Friday, June 17, 2011

Sometimes gifted kids say it best...

I can't think of a better way to sum up Gifted Awareness Week than by sharing with you the joy of this wee fellow. Enjoy.  --->   Which hand should I hold the baton in?

Monday, June 13, 2011

NZ Gifted Students World beaters – AGAIN!

How timely! 

In Gifted Awareness week we get the news that New Zealand students have taken out 13 of the top places in the International Finals of the Future Problem Solving Program (FPS) held in the USA over the weekend. Personally, I’m not at all surprised.

Since the early 1990s when NZ first started competing internationally, New Zealand students have consistently demonstrated that they  have what it takes to cut it with the best on an international stage. Coached by dedicated, top-rate teachers, these students return year after year with a sense of awe and wonder after mingling with and succeeding against over 2000 finalists in this highly challenging program.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, it has several components.  Two are centred around a problem solving model developed by E. Paul Torrance several decades ago which he intended should provide the type of challenge for gifted students that other programs lacked. One component is the Global Issues Problem Solving, a theme-based, two hour written futuristic scene that needs solving (the team booklet competition); the other is Community Problem Solving, wherein groups of students research a community problem, and design and implement a plan of action to tackle that problem.  Both are primarily team events, but some individuals choose to compete on their own.

Another component requires that students competing in the team booklet competition present their Plan of Action in a live stage presentation. This is yet another aspect of FPS that has enormous value.  The best idea in the world will fall on fallow ground if you don’t have the skills to convince others of its worth. Time and again I have seen quiet, introverted students blossom as they pushed themselves to achieve in the unfamiliar territory of stage presentation. Academic learning is important, but well-rounded gifted individuals need public speaking and presentation skills.  

Scenario Writing is another component of the program that gifted writers like to compete in. The program is also offered non-competitively for students from Primary, Intermediate and Secondary schools. Competitive divisions range for Yrs 5 through to Yr 13 in Junior, Middle or Senior sections. Many senior students so value the program they become FPS coaches in their senior years, and work with younger students.

All New Zealand contestants have to prove themselves nationally against the competitors before winning the right to compete at the International Finals in the USA each year.  Congratulations to the following schools for their success:

Oturu School, KeriKeri Primary, Mission Heights Junior College, Cobham Intermediate, Selwyn House, Nelson College, Tauranga Boys / Tauranga Girls.

We are proud of your hard work and resulting success :).   I hope you get the press you deserve. I know if you were a sports team you'd be well and truly trumpeted.  Let's hope our media are more receptive to success in intellectual and creative pursuits during Gifted Awareness week.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gifted Awareness Week – What Value Giftedness?

What value is giftedness if it doesn’t benefit the world in some way?  Whether it be for an improved social condition, a work of great beauty, or the righting of a social injustice, the great among us are valued not for what they achieve for themselves, but for the difference they make to the world they live in.  They lead by example, and inspire others to follow. In the words of Jesse Jackson, “leadership cannot just go along to get along. Leadership must meet the moral challenge of the day”.

Gifted learners have characteristics that can and should benefit society. They:

• can have high sensitivity and intense emotional response;
• can be deeply perceptive;
• may be driven by a deep sense of right and wrong;
• may be perfectionist, and/or highly idealistic;
• are often deeply concerned by community and/or world issues
• are quick to identify problems, and can generate and implement solutions

Many a parent has witnessed first-hand the deeply-felt concern that a gifted youngster expresses over social issues and injustices that their age peers are not necessarily even aware of, let alone concerned about. Teachers with the ability to engage a gifted student in discussion about deeper issues they are feeling strongly about soon realise there is a whole heap of stuff going on beneath those apparently calm waters.

Is sensitivity and passion something we want ‘cured’? Should we be telling them to ‘harden up’ and focus solely on their academic achievement? No! This is something to be nurtured and valued. These are our leaders of tomorrow!  The social-emotional characteristics of gifted learners, when carefully nurtured, can empower students to take charge of their learning, and become self-directed, motivated innovators of social change. In gifted education we refer to the gifted individual’s ‘global awareness’. 

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What does this mean for our classrooms? A lot of focus upon higher order thinking certainly benefits gifted learners, but often there is little or no deliberate focus upon affective thinking. 

Mathew Lipman coined the term Caring Thinking and argued that it is the third prerequisite to higher-order thinking (the other two being critical and creative thinking). Whilst Bloom’s taxonomy identifies three aspects of higher-order thinking (the analytical, the synthetic or creative, and the evaluative), none of these directly address affective thinking. If we only focus on critical and creative thinking much of the thinking that is taught includes affective thinking by accident rather than by design.  A vague inclusion of aspects of affective thinking is not good enough!
One might nominate critical thinking as the truth-seeking aspect and creative thinking as the meaning-seeking aspect. But what aspect of high-order thinking is especially concerned with the dimensions of values?
- Lipman, (1995).

Why is affective thinking important?
Gifted and talented students are in all classrooms; some are gifted affective thinkers; others aren’t, but need to be. Many will bear the responsibility of shaping their nation’s future, and therefore both implicit and explicit teaching of high level thinking skills is fundamental to the development of all gifted students. All students need affective thinking tools. Moral and ethical personal growth is a developmental process, and ‘caring thinking’ is valued by all cultures in our communities. More than any other model, Lipman’s Caring Thinking can promote global awareness and support authentic learning.

Our actions follow directly upon our emotions.
One hates, one behaves destructively, one loves, one behaves amicably.
Consequently, if we can temper the antisocial emotions, we are likely to be able to temper the antisocial conduct, -Lipman, (1998).

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