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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.

References

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:

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

 

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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.

References

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: http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/15_01/rsmu151.shtml

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.

 

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Considering the Needs of Underachievers and Underrepresented Groups in Gifted Programs

Charles Sutton

Galileo School for Gifted Learning

Level 7 Learning

Reis (n.d.) identified a number of possible reasons that gifted students may underachieve. Her final—and perhaps most salient—point is that “…there are some students who may underachieve as a direct result of inappropriate and unmotivating curriculum, and before we try to ‘fix’ them, or punish them for their behavior, perhaps we need to advocated drastic curriculum changes for them” (p. 82). I have long felt that this problem exists at all levels of education and it affects both motivation and behavior in the classroom. As a result of that kind of thinking, long before I worry about trying to change behaviors through assigning consequences, I alter my curriculum and teaching-style to match the students’ wide range of needs in the classroom. Interestingly enough, although her topic is not about underachievement but underrepresentation, curriculum changes are also recommended by Ford (2010), who discusses how current curriculum is designed to favor students in the majority group, who happen to match the cultural background of the majority of teachers. Accordingly, curriculum needs to change for multiple reasons to allow for students from diverse background to thrive and therefore, be identified for their gifts and talents while also approaching their identified potential. While both articles cite additional reasons for underperformance or underrepresentation, curriculum changes will be the main focus of this response.

As Tomlinson suggests, differentiation is the key to meeting diverse needs for all students—including gifted students—in a mixed ability classroom (Wu, 2013; Holloway, 2003). While mixed-ability integrated classes may not meet all of the social and emotional needs of gifted students, students can receive academically appropriate curriculum through the differentiation process (Holloway, 2003) Therefore, the key to designing curriculum for the diverse group of gifted underachievers—and for those underrepresented for receiving gifted services due to ethnic, racial, and gender prejudices—is to keep in mind that the content needs to be flexible with a lot of room for making diverse choices.

My master’s thesis identified that tracking students into lower groups to reduce the academic challenges for underachieving students of all types makes the problem of underachievement more significant as the student develops self-efficacy and self-concept problems associated with being aligned with such tracks. Students also lose interest in the work when there is little challenge, so there is a double effect that causes a wider achievement gap between the student’s potential and production (Sutton, 2013). This effect is multiplied for gifted students whose self-concept may be entirely based on academic superiority and success (Reis, n.d.). Therefore, the curriculum for underachieving, gifted students need to be more challenging, not easier. Instead of reducing the difficulty of the work, providing an advanced curriculum that allows the students to make personal choices may help reverse the chasm between potential and performance.

Ford (2010) reflects that, in her experiences, three factors contribute to underrepresentation in the classroom, so any differentiated curricular decisions should consider these three things: deficit thinking, colorblindness, and White privilege.

Deficit thinking occurs when students are conditioned to consider their own cultural background as inferior to the majority culture. As Americans, we live in a society that has many cultures, but other cultures are forced to assimilate into the dominant White culture by which schools, businesses, and society in general run. According to Gollnick and Chinn (2013), “Assimilation policies promote the values of the dominant group, which are reflected in hidden curriculum—the unwritten and informal rules that guide the expected behaviors and attitudes of students in schools” (p. 14). While the hidden curriculum is about behavior conformity, the majority of content and language curriculum also has built in expectations that students from other culture demonstrate academic intelligences through traditional, dominant values. Since educators can have little effect in the short run on the societal issues that cause a pluralistic society like America to embrace dominant cultural values, the values and intelligences of other cultures are often seen by people born into families from these subordinate cultures as inferior to the White dominant culture that is considered more acceptable in school and society. Therefore, they develop deficit thinking. The curriculum should, therefore, be designed to equally value multiple cultures so that even when the society is not pluralistic in practice, the in-school curriculum will show that every student’s own culture has equal value and acceptance in the classroom.

Colorblindness in school, on the other hand, occurs when teachers attempt to be fair to all races and cultures by ignoring everyone’s culture altogether and treating every child the same. If one were starting from a blank slate without the already built in prejudices that are in the curriculum and societal rules in school, then this might be ok. However, pretending that there are no differences between the students of various cultures, and then using curriculum that has been traditionally preferential to White culture is tantamount to expecting instant and complete assimilation without the hope of pluralism or equal treatment. Therefore, any curriculum decisions need to be culturally diverse and responsive enough to represent the intelligences and values of every student in the classroom. Rather than colorblindness, the teacher should be celebrating the diversity of cultures in the school via the curriculum and design of the classroom.

Finally, teachers need to address White privilege in the selection process by which Whites are over-identified for placement into gifted programs as compared to their percentage in the general population. Ford (2010) defines White privilege as, “…a form of entitlement and affirmative action in which the social and cultural capital…of White Americans is valued and held as normal, normative, or the standard” (p. 33). This differs from deficit thinking in that in the case of White privilege, it is not the minority person who feels like his/her culture holds less value than the dominant culture. Rather, it is people in the dominant culture whose expectations are that the correct or normal way to create, develop, and assess curriculum is—as it has always been—through the lens of the dominant culture. It is in this area is where Ford’s (2010) assertion that there is a need for disaggregated data can be valuable. As educators, we are asked to use data to drive our curricular decisions. When most people in the class have mastered a topic as reflected in testing, then we can move onto other topics. If many students need more support when faced with a standard or benchmark, then we scaffold to provide those as well. However, when we disaggregate according to race, gender, and culture, then we can begin to see where the curriculum has factors that are prejudiced toward White, male privilege. Breaking down test results according to various subgroups within the system can help educators make decisions about whether particular questions, techniques, or even topics are biased toward the dominant culture or another culture so that corrections can be made to help compensate. These corrections may include differentiating to allow a wider range of cultural selections, changing the nature of the topic itself to be more culturally diverse and responsive, or eliminating the question or topic if it is not possible to correct the biases in other ways.

As an educator in mixed-ability classes, there is a lot that can be done to make the curriculum more appropriate to help students underperforming through underachievement or as a result of built in prejudices that cause the students’ talents and gifts to remain hidden. Understanding the causes of each situation will help the teacher differentiate to allow for a wider range of students to succeed. Underachieving gifted students have traditionally been bored by easier curriculum, so making tracking in the classroom to make the work less challenging will only exacerbate the problem. Instead, the work should become more challenging and include choices that the students find stimulating. Underrepresentation is a factor resulting from three issues that occur when a dominant culture expects a pluralistic society to adhere to its norms. These include deficit thinking, colorblindness, and White privilege. Creating culturally responsive, challenging assignments with choices that fit the range of cultures in the class can help eliminate these biases and allow each students gifts to become apparent. The key is differentiation.

References
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.
Gollnick, D. M., & Chinn, P. C. (2013). Multicultural education in a pluralistic society (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.
Holloway, J. H. (2003, October). Grouping gifted learners. Educational Leadership, 89–91.
Reis, S. M. (n.d.). The underachievement of gifted students: Multiple frustrations and few solutions. Wege zur Begabungsforderung, 72–83.
Sutton, C. (2013). Examining the efficacy of online credit-recovery programs for at-risk adolescents. A Theses Presented to the Graduate Program in Partial Fufillment of the Requirements. Concorida University.
Wu, E. H. (2013). The path leading to differentiation: An interview with Carol Tomlinson. Journal of Advanced Academics, 24(2), 125–133.

 

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Does Low Sociometrics Affect Teacher Perception?

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Rizza and Morrison (2003) conducted research that strongly suggests that when a student has emotional/behavioral disability along with giftedness, the teacher may stereotype the students and not identify the student’s characteristics that make him/her gifted. The younger, less experienced teachers in the study were more likely to associate these stereotypes with the student than a more well-seasoned educator. According to the study, this could potentially be a problem for students who are twice-exceptional; these students have above average intelligence, strong task commitment, and/or high creativity (Renzulli, n.d.), but they also have an identified disability that requires services. When a teacher sees some gifted characteristics in these students, s/he may only associate them with the disability even though many of these qualities may equally be signs of a child’s giftedness. This misconception prejudices the selection process. As a result, the student will likely get services for managing his/her academic and/or behavioral weaknesses, but may not receive the additional services needed to enhance the child’s gifts and talents. That being the case, these talents may be squandered. The question this paper raises is why would teachers, regardless of experience, be fooled into missing a child’s gifts and only see the disabilities?
One possibility is sociometrics. Sociometry is the “quantitative study and measurement of relationships within a group of people” (Apple, Inc. , 2015). Most studies of sociometry in school environments look only at peer relationships. For example, Baydik and Bakkaloglu (2009) conducted a study of students to see whether socioeconomic status differences affected elementary school children’s sociometrics status among their peers whether or not the child had a documented disability. What they found was that anything that made a child stand out negatively could cause a decrease in the child’s sociometry and thereby make the child more isolated, but intellectual and behavioral disability was a stronger better predictor of negative sociometrics than physical appearance or socioeconomic status differences. The socially isolated students—the ones with apparent intellect and/or behavior problems—consistently underperformed in school work due to their isolation, and they were moved into remedial groups by their teachers.
From the results of prior studies, the authors of this sociometry research paper hypothesized that students with low performance and also students who had behavior problems that made them stand out as obstacles in the classroom would have the lowest sociometrics. Their results, based mostly on teacher response surveys, confirmed that to be true. This is interesting for possibly understanding where the teacher biases may come from because the teacher responses correlated with the low sociometry based on children’s emotional/behavioral disabilities. Therefore, one could hypothesize that the teacher responses may have been influenced by the kinds of stereotypes that Rizza and Morrison (2003) identified in their study considering that the teachers who filled out the survey materials are the same ones who moved these students into remedial groups. While the Baydik and Bakkaloglu (2009) study does not identify any of the students in their sample as gifted or twice-exceptional, the research may suggest why teachers possibly under-identified some of the talents of the students to whom they gave low sociometrics scores. As was noted above, the students who are isolated by their peers (and perhaps even the teacher) will underperform and the gifts may remain hidden. I suggest that a study should be conducted as a follow up to Rizza and Morrison (2003) to see if sociometrics play a part in the stereotypes identified in the study.

References

Apple, Inc. . (2015). Sociometry. 2.2.1(178).
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.
Renzulli, J. (n.d.). Renzulli’s three-ring conception of giftedness. Retrieved from http://www.gigers.com/matthias/gifted/three_rings.html
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.

 

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STEM, STEAM, and Perfectionism in Gifted Students

The art curriculum could be an excellent place to help alleviate the pressures that gifted children put on themselves due to their tendency toward perfectionism. As a famous artist, Salvador Dali, once said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” The beauty and diversity of art is in the differences caused by imperfections. Conversely, in most forms of mathematics, for example, it is possible to score 100% on exams and assignments all of the time, which can be equated in the gifted child’s mind with perfection. Therefore, when s/he misses one question on a test, s/he also questions her/his abilities regardless that there were no prior mistakes. In art, perfection is impossible; so, if taught correctly, the art room can be a place where gifted children can learn that unavoidable mistakes and differentiation is what gives the world of art such beautiful diversity. In a time when the trend in educations is toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), there is extra internal pressure on the gifted child toward perfectionism because each of these is an exact discipline with little room for error. That is why I prefer STEAM, because integrating the arts—the “A” in STEAM stands for arts—and language arts with these things introduces back the ability to have different approaches, some less than perfect, that are equally valuable contributions to the subject area. In gifted programs particularly—and in all programs in general—there needs to be a sharp movement away from STEM toward STEAM so that schools are not trying to produce citizens who place their personal value on exactness. Rather, students of the future will be more valuable to society—and to themselves—if they can contribute imperfectly and still be happy with their production.

 
 

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Gifted Identification in the Urban Classroom

Charles Sutton

Galileo School for Gifted Learning

Level 7 Learning

The Davidson Institute posted a journal article discussing the problem of under-identification of low SES students in gifted programs, and they mention that it particularly a problem urban schools. The authors write about how these school have extreme problems with funding to the point that any resources they have are funneled into interventions for getting the lower-achieving subgroups to pass high stakes tests, while putting little or no investment into the differentiation needs for gifted students (Olszewski-Kubilius & Thomson, 2010). Since these schools are often predominantly in African American and Hispanic communities, the lack of programs in the schools widens the gap for lower SES and ethnic groups in gifted programs in general as a percentage of the population.

Urban schools may present other problems as well. Rodriguez and Bellanca (2007) discuss how many urban teachers lack the confidence in student ability that may be necessary to identify under-achieving gifted students. As a result, they do not provide the high-quality educational experiences that these children need to help them begin to demonstrate their level of gifts and talents. When children do not get quality instruction from their teachers, and the teachers believe that low SES and minority children cannot learn as well as other students, then the underachieving students fall farther and farther below their potential, and they many never develop their true abilities. Therefore, they recommend that teachers in urban districts have to modify their own behaviors using the fifteen TESA recommendations in order to help all children achieve to their potential, including the gifted children. They write that these teachers “…don’t look for a gifted rose garden; they make their little plot of land into a rose garden (p. 10). This allows all children to flourish and grow allowing the gifted students to show their talents, which will more likely allow them to become among the identified gifted students in a district.

Rodriguez and Bellanca (2007) believe that in order to turn around educational opportunities in these low SES urban communities that teachers should receive “…multifaceted professional development wherein workshops…reinforced with peer coaching and strong supervisory support” (p. 25). They should be trained in TESA-recommended teacher behaviors that will help them provide a quality education for each student. If not, negative teacher expectation turns into poor self-evaluation and the underachieving conditions will persist. They write, “…unless the parent of teacher expects these youngsters to change how they think and behave, unless the mediator persists in demanding the changes, most students will form low expectations for themselves and stay trapped in the inability to learn” (p. 37). This condition will further reinforce the identification gap in gifted programs.

According to Parsons (2001), the problem is also one of privilege and built in advantage. She claims that even when students of socioeconomic advantage and low SES students occupy the same academic building, there are still factors that provide built-in academic edges to the higher SES, white, male student over the others. If the teacher has different expectations for the students based on their family’s economic wealth or the students race, ethnicity, or gender then those biases affect the quality of the education each of the children will receive. If, on the other hand, the teacher—like the teacher in her study—understands that s/he can affect the performance of the students based on her/his expectations, then a teacher who believes that everyone has an equal chance to succeed (and even an equal chance to be identified for gifted programs) will provide better quality learning materials and differentiation for all students to allow their skills and talents to show through. She writes, “…the teacher’s job is to influence students toward educational ends…” (p. 332). That being the case, it is time that we hold teachers responsible for providing equitable educational opportunities for all students—urban or otherwise—that accounts for the differences in SES and family/community culture. Upon doing so we may see more students identified for gifted services from the underrepresented groups. Schools and districts need to provide professional development opportunities, coaching, and other support systems to ensure that it happens.

Frequently, it seems that educators want to blame the students’ cultural values, behaviors, family circumstances, parent involvement, and a wide range of other socioeconomic factors when confronted with achievement gaps. Yet, the most effective way to mediate these gaps is by providing good-quality learning opportunities for all students (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007). Perhaps, instead of blaming others, teachers need to “…acknowledge[d] the power inherent in teaching and use[d] it to address equal and fair access for all students to the experiences of the classroom” (Parsons, 2001, p. 332). It is only the ethical use of the teacher’s power used in an ethical manner that can help us recognize which students need gifted services in low SES and urban settings.

References

Olszewski-Kubilius, P., & Thomson, D. (2010). Gifted programming for poor or minority urban students: Issues and lessons learned. Gifted Child Today, 33(4), 58–64. Retrieved from Davidson Institute: http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10670
Parsons, E. C. (2001, December). Using power and caring to mediate white male privilege, equality, and equity in an urban elementary classroom: Implications for teacher preparation. The Urban Review, 33(4), 321–338.
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.

 
 

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Poverty and Gifted Identification

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

This week’s readings in my gifted endorsement program are related to the cultural biases in education that account for the underrepresentation of non-white families and families from poverty in gifted programs. Kitano (2003) writes, “…while intense poverty limits the presence of Black, Hispanic, and Native American students among the highest achievers, inadequate school resources, racial and ethnic prejudice, families’ limited educational resources, and cultural differences contribute to underrepresentation” (293). This paper will use the two articles from the reading assignments along with some other experiences and information to illustrate Kitano’s point.

According to Beegle (2003) families from low socioeconomic status—especially if the family is from generational poverty—are often stuck in the lower levels of what Maslow identified as a hierarchy of needs (McLeod, 2007; Huitt, 2007). Parents from generational poverty spend the majority of their resources trying to meet the physical and safety needs of the family, so there is little or nothing left to invest into school, which is a much higher-level need reaching the social, esteem, and self-actualization areas of Maslow’s pyramid. As a result, the parents lack the monetary, educational, and time resources needed to invest in ensuring that their children get into gifted programs despite the child’s individual strengths and talents. That leaves the work of identifying to the teachers and school, which is already prejudiced toward middle class values for academics and behaviors as well as scores on standardized tests that are written to the advantage of white, middle class students (Payne, n.d.; Slocumb & Payne, 2000). Slocumb and Payne (2000) claim that the current “…identification processes do not factor in environmental differences” (p. 28), thereby favoring identification of middle class students over low SES and culturally diverse students. Montoya, Matias, Nishi, and Sarcedo (2016) suggest that this inequity situation is institutionalized racism that needs to end. Having little confidence that the identification system can be repaired, they call for an end to segregated gifted and talented programs and to instead use a differentiation model to service each student’s gifts and talents in the integrated classroom. This model also has the benefit of giving gifted children who have asynchronous development the social and emotional interactions with children who may be more aligned with those needs than some of the more evenly developed gifted students.

Others have more confidence that they system can and should be fixed because of the extremely high needs of gifted and talented students that may be more difficult to service in an integrated classroom. For example, as a remedy to the current segregated system, Slocumb and Payne (2000) suggest that schools should “…develop an identification process for the gifted and talented that takes into account the inequality that exists between students from poverty and those from middle class” (p. 29). To do so would require taking away standardized test scores and other grading systems that favor middle class students as identifying tools, and in their place schools should develop more formative evaluations to help identify students based on skills that are not traditionally valued in school. This could include opening up evaluation systems that use a wider range of Gardner’s identified intelligences (Lane, n.d.), especially the ones that are undervalued in the current gifted identification process.

Another possible solution is to use the model that we use at the Galileo School, which is to teach each student enrolled in our school in a gifted style regardless of identification or designation. Of course, that requires a lot of differentiation as mentioned in the Montoya, Matias, Nishi, and Sarcedo (2016) article, but the difference is that the teachers are not simply using the gifted-style of learning to differentiate for the gifted students. Rather, all students received the benefit of gifted style learning with the academic elements of the learning tailored to their own educational needs and development. As a result, all of the children benefit from things like enhancement, acceleration, and choice.

References

Beegle, D. (2003, October/November). Overcoming the silence of generational poverty. Talking Points, 15(1), 11-20.
Huitt, W. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from Educational Psychology Interactive: http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/conation/maslow.html
Kitano, M. K. (2003). Gifted potential and poverty: A calll for extraordinary action. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 26(4), 292–303.
Lane, C. (n.d.). Multiple intelligences. Retrieved from Tecweb: http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html
McLeod, S. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from Simply Psychology: http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
Montoya, R., Matias, C. E., Nishi, N. W., & Sarcedo, G. L. (2016, March). Words are wind: Using Du Bois and Borudieu to ‘unveil’ the capricious nature of gifted and talented programs. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 14(1), 127–143.
Payne, R. (n.d.). Understanding and working with students and adults from poverty. Retrieved from Homepages : http://homepages.wmich.edu/~ljohnson/Payne.pdf
Slocumb, P. D., & Payne, R. K. (2000, May). Identifying and nurturing the gifted poor. Principal: The New Diversity, 79(5), 28–32.

 
 

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