old issues of how certain human abilities, personalities, and environmental conditions contribute to what we call giftedness.
A fascination with persons of unusual ability and potential for extraordinary expertise in any and all fields of human performance has given rise to an area of study in psychology and education called gifted education. In a very general sense, this field focuses on two major questions:
What makes giftedness?
How can we develop giftedness in young people and adults?
The study of human creativity, although historically extensive, is in the midst of a second golden age as the century comes to a close. Authors and researchers from a variety of backgrounds publish hundreds of articles and books on creativity every year, conferences that cross disciplines frequently include sessions on creativity, and programs for increasing the creative productivity of young people and adults are introduced on a regular basis. And while several distinct approaches are used to examine creative phenomenon, a majority of work dealing with creativity relies on psychometric methods - the direct measurement of creativity and/or its perceived correlates in individuals.
Indeed, practically all current work on creativity is based upon methodologies that either are psychometric in nature or were developed in response to perceived weaknesses of creativity measurement. As such, the psychometric studies of creativity conducted in the past few decades form the foundation of current understandings of creativity. Yet the psychometric approach is significantly more complex and comprehensive than its critics (and many of its proponents) would have us believe, and alternatives to the psychometric approach are wrought with many of the same difficulties posed during the direct measurement of creativity. A thorough review of psychometric techniques for the study of creativity benefits both those individuals attempting to measure creativity and those individuals studying creativity via other techniques.
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