In Yun Dai’s and Renzulli’s (Yun Dai & Renzulli, 2008) article, there are many salient points that explain the complicated nature of giftedness. Students who exhibit giftedness are complex with many competing needs that sometimes hinder or promote their success. Therefore, it is urgent to note these conflicting factors and to facilitate the students so that they can excel in school.
The metaphor of the gifted student being like a snowflake in the article does not go unnoticed. While there are many structural similarities between how different snowflakes develop from ice crystals and grow over time, each one is also very different in its eventual outcome. Along the same lines, one should not expect too much similarity in the way each student performs and grows. “Living systems share one thing in common with snowflakes: They self-assemble and self-organize” (Yun Dai & Renzulli, 2008, p. 115). In biology, this idea refers to the physical developments that make each person similar and yet unique, one can also extend it to the notion that our psychological and educational development is equally unique and individualized. Therefore, one should endeavor to differentiate for each child—including/especially gifted children—in order to match their learning preferences and developmental differences. As a result of this model for education in general, and giftedness specifically, it is important for teachers of gifted students to individualize their pedagogy and information to align with the student’s proclivity toward those items—as described by the authors—that fall into his/her maximal grip and personal interests. It is also important to realize that these things may change over time because “…manifested gifts and talents are emergent properties of person-task transactions over time” (Yun Dai & Renzulli, 2008, p. 116). That means that giftedness can appear over time in an area of strong interest and maximal grip and it may last for an undetermined period of time. Therefore, it is important to try and keep the incidence of such gifted learning engaging to get the most potential from the work. In the art room, for example, some students will experience a period of giftedness related to a specific topic or technique that they grasp more readily than other students. The difficulty for the teacher is sustaining the interest and supporting the growth over extended period of time to expand the skill to other areas of art.
One area where the article seems to be at variance with the Florida’s plan for educating gifted students is in the identification process. Florida states that IQ testing is the best, most unbiased method for determining giftedness and the eligibility for gifted programming in school (Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction Division of Public Schools, 2010). The report says that an IQ of 130 or higher, which is two standard deviations higher than average, is required for students to receive gifted services with some exceptions made available to the districts to include underrepresented populations (p. 7). Aside from the fact that this rule differentiates gifted qualification based on race and socioeconomic status, it is also a fundamentally incorrect way to look at giftedness if the goal is to help maximize the education process for students. According to Yun Dai and Renzulli (2008), the CED model proves that giftedness is not a static determination. People with similar IQ status have vastly different sub tests and therefore, different ranges of abilities in alternate content areas. In the CED model, the system is dynamic accounting that people perform differently based on task and learning environment; so, it is a more inclusive system where gifted traits can appear to almost any student in a particular topic or area of study rather than looking at the overall potential of the student. The authors do acknowledge that the different models are seeking different information. “In short, the CED model is more concerned with explicating developmental processes than with individual trait descriptions; the two may have differing theoretical interests and practical utilities (p.126). In the Florida model, the state is clear from the first page of the report that its goal and preoccupation is maximizing the number of higher proficiency scores in order to develop stronger “…interest for businesses hoping to expand or to relocate in the state” (Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction Division of Public Schools, 2010, p. 1). They see higher summative test scores as a way to lure business with the promise of a more talented potential employee pool than they are about actually maximizing the performance of gifted and talented students for the students’ own sake. There interest in the gifted population is as a means for increasing state revenues. That is unfortunate.
If the concern is about giving all students their best opportunity for expanding their individual potential for real learning, then the CED model will help describe how to maximize that potential. Rather than the memory-based learning that goes on in the typical classroom, all gifted and talented children—regardless of IQ—need to have the opportunity to do more creative and productive work. Yun and Renzulli (2008) write, “In the context of formal education, the tension between innovation and conventional expertise is the same as between schoolhouse giftedness and creative productive giftedness…there is no single benchmark, such as IQ, that can capture the complexity and diversity of the phenomena” (p. 125). In other words, giftedness is far more complex than a simple IQ test can determine. There needs to be other ways to educate children in more challenging and engaging environments for all abilities. Gifted education should be more about the style of teaching and learning than it is about the initial overall potential of each student.
Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction Division of Public Schools. (2010). Florida’s plan for K-12 gifted education. Tallahasee, FL: Florida Department of Education.
Yun Dai, D., & Renzulli, J. S. (2008). Snowflakes, living systems, and the mystery of giftedness. Gifted Child Quarterly , 52 (2), 114–130.