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Myths, Arguments and Red Herrings...

"Myth #1: They are aloof, proud of their own abilities, and care little for others.
Reality: Just like their non-gifted peers, some gifted children display these characteristics and some do not. This myth generally springs from the fear of the idea that if gifted children learned together, they would develop an attitude of elitism, superiority or condescension. However, gifted students who are grouped together in learning environments typically learn that they may understand some academic topics better than their peers than other topics (Fiedler, Lange & Winebrenner, 2002). Gifted students may find that learning together is a more humbling experience than learning in their typical classroom as they discover a more realistic assessment of their own abilities when compared to others of similar ability, and acknowledge that there are some students who are just as knowledgeable and experienced in topic areas or more so than they are"
Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Myths about Gifted Students
Select your myth, or scroll down and read them all...
 
All Kids are Gifted and other recurring Myths Tiger Moms
The Bell Curve Differentiation: Where's the research?
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) The Flynn Effect
Grouping and Tracking The Hurried Child
Multiple Intelligences Hothouse Kids

Myths of Giftedness

Top 10 Myths in Gifted Education 

 
All Children Are Gifted Recommended by Michael C. Thompson
The title pretty much says it all... but read on!  Also read his speech to the Indiana Association for the Gifted (IAGC) 1998 Annual Conference A Response to the "All Children are Gifted" Comment...
 
All Kids Are Gifted; A Sports Metaphor Recommended by Cathy Marciniak
Yup, the myth is back, and this response is better than ever!
 
Columbus Cheetah, Myth Buster Recommended on Sprite's Site
(Scroll to the bottom to start with Myth #1)  Disproving the top ten myths of giftedness via Stephanie Tolan's wonderful essay, Is It A Cheetah? Recommended
 
Competing with myths about the social and emotional development of gifted students Recommended by Tracy Cross
As a wise person (Lao Tsu) once said, "Nothing is more difficult than competing with a myth." Doing so, however, can create tremendous opportunities for people. Myth 1. Gifted students should be with students their own age...
 
The Concept of Grouping in Gifted Education In Search of Reality: Unraveling the Myths about Tracking, Ability Grouping and the Gifted Recommended by Ellen D. Fiedler, Richard E. LAnge and Susan Winebrenner, in Roeper Review  (available from Highbeam.com, by subscription, or free trial)
Research offers answers to many common myths.  Myth #2: Ability grouping is elitist.  Myth #3: Ability grouping inevitably discriminates against racial and ethnic minority students.  Myth #4: Gifted students will make it on their own; grouping them by ability does not result in improved learning or achievement for them.  Myth #6: Assuring that there are some gifted students in all classrooms will provide positive role models for others and will automatically improve the classroom climate...
 
Distinguishing Myths From Realities: NRC/GT Research Recommended by Marcia Gentry and Karen Kettle
This quick summary dispels, with research citations, many of the major myths about educating gifted children!
 
Myths about Gifted Students Recommended by Joyce VanTassel-Baska
Top ten myths and their realities, including references and resources.  #1 They are aloof, proud of their own abilities, and care little for others.  #3 They do not need special programs as they will be able to perform at high levels regardless.  #5: They benefit from being the second teacher in the room, tutoring others in greater need than themselves. And, Myth #6: They work well in randomly assigned groups to ensure that the work gets done correctly... (requires Adobe Reader)
 
The Myths of Gifted Education: A Contemporary View Recommended an issue of NAGC's Gifted Child Quarterly (FREE for a limited time)
More than 25 years after myths about gifted education were first explored in GCQ, all 15 myths of 1982 are still with us and new ones have been added. ...
 
The Ridiculous Things I Heard Today rolling eyes collected by Carolyn K.
And a very positive response... One Thing We'd Like To Tell The Teachers Of Our Gifted Children...
 
Welcome to Lake Woebegon, where 100% of children are in the top 2.5% Recommended by Carolyn K., Hoagies' Nibbles and Bits
100% of children are in the top 2.5% of children. It sounds ridiculous when it's stated mathematically, but you hear it often in its common form: "All children are gifted." No matter how you say it, it is still nonsense...
 
Common Gifted Education Myths National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)
The most common myths, and the facts to match! about gifted children... slightly different myths than the ERIC Fact Sheet below
 
Common Myths About Gifted Students (ERIC Fact Sheet)
The most common myths, and the facts to match! about gifted children...
 
Developing Mathematical Talent: They Don't Have to Be Bored to Tears by Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, director of the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary and Secondary Students (C-MITES)
Beginning with the common myths, and moving to identification and programming, Lupkowski-Shoplik offers a comprehensive in-service for teachers of math-gifted students K-12... (requires Adobe Reader) Watch and listen to Dr. Shoplik's entire presentation "live" via Illuminate Live!  Visit PAGE online professional development...
 
Home Room: Debunking the myths of home schooling by Lisa Rivero
There is much more to the home schooling story than the mainstream media is telling you. Why people just like you teach their kids at home...
 
In search of reality: unraveling the myths about tracking, ability grouping, and the gifted by Susan Winebrenner, Roeper Review (available for a fee from Highbeam.com)
The antitracking movement has suddenly become anti-ability grouping, resulting in serious side-effects for gifted students who currently are being served effectively in ability-grouped programs that consistently meet their needs. Closer scrutiny of the research frequently cited reveals commonly-held misinterpretations and misconceptions...
 

The Bell Curve

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard J. Herrnstein
Offering a startling perspective on the social and economic problems of contemporary America, a controversial study examines the relationship between ethnicity and intelligence.

While this book and others like it are often used to 'prove' that so many gifted, highly gifted, and profoundly gifted kids cannot exist, this book, and its underlying premise of a Bell Curve distribution for intelligence, is not borne out in research. A trimodal distribution, with secondary curves at both ends of the spectrum, appears more likely, according to many researchers. And study after study show that wealth and social background have nothing to do with intelligence, as The Bell Curve implies and states. In fact, gifted children, gifted people, occur in all sectors of the population, and occur more often in the larger middle and lower class sectors, than the supposedly privileged upper class described in The Bell Curve.

Differentiation: Where's the research?

Former U. S. Commissioner of Education Sidney P. Marland, Jr., in his August 1971 report to Congress, stated,

"Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society" (Marland, 1972).

And the race was off... but... as a favorite commercial from the 70's asked "Where's the Beef?" we ask... Where's the research?

Differentiating Curriculum for Gifted Students (ERIC Digest #510) by Sandra Berger
Appropriately differentiated curriculum produces well-educated, knowledgeable students who have had to work very hard, have mastered a substantial body of knowledge, and can think clearly and critically about that knowledge (but no research)
 
Differentiated Instruction by Tracey Hall, CAST National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum
Differentiated Instruction is a teaching theory based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms... (other links in article, but not to research)
 
Differentiating Instruction for Advanced Learners in the Mixed-Ability Middle School Classroom (ERIC Digest #536) by Carol Ann Tomlinson
Key principles for differentiating instruction, with an emphasis on the learning needs of academically advanced learners (but no research)
 
Preparing Teachers for Differentiated Instruction What the Research Says by John H. Holloway
How can teachers be helped to acquire these skills and implement them in their classrooms?  Problems with Preservice Training... The Importance of Training and Support... (but no research)
 
Research Evidence for Differentiation by Carol Ann Tomlinson
Recent studies of a model of differentiation that employs attention to readiness, interest and learning profile also point to positive achievement results for students taught with the model when compared to students not taught by the model.  In the end, however, it is always critical to note there is little magic in a word, including “differentiation...”
 
Now here's some research!  Bored? by Anna Gosline, in Scientific American
Boredom is not merely an inherent property of the circumstances, researchers say. Rather this perception is subjective and rooted in aspects of consciousness. Levels of boredom vary among people: some individuals are far less prone to ennui than others—and some, such as extroverts, are more susceptible to this feeling... Battling boredom, researchers say, means finding focus, living in the moment and having something to live for!

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel P. Goleman
Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why. Amazon.com link

While Goleman claims his theories are all based on research, this expose of his book shows that the researchers who came up with the idea of Emotional Intelligence were talking about something completely different than what Goleman has turned it into:
 

Promotional intelligence by Annie Murphy Paul, in Salon.com
When the two scientists who invented the concept of emotional intelligence loaned the idea to New York Times science writer Daniel Goleman, they never dreamed it would become a cottage industry.

If its author was surprised by the success of "Emotional Intelligence," the original researchers were amazed. But their initial thrill at the book's celebrity soon gave way to dismay. Goleman had distorted their model in disturbing ways... Upon seeing the book, and especially the comparison to IQ, Mayer says that his first reaction was: "This is not the case, this isn't true." "The claims made for emotional intelligence were unrelated to anything we have ever claimed," Mayer states flatly. In particular, the assertion that emotional intelligence is more valuable than IQ in predicting success "is nothing that you will ever find in anything we wrote."

The Flynn Effect

How legitimate is the Flynn effect for the gifted? Recommended by John D. Wasserman, George Mason University
Flynn effect has not yet been adequately demonstrated for all levels of ability; there is some support for its validity with low ability individuals (e.g., those with intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities) but there is no substantive evidence for its validity with high ability individuals (particularly those who are intellectually gifted)...  Also read We are about as smart as we're going to get, says IQ pioneer by Flynn himself...
 
Rising Scores on Intelligence Tests
American Scientist article explains the Flynn Effect of rising IQ scores (1997)
 
Smart as We Can Get?: Gains on certain tests of intelligence are ending in some places Recommended David Schneider, American Scientist
Psychometricians have long been aware of a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—a widespread and long-standing tendency for scores on certain tests of intelligence to rise over time. And now they have another curiosity to ponder: The tendency for intelligence scores to rise appears to have ended in some places. Indeed, it seems that some countries are experiencing a Flynn effect with a reversed sign...
 

Grouping and Tracking

Using Current Research to Make Good Decisions About Grouping Recommended by Karen B. Rogers, in NASSP Bulletin - no longer available free, but available for a fee from Sage Publications
High-ability and gifted students tend to benefit most from like-ability grouping, because the strategy provides them with the opportunity to access more advanced knowledge and skills and to practice deeper processing.  Guidelines include:
• Group gifted students by their ability or achievement levels for the majority of their school day in all academic core areas.
• Provide enrichment opportunities, carefully differentiated learning experiences, and acceleration opportunities to gifted students; Grouping alone does not produce a substantial achievement effect
Use whole group and mixed-ability group methods (such as cooperative learning) sparingly and perhaps only for socialization purposes. There is no well-controlled research evidence to suggest any achievement effect for this form of grouping with either highly able or gifted students.
 
Promoting 'relational equity' and high mathematics achievement through an innovative mixed ability approach by Jo Boaler, Stanford University
An interesting study, but with many fatal flaws... like having the good teaching methods used only in the non-ability-grouped classroom...  Read Does Ability Grouping Harm Students? by Laura Vanderkam for an explanation of the flaws...
 
Tracking by Robert E. Slavin
Slavin's research is often thrown up as a red herring, but those who do this fail to mention (or are unaware themselves of) a few details about his work:
• Slavin not only didn't study ability grouping in his big landmark research projects, he never studied gifted kids at all. The top and bottom percentiles of the student population were excluded from the research. So were most of the real problem kids who are now mainstreamed.
• When Slavin talks about "high ability" students in his research, he's talking about the entire upper third of the kids in a school MINUS the top 2-3%, i.e. high achieving but not gifted!
• Slavin, in later writings, favors subject and grade-level acceleration for gifted kids.
These are rough, though accurate, notes. I'll add direct quotes from Slavin's research, and web references if I find them, when I have a chance. Carolyn K.

 
The Tracking and Ability Grouping Debate by Tom Loveless, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Slavin and Kulik agree that studies of within-class ability grouping are positive.  They also agree that cross-grade ability grouping boosts achievement in elementary schools.  In short, Slavin and Kulik validate the most widely used forms of ability grouping at the elementary level. Ability grouping promotes achievement, and no particular group of children—high, middle, or low ability—misses out on the gain.
The analysts diverge on between-class grouping, or tracking.  XYZ studies show no difference between ability grouped and ungrouped students.  But since all levels of XYZ typically studied an identical curriculum, Kulik argues that its negligible effect on achievement is not surprising.  When the curriculum is altered, tracking appears to benefit high ability students. Heterogeneous classes appear to benefit low ability students but may depress the achievement of average and high achieving students. 
Does tracking harm black students? A telling answer is found in African-American parents’ attitude toward tracking. A study conducted by the Public Agenda Foundation found that "opposition to heterogeneous grouping is as strong among African-American parents as among white parents, and support for it is generally weak." If tracking harmed African-American students, one would not expect these sentiments.
 
The Tracking Wars: State Reform Meets School Policy by Tom Loveless
Past condemnations are easy to understand, but today's tracking functions differently.  Grouping takes place within each subject, not across an entire regiment of academic courses.  Track assignments are guided by successful completion of prerequisite courses, not by IQ tests...

The Hurried Child

The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon by David Elkind
Elkind calls attention to the crippling stresses on children forced to grow up too fast, children mimicking adult sophistication while secretly yearning for innocence. This resource is not available to read on the Internet; the link points to Amazon.com, where you can order a copy of this book, or collect information for inter-library loan

Many professional educators cite David Elkind's book as reasoning against allowing gifted children to learn at their own pace, often wrongly assuming that our children's learning pace is somehow a result of parental pressure. But Dr. Elkind himself speaks out against this application of his work, in his article Acceleration Recommended:

"Promotion [in grade placement or subject matter] of intellectually gifted children is simply another way of attempting to match the curriculum to the child's abilities, not to accelerate those abilities. Accordingly, the promotion of intellectually gifted children in no way contradicts the accepted view of the limits of training on development, nor the negative effects of hurrying. Indeed, the positive effects of promoting intellectually gifted children provide additional evidence for the benefits of developmentally appropriate curricula." Elkind, David (1988) Acceleration Recommended. [Full text right here on Hoagies' Page, kind thanks to Dr. Elkind!] Young Children, 43(4),2.
Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 : A Resource for Parents and Teachers by Chip Woods
Yardsticks provides easy reference to expectations about children's growth and development in the classroom, and is used as "evidence" against acceleration.  But in a very small note on a single page, Yardsticks suggests that kids do not all pass through these stages at the same time...

Multiple Intelligences

Applying Multiple Intelligences To Gifted Education: I'm Not Just an IQ Score! by Colleen Willard-Holt and Dan Holt
Demonstrates how to apply Professor Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory to educating gifted children
"Much nonsense has been written about multiple intelligences theory in general, and about its relation to gifted education, in particular. This book is serious and sensible; it helps in the effort to use ideas of multiple intelligences constructively in an important and contentious area of education." Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University
Recounting Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
An Excerpt from a Speech by Hobbs Professor Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education, October 1, 2003

“Multiple intelligences” should not in and of itself be an educational goal.

I can say with equal confidence that in light of the findings of the last two decades, the biological basis of MI theory needs urgently to be brought up to date.  It is time to revisit the issue of the relationship between general and particular intelligences.

...there may be evidence for genes that contribute to unusually high IQ, as there clearly are genes that cause retardation. And our own case studies of unusually high performances suggest a distinction between those who (like musicians or mathematicians) are outstanding in one area, as opposed to those generalists (politicians or business leaders) who display a relatively flat profile of cognitive strengths.

...I would like to rethink the nature of intelligence with respect to our new biological knowledge...

(Full speech available, click for Adobe Reader)
 

Reframing the Mind by Howard Gardner
In the end, Gardner’s theory is simply not all that helpful. For scientists, the theory of the mind is almost certainly incorrect. For educators, the daring applications forwarded by others in Gardner’s name (and of which he apparently disapproves) are unlikely to help students...

Hothouse Kids

Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart
Quart's follow-up to Branded shifts her focus from rapacious companies to parents, whose obsession with "creating" or "nurturing" giftedness, she argues, has led to a full-blown transformation of middle-class childhood into aggressive skill-set pageantry. Quart shows how gifted childhood—relentlessly tested, totally overscheduled and joylessly competitive—is being created by striving parents of all stripes... or does she?
 
The Dilemma of the Instant Expert: Or, how a childless writer with no experience as an educator nevertheless decides to tell parents of gifted children where they've gone wrong a critique by Sarah Garrison
The growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, and the sorry state of public education, are huge topics meriting careful examination and exploration. While such an exploration could have been the focus of Quart’s new book, the author chooses instead to attack modern parents – especially white, upper-middle-class parents – for what she seems to view as their responsibility for the children who are being left behind as well as those who are being pushed to get ahead.
 
Vilifying the segment of society that is most able to mobilize and advocate for the benefit of all children serves no purpose and is of no benefit. As the author is well-aware, gifted children are seen as undeserving of assistance, and her castigation of the more well-off families merely perpetrates that myth, despite her intentions to raise up the under-privileged...

Tiger Moms

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
All good parents want to do what's best for their children. "Tiger Mother" reveals that the Chinese have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence...
 
Is Being a Tiger Mom Really the Best Example of Good Parenting? by Kevin Arnold, in Psychology Today
There are two reasons I believe the Tiger Mom can claim success. First, she defines success narrowly, as achievement and well controlled behavior. Second, she's unyielding. As a psychologist, I know most research says that even unhealthy parenting, delivered consistently, can be better than inconsistent parenting...
 

Last updated March 25, 2014
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