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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
about Gifted Students
Select your myth, or scroll down and read them all...
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...
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
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)
100% of children are in the top 2.5% of children. It sounds ridiculous
when it is 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...
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
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...
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.
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"
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?
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 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
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
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!
Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or
virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why.
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:
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."
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)... [many
are about as smart as we're going to get, says IQ pioneer by Flynn
There is one way an individual can walk a personal path to enhanced
cognitive skills. He or she must internalize the goal of seeking challenging
cognitive environments -- seeking intellectual challenges all the way from
choosing the right leisure activities to wanting to marry someone who is
intellectually stimulating. Better off still are those who develop a certain
kind of character formation -- a character such that I carry about within
myself a stimulating mental environment I myself create...
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...
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.
• 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.
An interesting study, but with many fatal flaws... like having the good
teaching methods used only in the non-ability-grouped classroom...
Ability Grouping Harm Students? by Laura Vanderkam for an explanation of
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
• 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
• 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.
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
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.
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...
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:
"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
[Full text right here on Hoagies' Page, kind thanks to Dr. Elkind!] Young
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...
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
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
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
...I would like to rethink the nature of intelligence with
respect to our new biological knowledge...
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...
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
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
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...
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