Monthly Archives: July 2016

Understanding the Intelligence of Black American Girls for Gifted Identification

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Evans-Williams (2014) wrote a journal article chronicling the specific challenges that the special population of Black American girls face for identification and retention in gifted and talented programs. Her article starts by looking at the statistics, showing that Black American girls are underrepresented by approximately 40% in current GT programs based on their numbers in the general population. That means that there were—at the time of publication—in excess of 100,000 students in this subgroup that are underserviced. Williams (2014) describes—according to the available literature—that cultural intelligences of being Black, being female, and also frequently falling into the low SES group as well are not valued in the selection process or curricular activities typically used to recognize and teach gifted and talented students. These additional intelligences as demonstrated by the subgroup include resiliency and developing a bicultural identity. This paper will explore these two kinds of intelligence, and suggest ways to raise their value in the GT selection process.

This article was chosen because it discusses three groups of students who are frequently biased against in the current system. African Americans and other Black Americans are among the lowest groups selected from regardless of gender or SES. There are a plethora of studies about the many causes of the achievement gap between Whites and Blacks in general, and that gap gets even wider when it comes to recognizing gifts and talents (U.S. Department of Education, 2009) (Carlton-Parsons, 2001) (Cavilla, 2013). Similarly, while it is popular to talk about how boys are now doing more poorly in school than girls, the truth is that any educational gains made by girls is not due to advantage or privilege built into the school community or curriculum as was the case for White boys. Rather, it is simply that, for a number of reasons, girls have raised their achievement levels (Mead, 2006). Closing a gap is not always about the group that is ahead losing skills or privilege. It can be, as in the case of overall achievement, that the lower group is making advancements. Yet, girls as a group are still underrepresented in gifted education programs. Finally, SES affects socialization, actualization, parental involvement, hierarchy of needs, and a wide variety of things that make children underperform in school (Beegle, 2003) (Payne, n.d.). Therefore, Black girls who come from low income families are battling all three biases built into the selection system (Evans-Williams, 2014). As a result, suggesting solutions to help these students will possibly have a positive affect on three underrepresented subgroups. That is why this study was selected for review.

Two areas of intelligence and talent that Evans-Williams (2014) discusses in her study are worth looking at for solutions. She cites several papers that suggest that Black American girls have superior resiliency over other subgroups. Resiliency comes from the fact that despite the cultural- and gender-related challenges they face, many go on to complete school successfully (Evans-Williams, 2014). Yet, how can one look at resiliency in terms of currently accepted identifiers for giftedness? Perhaps resiliency can be seen as a form of task commitment. According to Renzulli (n.d.) task commitment is one of three rings of giftedness that also include creativity and traditional intelligence. Typically, task commitment is about having the ability to concentrate one’s efforts to do in-depth work on a particular project. Resiliency, on the other hand, is about having the ability to make it through life. If educators begin to look at life for students as an ongoing project, then resiliency is a form of task commitment as it is responsible for meeting goals, much like the goal of completing an academic or creative project.
The other intelligence to consider is biculturalism (Evans-Williams, 2014). Accordingly, Black American girls have the ability to switch from their home and community culture to the White, middle-class, European-based, dominant culture of public schools and back again better than other subgroups. Payne (n.d.) suggests that code switching is a sign that a student understands that there are different cultural expectations in different situation. Like switching language registers when one is in different social groups, bi- or multi-cultural code switching suggests high awareness and intelligence. Therefore, as Evans-Williams (2014), it should be considered when selecting students for gifted and talented services.

Studying Black American girls is a good way to be able to untangle the weave of biases caused by being a part of two or three different underrepresented subgroups. As a result, Evans-Williams (2014) study is an important one for developing a discussion about the topic, and there should be additional studies with this group. Both resiliency and biculturalism are clearly kinds of intelligences that are not evaluated in current systems, which continues to have a White, male, European bias. Recognizing that these skills can be used for more advanced forms of intelligence and creativity, educators should add them to the more traditionally accepted educational values used in the selection and retention processes.


Beegle, D. (2003, October/November). Overcoming the silence of generational poverty. Talking Points, 15(1),


Carlton-Parsons, E. (2001, December). Using power and caring to meidate White male privilege, equality, and

      equity in an urban elementary classroom: Implications for teacher preparation. The Urban Review, 321–338.

Cavilla, D. (2013). Thoughts on access, differentiation, and implementation of a multicultural curriculum. Gifted

      Education International, 30(3), 281–287.

Evans-Williams, V. E. (2014). Are Black girls not gifted? Race, gender, and resillience. Interdisciplinary Journal

      of Teaching and Learning, 22–30.

Mead, S. (2006, June). The evidence suggests otherwise. Education Sector, 1–21.

Payne, R. (n.d.). Understanding and working with students and adults from poverty. Retrieved from Homepages

Renzulli, J. (n.d.). Renzulli’s three-ring conception of giftedness. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Achievement gaps: How Black and White students in public schools

      perform on the national assessment of educational progress. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences.
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 13, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , , , ,

Using Mediation in a Gifted Learning Program

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Since this class is about guidance and counseling of gifted learners, I decided to take a look at the process of mediation to determine how—if at all—it can be used to improve learning environments for gifted and talented students. This paper will start by briefly explaining the history and defining the role of a mediator in education, and then apply mediation theory to gifted education. I will also take a look at some of the relevant literature related to using mediation with gifted students.

The concept of mediation in education came about from Feuerstein’s work with students who survived the Holocaust (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007). Mediation is a rejection of the behaviorist ideas about learning. It builds on Piaget’s learning model where the learner is metaphorically placed between a stimulus and a response. In Piaget’s model, the lesson stimulus, whether it be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, reaches the learner who then responds by processing the materials. However, Feuerstein noticed that this model was somewhat deficient for his special learners—the survivors. Without parents or teachers to work as intermediaries between the stimulus and the learner during their formative years, the lesson delivered via a stimulus didn’t necessarily reach the student in a way that was useful. Additionally, once the lesson reached the child, s/he did not have the skills available to ensure a learning response. Therefore, Feuerstein postulated that in early learning, every stimulus and response needs a mediator until the child learns to do that on his/her own. “This mediator is a person who captures the stimuli that bombard a learner every day, strains the stimuli, and helps the children develop their own way of filtering those stimuli that promote learning from those that distract” (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007, p. 17). By that definition, certainly twice-exceptional students with specific learning disabilities—for example—who are distracted by the many stimuli in a classroom could use mediators to help them process information so they can weed out the distractions from the curriculum. Then, the mediator can help the student process the stimulus into a learned response.

Smith (2002) suggests that applying CBI, cognitive-behavioral interventions, for behavior deficits exhibited by gifted students can also help them learn how to use mediation to monitor and control their own behaviors. He writes, “CBI incorporates behavior therapy…and cognitive mediation (e.g., think-alouds) to build what can be called a new ‘coping template’” (Smith, 2002, para. 3). First the mediator teaches the child to process the negative stimulus that is causing the problematic behavior, and then s/he mediates the response for the student. As the child begins to learn how to use the mediating steps himself/herself, then the mediator is no longer needed and the child can use CBI to moderate and control negative behaviors without intervention.

While Feuerstein’s method of mediated learning was exclusively used in the beginning to work with children who never

had an adult to help them mediate stimuli and responses—and that is not necessarily the problem for gifted learners—there is a place for it in working with gifted and talented students. Twice-/multi-exceptional students may be bombarded by an influx of stimuli that they cannot successfully parse without having an active mediator. Also, gifted students who have behavior issues may learn to control them by using mediation through CBI. Therefore, there is good reason to practice mediation in gifted and talented programs along with guidance and counseling.


Rodriguez, E., & Bellanca, J. (2007). What is it about me you can’t teach?: An instruction guide for the

      urban educator (Second Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Smith, S. W. (2002, August). Applying cognitive-behavioral techniques to social skills instruction.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , ,

Career Counseling for the Creatively Talented Student

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

As an art and design teacher, it is important for me to consider what aspect of guidance and counseling for gifted and talented students applies most directly to my own classroom and students. While the social, emotional, and academic well-being of the students is a primary concern, career counseling may top them in that one of the important goals of—and justifications for—art and design education programs relates to career preparation. Further, counseling takes place in the present, but there are also long term goals that must be considered when working with students. Therefore, the topic of this paper is about the importance of counseling gifted and talented students about arts-related careers.

Parents and other adults often recommend that children should move their professional interests away from arts careers because they are concerned about the child being able to earn a proper living wage as an adult. In 2014, Graeme Payton, the Education Editor for The Telegraph newspaper wrote an article stating that, according to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, “…too many teachers are… [encouraging students to make art and humanities] choices at school that ultimately holds them back for the rest of their life” (Payton, 2014). Instead, Morgan suggested that students should be pushed more toward STEM careers. Two days later, Phelps (2014) responded in an editorial, citing much information about happiness leading to success, careers in the arts, and the percentages of top CEOs with arts and humanities degrees. This has been an ongoing debate for a long time. Is it appropriate to counsel children—even those with relevant, innate talents—to pursue arts education and art-related careers? How should one counsel these creative students in terms of making career choices? This paper will endeavor to answer some of those questions. </p?

First, to address Morgan’s concerns about the need for people in STEM careers, pursuing the arts is hugely helpful toward that goal. Specifically, engineers need to be able to design and innovate, and art and design skills are essential ingredients for good product development. Additionally, the main reason cited that companies hire outside consulting firms has become innovation, which is an offshoot of art and design. “The biggest single trend we’ve observed is the growing acknowledgment of innovation as a centerpiece of corporate strategies and initiatives. What’s more, we’ve noticed that the more senior the executives, the more likely they are to frame their companies’ needs in the context of innovation” (Kelley & Littman, 2001). Do they hire engineer firms or other STEM-related business for coming up with unique ideas? Sometimes, but more often the hire companies like IDEO—which is a design company—to help them think of innovative products and processes to help their companies grow. In the future, many of those innovations will come from within the company, and students with degrees in art and design will fit into those careers naturally.

This is an important concept for gifted and talented education and for those who counsel these students. Gifts and talents are great to have, but if they are not nurtured and practiced, they will not lead to lucrative careers. Arieti (1976) explains about the relationship between genius and talent. He claims that they are not the same, in fact they have an antagonistic relationship. However, the acknowledged genius—one who has superior gifts—also has talents that needs to be developed. Aritei (1976) writes, “But the genius also has talent, and the development of his talent enables him to objectify his creativity and render it permanent” (p. 341).
Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell (2008) discusses innate talent. He acknowledges its existence, but also says that it is not enough. Students with gifts and talents need to nurture and develop them in order to be successful. He cites evidence from a study conducted at Berlin’s Academy of Music that sought to determine what made the difference between talented amateur piano players and professional pianists. Regardless of gifts and talents exhibited early on, only those that put in at least 10 thousand hours of practice time were able to make the leap from sufficient to professional status. He writes

        The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works (Gladwell, 2008, p. 39)

Gladwell’s (2008) book cites examples over and over again from a wide range of professional fields that the difference between innate talent and professional-level skills is approximately 10 thousand hours of practice time utilizing those skills. We have students in gifted and talented programs with high IQs or extreme talents in many fields—including art and design—but if we do not counsel them to practice and perfect those skills, then their gifts may end up being squandered. Furthermore, gifted and talented students may have the task commitment that it takes to put in the 10 thousand hours of practice time, but if we do not specifically counsel them toward a profession in which their talent is useful and desired, then we may not be fully preparing them for college and career.

It is imperative that school counselors and content area teachers perform the role of career counselors as well. Mayes and Hines (2014) conducted a study about the importance of career counseling for African American girls who are identified as gifted and talented. They wrote, “…school counselors must facilitate college and career development activities and disseminate information to prepare gifted African American girls for postsecondary education” (p. 35). Their focus is specifically on African American girls because they are an underrepresented subgroup in gifted and talented programs and often ill prepared to succeed once they are selected based on biases built into the system. However, the point in their paper about counseling applies not only to the students in their study, but also to all gifted and talented students in general who need career goals in order to develop their talents into professional-level skills. The study continues about how children should be counseled to foster career development. Career assessment tools can be used to “…help students match their personalities with potential jobs, careers, college majors, etc.” (p. 37). This may be a key to understanding that aside from the few students who have overall giftedness, most students have talents in specific areas. Those who are talented in the arts and design should be identified and encouraged toward careers in that direction.

Similarly, Elijah (2011) writes about the main functions of a school counselor for gifted and talented students saying counselors should, “…monitor student academic progress and provide guidance with appropriate course selection, career planning, post-secondary educational options, and special programs and enrichment opportunities” (p. 5). Wood (2009) suggests that that career counseling may be even more important for students who are multitalented or overall gifted. These students have a richness of possibilities from which to choose. They may be drowning in career choices, and this multiplicity of choice may cause them to freeze due to the “Fear of making the ‘wrong’ decisions, not finding the ‘right’ college, fear of disappointing others, or failure to find the ‘perfect’ career [which] may create procrastination of the college and career search or the choice of a ‘safe’ college major” (p. 8). However, if Gladwell (2008) is correct, then the students need to make an early choice to get that professional level of practice and talent development. Therefore, they need to be counseled toward one of the many possible gifts and talents in order to meet their potential. There simply is not enough time to develop multiple talents to professional level, and trying may make it that none of the students gifts are adequately strengthened through practice. Alternatively, making a safe career choice in the case of gifted students is a form of underachievement; so, school professionals need to help the student understand that they have potential for much higher than making safe decisions. However, students also need to know that they may only be able to achieve professional-levels of talent if they are prepared to put in the work at an early age and to continue developing skills through college. For student’s whose strongest talents are in the arts, counselors and teachers should not shy away from making the development of those skills the focus of career training.

Gladwell (2008) concludes, “We are caught in the myths of the best and brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth” (p. 268). He cautions that although there is innate giftedness and talent, that if we do not recognize the need to nurture it, then it will never amount to more than it is. Success for gifted and talented students means that one needs to identify talents and potential early, and to provide means for putting in the hard work that is required to make that inborn-talent reach professional levels for the students to reach their potential. Even though many gifted students have the ability for great task commitment, they may become lost in the multiplicity of talents, or they may not see the benefits for developing talents in the creative arts. That is where school counselors and teachers can help these children realize that they need to foster and practice their talents, whatever those gifts are, if they want to become successful, professional adults.


Arieti, S. (1976). Creativity: The magic synthesis. New York: Basic Books Inc., Publishers.

Elijah, K. (2011). Meeting the guidance and counseling needs of gifted students in school settings. Journal of

      School Counseling, 9(14), 1–19.

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Back Bay Books; Little, Brown and Company.

Kelley, T., & Littman, J. (2001). The art of innovation: Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading

      design firm. New York: Doubleday.

Mayes, R. D., & Hines, E. M. (2014). College and career readiness for gifted African American girls: A call to

      school counselors. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 31–42.

Payton, G. (2014, November 10). Nicki Morgan: Pupils ‘held back’ by overemphasis on the arts. Retrieved from

Phelps, J. (2014, November 12). Young people should pursue what they enjoy. Retrieved from The Telegraph:

Wood, S. (2009). Counseling concerns of gifted and talented adolescents: Implications for school counselors. Journal of School Counseling , 7(1), 1–47.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2016 in art, Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , ,

Understanding the Needs of Twice-/Multi-Exceptional African American Students

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Over the course of studying about gifted students for the purpose of endorsement to work in a gifted environment, it became obvious that two groups were notoriously underrepresented through selection for gifted services more so than other subgroups. They include the twice- or multi-exceptional—those students who have gifts and talents, but also have one or more disability that inhibits academic performance—and students from minority cultures such as African or Hispanic Americans. The question arises: how are students who are both from a subdominant culture and also multi-exceptional affected in the process of being identified as gifted students? Additionally, are they are receiving services for both the exceptionality and giftedness once they have been selected? This paper will take a look at how one group of researchers attempted to answer these questions through a qualitative study involving eight, African American students who are also diagnosed as twice-exceptional.

In the Mayes, Hines, and Harris (2014) study, the sample students they used were all African American high school students with disabilities—ranging from specific learning disabilities to one student with a traumatic brain injury—all of whom had already been selected by their school for gifted designation based on non-academic skills and talents. That means, instead of having high testing scores or a strong record of classroom success, these adolescents had been identified based on specific talents such as visual arts, music, or dance, etc as identified by specialists in those areas within the school environment. Since they were already acknowledge as gifted, this study says little about the identification system, which is typically poor for both twice-exceptional and African American adolescents and children in general. However, the researchers were able to identify four main characteristics that this group experienced that could possibly jeopardize their success in school and into adulthood.

The first similarity is that while all of the students were identifed as gifted, seven out of eight were unaware of their gifted designation, while each knew that s/he had a disability. This is primarily due to their in school placement. Most of these students were in special education classes and none received even pull-out services for their gifts. Even though they were in a special needs class, these students felt that their teachers and tutors “…often overlooked the accommodations they needed” (p. 130). These were the accommodations for their disabilities that are written into each student’s IEP. The students were not even aware that they should have been receiving additional special services designed to encourage and enhance their gifts. Also, although each student identified at least one teacher or staff member who took special interest in them, most of the teachers in the system treated them with “…general rudeness and lack of connection…” (p. 130). These attitudes from the teachers and staff members may have contributed to a lack of services that the children received in school.

The second commonality for these students is they all experienced similar personal and social challenges. As was discussed in an earlier paper, children with disabilities tend to have low sociometric measures, which means that they are typically rejected by their classroom peers (Baydik & Bakkaloglu, 2009). The students in the study were not exceptions to the rule. The study reported, “…seven of the eight students shared that they were often bullied or teased by their peers, which in turn impacted their behavior at school” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 131). The increased negative behaviors tend to exacerbate the sociometry problem, and the problem increases (Baydik & Bakkaloglu, 2009). Additionally, many of the adolescents reported the need to try to hide their special education designation to avoid maltreatment from their peers. Furthermore, while African Americans are in the majority of students in their school’s population in this study, and these particular students also felt pride in their racial and cultural heritage, “…they also realized that they faced stereotypes both within the school and in the larger society” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). For example, the student with the traumatic brain injury reported that his teachers “…stereotyped him as ‘another black, lazy kid’…” because his injuries cause him to have more than average absenteeism (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). Along with the propensity for teachers to characterize twice-exceptional children only according to their disabilities—not by their gifts—these particular students were doubly stereotyped due to racial discrimination from the teachers and staff members (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014; Ford, 2010; Rizza & Morrison, 2003). This additional stereotype may account for why these studeents not only did not receive gifted enhancements to develop their talents, but they also lacked accommodations and services needed for their disabilities.

The next commonality between these students is that poor self-concept led them to worry about their future. While a number of these students mentioned that specific teachers encouraged them to take advantage of their gifts and talents through post-secondary education and training opportunities, the students lacked the self-confidence to believe that they could succeed in those programs. One student reported that despite his best efforts, he cannot read. Another stated that she was “…gravely concerned about her ability to be successful in community college. She was concerned that the professors would theink she was ‘dumb’ and that they wouldn’t accommodate her needs” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). Perhaps the stereotypes that these adolescents experienced due to their cultural and ability differences negatively affected their self-efficacy and self-concept to the point that it has nearly made it impossible for them to move on without significant intervention. Counseling could, perhaps, help with this problem.

The last similarity between the study subjects was that they all had “…limited interactions with their school counselors” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 133). The seniors had more contact with guidance than those in the lower grades simply due to the fact that the counselors were attempting to ensure that the students meet their requirements for graduation. However, one student reported that in her opinion “…her school counselor hindered her progress towards graduation due to lack of communication” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 133). She reported late responses and miscommunications that led to a lowing of her GPA.

Since this is a paper about curriculum, an attempt will be made to tie in possible curriculuar fixes that may help students like these become more successful. First, using a model of curriculum that is provided for the whole school may help teachers identify more of the students who lack the testing ability and/or are in traditionally under-identified groups, as is the case with these students. Therefore, using Renzulli’s Schoolwide Enhancement Model might be effective toward the goal of illuminating the skills of students with gifts that are not otherwise seen (Renzulli & Reis, n.d.). Additionally, this model has proven to be effective for both gifted and non-gifted students alike, so whether or not the students are identified, they will have curricular opportunities for enhancement and compacting (Van Tassel-Baska & Brown, 2007). By using tier II and tier III enhancements to enduce academic growth and successes, this curriculum may also help the study group’s self-concept and self-efficacy issues. While no curriculum will take away the stereotypes and prejudices that influence teacher and staff judgement or treatment by society at large, perhaps adopting a multicultural, responsive classroom model would also help reinforce that cultural difference based on deep cultural experiences are all equally valid. In doing so, perhaps the students will not develop defecit thinking that says that their own culture is inferior to the dominant American culture (Ford, 2010). If they can learn this from the curriculum, then they may be able to avoid some of the self-doubt that inhibits their success and the use their academic and creative gifts and talents by which to build a career.

Based on this study—which is very unique as I could not find another like it—there is clearly a need to do more research on how to use counseling and curriculum to help twice-exceptional students who are also not a part of the dominant culture. While these students have strong gifts, either academically or creatively, and tend to have good task commitment, they are frequently blocked from success due to a double experience of prejudice and stereotyping. Teachers need to do two things to help. First, we must build a culturally responsive class where every student can show his/her abilities in ways that are valid in that culture. Also, we need to provide the proper accommodations for the students’ disabilities so that the challenges do not mask the students gifts and talents. Additionally, counselors and giudance professionals should become more accessible and responsive to the special needs of these students for both accommodations and gifted services (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014). If those things can happen, there is a much higher chance that twice- or multi-exceptional students from subdominant cultures will meet their potential.


Baydik, B., & Bakkaloglu, H. (2009). Predictors of sociometric status for

      low socioeconomic stutus elementary mainstreamed students with and without special needs. Educational Sciences/Theory & Practice, 435–442.

Ford, D. Y. (2010). Underrepresentation of culturally different students in

      gifted education: Reflections about current problems and recommendations for the future. Gifted Child Today, 33(3), 31–35.

Mayes, R. D., Hines, E. M., & Harris, P. C. (2014). Working with twice-

      exceptional African American students: Information for school counselors. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 4(2), 125–139.

Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (n.d.). The schoolwide enrichment model:

Rizza, M. G., & Morrison, W. F. (2003). Uncovering stereotypes and

      identifying characteristics of gifted students and students with emotional/behavioral disabilities. Roeper Review, 25(2), 73–77.

Van Tassel-Baska, J., & Brown, E. F. (2007, January). Toward best practice:

      An analysis of the efficacy of curriculum models in gifted education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 342–358.
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , ,

Using Technology to Enhance Learning for Highly Gifted Students

Charles Sutton

Galileo School for Gifted Learning

Level 7 Learning

In studying the special population of gifted students termed as “highly gifted”—generally defined as having an IQ range higher than 138 depending on the testing instrument—it was apparent that these students needed even more academic challenges and enhancements than the more typically gifted students. Therefore, a search was conducted to see what kinds of accelerated curricular tools were being used to increase the quality of the learning experience without necessarily increasing the quantity of work on material that is already below their academic ability. This paper summarizes some of that research as it applies to using Internet and communication technology tools as academic enhancements to learning for these children.

Johnson (2008) introduces this topic saying, “Because of the limitless knowledge that is literally at your fingertips, the Internet can be an excellent tool for use with gifted students to differentiate curriculum within a general education setting and also in gifted education classes” (p. 58). He acknowledges that Web technologies can be excellent resources for extending a subject for gifted and highly gifted learners as there are a wide range of complexities that can be found covering nearly any topic. Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz (2014) concur saying, “Today’s adolescents represent the first generation of youth who have grown up since the emergence of digital technologies…they have at their fingertips more information than any generation in history” (p. 13). This proliferation of information comes with additional challenges as well, so the level of complexity of a project can be adjusted relative to the technology and information choices selected (Johnson, 2008).

Apart from the vast amount of information at varying levels of difficulty that is found on the Internet, the nature of the technology and the forms of literacy presented one the World Wide Web are deictic in nature; therefore, they are in a state of constant flux (Leu, Coiro, Casek, & Henry, 2004). The changing status of technology and sources alone can add levels of complexity to a gifted child’s ability for the parsing of materials without adding additional busy work. For example, learning how to use a new technology for additional search tools or navigating a website that uses horizontal scrolling methods may be sources of interest and investigation on their own. Not that these things should distract from the learning, but if used properly, they can add layers of interest and metacognition to any topic.

One challenge of using Internet sources is the difficulty with understanding reliability. For most teachers who did not grow up in the technology age, the problem of source reliability did not present itself often as our resource materials were generally approved from school and community libraries, encyclopedias, or academic periodicals. As a result, teachers may not be aware of the problem—or if they are aware, they may not consider using reliability of sources as another layer of complexity for research conducted via electronic mediums. New literacies experts believe that critical literacy—the ability to examine sources for reliability and credibility—is essential for online research and reading (Coiro, 2005; Biancarose, 2012; Pitcher, et al., 2010; Leu, Forzani, & Kennedy, 2014; Leu, Coiro, Casek, & Henry, 2004). To assist with the process of helping gifted students evaluate materials, Johnson’s (2008) article includes a “Web Site Evaluator” (p. 63–64) tool, which includes questions in five areas of concern that help students assess the value of the information. These areas include authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency—meaning how current the material is, not money, and coverage. Using these areas to evaluate resource materials helps gifted students compare the relative value of sources with divergent ideas about a topic so they can determine their own stance.

Johnson (2008) provides several online activities that can be used as enhancements for highly gifted children—or any students for that matter—when they are not being challenged by the regular curriculum. While the activities are valuable, the key to understanding why they can help raise the bar for gifted learning is not just the level of complexity of the learning materials, but also the nature of the Internet and communication technologies. They present multiple levels of complexity in new source materials, but since not all sources are equally trustworthy, they add additional difficulty to the assignment through the need to evaluate the reliability or each source before making decisions. Also, the ever changing, deictic nature of the technology and the Internet presents new levels of challenge for the gifted student. As Leu, Forzani, and Kennedy (2014) suggest, “It may be that a continuously shifting landscape of new literacies means that learning how to learn becomes more important than mastering a fixed and static set of literacy skills that will need to be continuously updated as new technologies appear” (p. 11). Therefore, one should think of technology-based learning as a shift from understanding content to metacognition. Giving highly gifted students the ability to not only think about academic materials, but the process of learning them in a modern era may enough of an enhancement to make mundane academic tasks take on new significance for them.


Biancarose, G. (2012, March). Adolescent literacy: More than remediation. Educational Leadership, 22–27.

Coiro, J. (2005). Making sense of online text: Four strategy lessons move adolescents beyond random surfing

      to using the Internet text meaningfully. Educational Leadership, 30–35.

Johnson, A. (2008). Internet strategies for gifted students. Gifted Child Today, 58–64. Retrieved from Eric


Leu, D. J., Coiro, J., Casek, J., & Henry, L. A. (2004). New literacies: A duel-level theory of the changing

      nature of literacy, instruction, and assessment. In R. B. Ruddel, & N. J. Unrau, Theoretical models and

      processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1150–1181). Newerk, DE.

Leu, D. J., Forzani, E., & Kennedy, C. (2014). Providing classroom leadership in new literacies: Preparing

      students for their future. In S. B. Wepner, D. S. Strickland, D. Quatroche, (Eds.), S. B. Wepner, D. S.

      Strickland, & D. Quatroche (Eds.), The administration and supervision of reading programs (5th ed., pp.

      1–16). New York: Teachers College Press.

Pitcher, S. M., Martinez, G., Diciembre, E. A., Fewster, D., & McCormick, M. K. (2010). The literacy needs of

      adolescents in their own words. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(8), 636–645.

Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J. L., & Mraz, M. (2014). Content area reading: Literacy and learning across the

      curriculum (11th ed.). Boston: Pearson.
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 10, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , , ,

Using Sequential Art for Narrative Therapy

Charles Sutton

Galileo School for Gifted Learning

Level 7 Learning

When writing the reflection for the topic of using narrative therapy with gifted students, the question arose that, if creating an narrative that externalizes one’s problems could allow the student/client to rewrite his/her own story to help determine a path to bypass the child’s problems, then perhaps, is it also possible to do the same thing through art using graphic novels or comics, which are highly narrative forms of sequential art? As a result of the question, searches were conducted for academic resources in ERIC and other search engines using the terms narrative therapy, graphic novels, comics, etc. While little exists about the particular topic, one research study was located that set out to determine whether sequential art could be used in a therapeutic setting based on the concepts of projection and narrative therapy. This paper will summarize the researcher’s findings and provide some additional insights from other sources.

Castle (2010) wrote his thesis based on personal and professional interest in therapy and comics. He conducted a literature search that did not yield much about using sequential art as a therapeutic tool. As a result, he put together a convenience sample grouping of therapists, professional artists, and graduate students—all of whom have an understanding about and interest in both therapy and art. He collected demographic data, and a developed a five-question survey designed to yield some qualitative and quantitative data that he could analyze to determine whether his theory—that sequential art could be used in the form of narrative therapy—could be confirmed. Before getting to his results and conclusions, it is constructive to see how visual storytelling through sequential art might be a valuable tool for therapists. Additionally, there should be some discussion about using this form of therapy with gifted students, as this was the point of my research.

For some gifted students, especially those who are twice-exceptional, writing long narratives may be too much of a difficult task to have therapeutic value. Therefore, finding non-verbal means of accomplishing the same task may be preferable to writing stories. Unlike traditional stories, which contain writing with possibly a few illustrations, comics generally require three parts. Potts (2013) defines comics as, “Narrative + Art + Visual Storytelling” (p. 14). Narrative is the story that is being told. Art in comics is usually drawings, paintings, or photos. Visual storytelling encompasses several factors

        • The visuals a comics creator choses to show (and not show)
        • The framing, angle, layout, and rendering of the visual elements
        • The juxtaposition, order, and sequence of the visual elements
        • The emphasis that the visual elements are given relative to one another (Potts, 2013, p. 14)

According to Castle (2010), in this very visual medium, the artist drawing the comic has the ability to not only tell the story s/he is drawing, but also to leave room for interpretation. He writes, “…between the panels in Sequential Art is a kind of creating from imagination that only comics provide” (p.66). In other words, the narrative value of comics, graphic novels, storyboarding, and other sequential art forms is that the drawing can bring attention to specific important events, but the reader is left more room for interpretation between the drawing panels by filling in the missing parts, making for a continuous sequence of events between the artist/storyteller and the consumer/reader. This is an important area for Narrative Therapy in that the narrative is both collaborative between the therapist and client. The therapist asks questions to help the client figure out the story, and having room to interpret between the panels can inspire the questions. Additionally, the client is asked to look for feedback from “other viewers” who have experienced similar problems. These viewers are invited to read the story or to watch the presentation of the narrative that the client has created and to make suggestions based on their own experiences. The space between the panels in sequential art leaves room for the viewers to expand the story to allow for solutions to be found by the client within the feedback. This feedback is important for use in rewriting the story with a more favorable outcome for the client/student (Standish, 2013; Wikipedia, 2016; Good Therapy, 2015).

Another aspect of comics that, according to Castle (2010), make them good tools for therapy is that through the use of archetypical characters, the comic story allows clients/students to project. Projection is when clients unconsciously apply a problem behavior to someone else. Narrative therapy requires the client/student to externalize a problem by naming it in the narrative (Wikipedia, 2016). Castle (2010) writes, “The goal of externalizing conversations is to help assist the client to view the problem as the problem and not as part of their identity” (p. 33). This practice teaches the client that the problem is not part of his/her facticity. Rather, it is a separate entity, so the person is able to transcend the problem. By creating an archetypical character upon which to project the problem, the student or client can clearly externalize it, make it the antagonist of the story, and figure out ways to have a more successful character arc for the hero (the client’s own character in the story). Graphic novels and comics can do this perhaps better than traditional story narratives because seeing the externalized problem in an actual form may reinforce the problem as a separate entity.

As for using sequential art with gifted children and adults, there is already a wide body of studies that show that giftedness is often manifested in creativity and visual-spatial intelligence in addition to the linguistic intelligence required for creating a traditional narrative. Sequential art forms allow for more creative expression of the narrative regardless of whether or not the student has specific art talent. Gifted students who have synesthesia may experience emotions through colors, which may be another benefit of graphic forms over traditional stories. Furthermore, since comic book art can be as simple as line drawings or as complicated as the visual storyteller likes, the gifted child who lacks artistic talent or the twice-exceptional child with dysgraphia may not be challenged by or intimidated by simple sketching in the same way that other forms of art therapy (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.) may. Castle (2010) writes, “Having clients project issues on the table in front of them using Sequential Art may help them communicate in a simple, direct, but non-threatening way” (p. 40). If a gifted child finds the art or the writing threatening, then s/he may be unwilling to participate in the therapy. Therefore, telling the narrative visually using sequential art may remove that obstacle.

Castle’s (2010) study produced four main themes from the responses and literature studies he included. The first is that many agree that sequential art has the ability to be projective, which is an essential element of narrative therapy. Second, sequential art is almost always narrative. Potts (2013) agrees, explaining that although some kinds of abstract expressionist comics may lack a story element, for the most part comics, graphic novels, storyboards, and other forms of sequential art are heavily narrative oriented. The third theme gleaned from the literature review and the study data is that although many therapists see the potential for using sequential art in therapy, it is not currently used much by professionals. Those who use it at all, “…expressed that what they were doing was novel and not necessarily encouraged or understood by their professional establishment” (p. 63). Finally, the research showed there was 100% agreement among the study group that sequential art is a potential tool for therapy in general, and as an alternative method for conducting narrative therapy.

Castle, suggests doing more specific research to glean more about the potential for using sequential art as an art therapy and narrative therapy form. I, further, recommend that specific, client-based research be conducted comparing the results of using sequential art in narrative therapy to traditional narrative therapy techniques to illuminate its benefits and limitations. I also suggest randomizing the client sample instead of using a convenience group of experts as Castle (2010) did for exploring the subject. Castle’s paper concludes, “Using Sequential Art as both a narrative and projective technique could be an effective way of working with clients in a non-verbal way” (p. 70). I concur, but add that it could also be an effective teaching tool for gifted and talented students.


Castle, R. (2010, May). The use of sequential art in therapy: A thesis. Retrieved from Acedemia:

Good Therapy. (2015). Narrative Therapy. Retrieved from Good Therapy:

Potts, C. (2013). The DC Comics guide to creating comics: Inside the art of visual storytelling.

      New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.

Standish, K. (2013, November 8). Lecture 8: Introduction to narrative therapy. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2016). Narrative therapy. Retrieved from Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia:

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 8, 2016 in art, Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , , , , ,

The Importance of Culture for Deriving Meaning

Charles Sutton

Galileo School for Gifted Learning

Level 7 Learning

When children from subdominant cultures in American society are consistently underrepresented in gifted programs, most experts agree that there must be something about the way education is presented through the lens of the dominant culture that makes the curriculum and subsequent demonstration of intelligence and talented more difficult for these students. The question is: what is it about culture that makes it an important component for learning and gifted identification? This paper will look at some of the research that connects culture to learning style.

According to Rodriguez and Bellanca (2007), historically, when children have been ripped away from their own culture due to some traumatic event, and they are subsequently educated in an immersive culture that is not their own, these children have been unable to perform or to demonstrate knowledge. The authors provide several examples of this occurrence throughout history including: the children who survived the Holocaust, the First Nations’ children who were taken from their families by the Canadian government, the children of Japanese citizens who were put in internment camps, and the children of slaves brought from Africa to America. In each case, and others like them, “…many children who survived did so with their cultural identity severely impaired or irretrievably lost” (p. 59).

One thing that all of these groups have in common is that without their cultural heritage intact, they were unable to process meaning when they tried to learn, as was first identified by Reuven Feuerstein (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007). Many of these children were initially identified as intellectually disabled, when the reality was that simply they could no longer use their background information and prior experiences as a basis for establishing meaning for the things that they were trying to learn. He developed a mediation for these students to replace their cultural loss. Similarly, when a child suffers from deficit thinking—when s/he is led to believe that her/his culture is somehow inferior to that of the dominant culture, then it is as if the student’s own culture has been torn away, and s/he can no longer effectively use cultural experiences as a way to derive meaning in what s/he is attempting to learn.

Context is critical for learning. Most people derive context from the things we know and experience through our family and community culture. When the school’s dominant culture is a mismatch to the child’s family culture—especially when there are significant value and learning differences between the two cultures—then the student feels that s/he cannot use the majority of life’s experiences to help parse the information that is presented at school. If s/he does, then the information may be deficient in some way in the child’s subconscious. As in the cases of the children who were torn away from their culture in the examples above, these students may not be able to express their intelligence significantly without having the proper cultural context available to them. Therefore, they may be gifted and talented in actuality, but they are also not able to express themselves in ways that the teacher and other adults in the dominant culture will recognize. Therefore, their gifts and talents go unnoticed.

Similarly, the Supporting Good Teaching Series from the Educational Research Service offers the following

        Schools have a culture of their own, and many mainstream schools reflect and operate according to what might be described as middle-class European American cultural standards. Students from other cultural backgrounds may experience cultural conflicts in such classrooms because their accustomed ways of learning and communicating may not match mainstream routines—hence creating barriers to effective learning (Educational Resource Service, 2004, p. 1).

Further, they write, “Cultural conflicts can interfere with a child’s progress by producing misunderstanding, discomfort, possible rejection, and, ultimately, low achievement” (Educational Resource Service, 2004, p. 2). This is true of the gifted child as well as the more typically intelligent child. Therefore, the low achievement—while having a different cause than gifted underachievement in dominant culture students—often prevents these students from being identified for gifted and talented programs. As educators, by providing multicultural experiences in the classroom through responsive curriculum, we can go a long way toward giving students back access to their native culture for learning context and presentation of intelligence and talent.

According to Rethinking Schools (2000), an additional benefit to a multicultural approach is that without it, academic rigor is impossible. In a totalitarian society—where only one point of view is tolerated—it is difficult to teach about situations that are best understood and processed through diverging viewpoints. Conversely, in a democratic education system, it is not only possible, but desirable to teach multiple points of view. Similarly, they suggest

      ,ul>In curriculum, academic rigor is impossible without a multicultural standpoint. Suppose one is teaching about the American Revolution. Traditional—non-multicultural—curricular approaches to the revolution focus on the actions of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and other “great men.” But, in 1776, the majority of people in the 13 colonies were women, African Americans, or Native Americans. They pursued their dreams in ways that profoundly impacted the revolution… ”There is no way to make sense of events following the Declaration of Independence—or any other historical era—without multicultural perspective (Rethinking Schools, 2000, para. 2).

Yet, when we only teach and expect students to learn through the lens of the dominant culture that presents the White, European, male vantage point, then we narrow the possibility of deeper understanding and learning. As a result, one can see that multicultural education is a more democratic way to teach and learn because it allows for looking at things through divergent experiences. In a similar manner, Morrison (2013) writes, “…democratic education promises much more meaningful learning. If people have more choice and freedom to study what interests them, then they become more deeply engaged in, and thus less alienated from, their learning” (p. 95). How much more is this true when students have the lens of their own culture from which to process, provide context, and express their cultural voice in their education projects.

In summary, the idea of excluding certain cultures from the curriculum is similar to dramatically ripping a child from his/her family and community in that s/he loses the ability to use the context of culture to assign meaning and expression. Feuerstein found that students who were physically separated from their culture historically needed to learn a mediation for assigning meaning before they could be successful at deeper learning endeavors. Fortunately, for many American children from underrepresented ethnic, racial, and gender situations, teachers only need to take a multicultural and responsive approach toward the curriculum to give them back the context they need to become identified. There is an added benefit in that democratic, multicultural education curriculum provides an interweaving of ideas that makes learning about a topic more rigorous, which is a primary goal of gifted education. Therefore, teachers should provide multicultural experiences rather than relying on curriculum that expresses only the viewpoint of the dominant culture as a lens through which all children must learn.


Educational Resource Service. (2004). Culturally sensitive classrooms. Arlington, VA: Educational Resource Service.

Morrison, K. A. (2013). Democratic classrooms: Promises and challenges of student voice and choice. In J. W. Noll, Taking sides: Clashing views on educational issues (seventeenth ed., pp. 92–101). New York: Mcgraw Hill.

Rethinking Schools. (2000). Multiculturalism: A fight for justice. Retrieved from Rethinking Schools:

Rodriguez, E., & Bellanca, J. (2007). What is it about me you can’t teach?: An instruction guide for the urban educator (Second Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.


Tags: , , ,