GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
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VOLUME EIGHT, NUMBER THREE
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Besides creating many political and educational controversies, the Objectives Based Education (OBE) initiatives set up by many states have left gifted students "out in the cold" without a challenging curriculum. Three teachers in Michigan, Patricia Gabriel, Ann DeYoung and Sandra Bajema, have dealt with this problem by: (1) searching for an appropriate curriculum model for their gifted students; and (2) using this model to generate challenging and substantive differential outcomes. Based upon their extensive search of the gifted education literature, they selected Virgil S. Ward's axiomatic approach. By studying and applying his book, Differential Education for the Gifted (1961, 1980), they designed a rigorous OBE system for educating their gifted students in Jenison Public Schools and Grandville Public Schools in Michigan. It is remarkable that these teachers chose a theoretical framework originally developed over thirty years ago, and currently ignored for more recent and "exotic" systems. Like the works of Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey, the Differential Education System of Virgil Ward seemed to have disappeared down the memory-hole of forgotten but respected educational works. We commend Gabriel, DeYoung and Bajema for "breathing new life" into this system. In their paper on applying Ward's system to the current crisis in gifted education, they have demonstrated the timeliness of Differential Education for the Gifted in today's gifted education climate. It will endure because it emphasizes essential concepts for educating the gifted. We have included this article primarily to encourage other school districts to use Ward's system for designing their own differentiated curriculum.
Jill Reilly is well-known in the Midwest and across the nation for her rigorous study and design of mentoring programs. She has written an excellent book on this topic entitled, Mentorship: The Essential Guide for Schools and Business (1992, Ohio Psychology Press). An article, based on the key findings discussed in her book is included in this issue. Her discussion concentrates on the important characteristics of a successful mentoring program. This article also includes many student descriptions of their mentoring experiences, and extensive references to the literature on mentoring. Dr. Reilly is currently Senior Consultant to Education for Honeywell, Inc. in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she supervises mentoring with peers and works with school district mentoring programs. She was previously Coordinator of and Instructor for the Mentor Program in Intermediate School District # 917 in Rosemount, Minnesota. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Counseling and Guidance Division of the National Association for Gifted Children. Dr. Reilly has conducted numerous workshops on mentoring and high school planning and guidance. Besides her current position at Honeywell, she is an Assistant Professor of Education at Saint Mary's College of Minnesota.
Diane Grybek, Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs in Hillsborough County, Florida Public Schools, reviews National Excellence: A Case Study for Developing America's Talent (1993) in this issue of GEPQ. She emphasizes that this report stresses how American society has little interest in the gifted, and engages in many discriminatory practices against these children, especially in the educational realm. Gifted Education Press has published a book on this problem entitled, Coercive Egalitarianism: A Study of Discrimination Against Gifted Children (1994) by Stephen Schroeder-Davis. This book demonstrates, through literature and the analysis of current news events, how gifted children experience the same amount of prejudice and dislike as many ethnic and religious minorities. In addition, it shows how gifted children can overcome this sad state of affairs in our society.
The last article in this Summer 1994 issue is by Michael Walters. He discusses one of the great essayists and writers of fantasy literature, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963). As Walters shows, gifted students should study the life and literary works of this British writer to learn about his literary, philosophical, religious and humanistic ideas. We have concluded with a tribute to Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- written by the publisher and graciously presented by Dr. Karen Rogers at the Spring 1994 meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Ward received a TAG Certificate of Merit, 1994 from The Association for the Gifted (TAG) at this meeting. Congratulations to Dr. Ward for receiving this award and to TAG for giving it to him!
Maurice D. Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher
OUTCOMES FOR GIFTED LEARNERS THROUGH USING VIRGIL S. WARD'S
BY PATRICIA A. GABRIEL, ANN M. DeYOUNG AND SANDRA K. BAJEMA
JENISON PUBLIC SCHOOLS & GRANDVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, MICHIGAN
In today's world of school reform, terms like mastery learning, core curriculum, designing down, and outcomes have become bywords to describe a process intended to guarantee that all children will reach a level of competence allowing them to become capable members of the 21st century. Those of us involved in gifted education on one hand "applaud" the efforts to improve the quality of education, but also "wring" our hands in frustration because our brightest students continue to be inadequately served. Keeping in mind that gifted students: (1) learn more quickly and completely than the norm; and (2) learn at a more global and higher conceptual level than their classmates, it is clear that simply reaching this level of competence is an inadequate education for them. In an effort to challenge and meet the needs of these students in our school districts, we developed a framework for K-12 gifted education for the Grandville Public Schools and Jenison Public Schools of Western Michigan. Our goal was to insure that gifted education be included in school reform and that high ability students would not be shortchanged.
The first United States Department of Education study on gifted children in twenty years, National Excellence: A Case for Developing America's Talent (1993), reports that many of America's brightest students are bored and unchallenged in school. In addition, they are not being encouraged to work hard and tackle complex material. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, states in the foreword to the study that. . . "youngsters with gifts and talents . . . are still not challenged to work to their full potential." He describes these findings as a "quiet crisis," and warns that "Our neglect of these students makes it impossible for Americans to compete in a global economy demanding their skills."
In our quest to address the "quiet crisis" of the high ability students in our school districts, it was vital to us that we develop a framework that was theoretically sound and educationally defensible. We began the task by investigating available designs and models of gifted education . Few rigorous models were available, and those we considered did not meet our specific needs for developing a comprehensive program. We decided to combine a gifted education model with the organizational strategies of Outcomes Based Education (OBE), a model used in our school districts.
Outcomes Based Education is organized around common goals of what students should achieve, strategies for achieving those goals and methods of assessing the successful attainment of the outcome. We wanted to create outcomes for gifted learners that were more specific than the traditional exit outcomes of OBE, and better tailored to the needs of gifted learners. Traditional OBE can present a "glass ceiling" for our most able students if the outcomes set arbitrary limits instead of providing many opportunities to extend beyond the prescribed outcome. It was clear to us that programs for gifted learners produce the need for a differentiated curriculum. It was this search that led us to the work of Dr. Virgil Ward.
Much has been written about curriculum, teaching strategies, and the needs of the gifted. It was the theoretical constructs of Virgil Ward's Differential Education for the Gifted (DEG), (1980) that gave us the sound basis necessary for developing outcomes for able students. The DEG theory is very specific in its axiomatic approach. It addresses the current criticism of "dumbing down" curriculum and provides a strong undergirding for gifted education. Using Ward's twelve axioms and forty-two corollaries as our road map, we undertook a journey that led to district K-12 outcomes for gifted learners. The outcomes in our framework attempt to address the needs of gifted learners, and were developed to give school districts guidelines for assessing gifted programs. Dr. Ward's axioms I, II, III, and IV are general in nature and are used as the "umbrella" for our framework. These axioms then serve as the basic considerations for any gifted program.
AXIOMS I - IV (WARD, 1980)
I. That the educational program for intellectually superior individuals should be derived from a balanced consideration of facts, opinions based on experience, and deductions from educational philosophy as these relate to the capacities of the individuals and to the probable social roles they will fill.
II. That a program of education for the intellectually superior should be relatively unique.
III. That the curriculum should consist of economically chosen experiences designed to promote the civic, social, and personal adequacy of the intellectually superior individual.
IV. That teachers of intellectually superior children and youth should be among those of the greatest general excellence to be found in the profession.
Axioms V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, and XII are more specific and are used to design district program outcomes. The district program outcomes are our interpretations of Ward's Axioms V - XII. Linking theory with practice, we moved from DEG theory to district program outcomes, learner outcomes, enablers, and assessments.
AXIOMS V - XII (WARD, 1980)
V. That in the education of gifted there should be considerable emphasis upon intellectual activity.
VI. That the educative experience of the intellectually superior should be consciously designed as generative of further development, extensively and intensively, along similar and related avenues.
VII. That the education of the gifted child and youth should emphasize enduring methods and sources of learning, as opposed to a terminal emphasis upon present states of knowledge.
VIII. That the instruction of intellectually superior individuals should emphasize the central function of meaning in the acquisition of fact and principle, and the varieties of reflections of meaning in the developed communicative devices of man.
IX. That the instruction of the intellectually superior should include content pertaining to the foundations of civilization.
X. That scientific methods should be applied in the conception and in the execution of the education for personal, social, and character adjustments of the intellectually superior individual.
XI. That instruction in the theoretical bases of ideal moral behavior and of personal and social adjustments should be an integral part of the education of intellectually gifted individuals.
XII. That the concomitant factors under control of the school should be positively controlled so that they contribute to sound personal, social, and character development.
Programs for the gifted will........
....be characterized by a faster pace and higher level thinking and creative problem solving.
....have a scope that introduces and then explores concepts over broad areas of knowledge using a theoretic base for facts, opinions and principles.
....include instruction in research methods and materials.
....include an educational design that develops a variety of background and insights into use of language to convey meaning.
....address the histories of various fields of knowledge and the classics of world literature as a means of understanding cultures.
....systematically address their affective needs in a cognitive and developmentally appropriate way, affording counseling as part of the educational plan.
....include factors of character development such as moral literacy, responsibility and social action.
....emphasize an approach that fosters a high conception of morality, provides fulfillment, and advances a humane environment for all.
To provide educators with a detailed guideline for enhancing gifted programs, we differentiated Ward's axioms and our subsequent district outcomes into more specific areas. From the district outcomes we developed learner outcomes that specify the basic objectives for the student to accomplish. Next came the development of enablers. The enablers represent components necessary for achieving stated outcomes of DEG theory. The enablers in this framework refer to general strategies, many of which are applicable across the curriculum. We have elaborated in some cases with specific examples based on our experiences in elementary schools. We hope practitioners will insert strategies appropriate to their particular situations when implementing enablers.
The final column in our framework, assessment recom-mendations, proved to be the most difficult, but perhaps the most important to address. No matter how well conceived the curriculum, we found it imperative to develop measures that effectively evaluate the outcomes. These measures, which extend beyond the benchmark, should require information about the metacognitive process and the use of higher level and critical thinking skills.
Criteria for high-level assessment standards that go beyond the benchmark would include the following:
1. Students will perform "life role" functions.
2. Students will achieve the highest levels of problem finding and solutions.
3.Students will identify a social issue and analyze their connection with the problem.
4.Students will transcend content area and apply learning across disciplines.
5.Students will demonstrate creativity and uniqueness of thought.
6.Students will have their products validated by an authentic or expert audience.
The range of assessment options is surely vast. Clearly, no one format can serve all measurement needs. Teachers must have a clear purpose in mind and then make a professional judgment regarding an appropriate assessment. Our assess- ment recommendations include tools we have found appropriate for our needs. In addition, since gifted learners are often able to apply outcomes in a more analogous or global fashion, they should be encouraged to create their own rubrics and assessment standards in collaboration with the teacher.The following is an example of one axiom in our framework, Outcomes for Gifted Learners.
That the educative experience of the intellectually superior should be consciously designed as generative of further development, extensively and intensively, along similar and related avenues (Ward, 1980).
District Program Outcomes
Recommendations (Summative and Formative Examples)
Programs for gifted will have a scope that introduces and then explores concepts over broad areas of knowledge using a theoretic base for facts, opinions and principles.
The learner will investigate areas of knowledge to develop a basic understanding of concepts.
Interdisciplinary Thematic Unit (e.g., The study of conflict)
The learner will extend these concepts across a broader spectrum relating to the major field of study.
The learner will explore underlying schools of thought, principles, and theories of these areas.
Interdependent and Incremental Learning
The learner will develop broad sensitization to many bodies of knowledge that invite further pursuit in a field.
Introductory experiences (e.g., Intro. to the nature and function of all branches of math.) Assessment
Metacognitive Strategies (e.g., Graphic Organizer)
This brings us, then, to the question of how our adaptation of Ward's DEG theory is currently implemented in our districts to differentiate curriculum for our most able learners. First, it is used as a guide in planning units of study for our local pull-out programs. A well-balanced program incorporates each of the axioms at their highest levels. As an example, fifth and sixth grade students study Latin because of Axiom VIII which, when expressed as an outcome, states in part that "the learner will investigate and utilize the origin of words to enhance a richness of language." In a broader application, we encourage the district committees involved with writing content area outcomes to create assessments using axioms of the Outcomes for Gifted Learners document. The curriculum writers are thus creating categories on rubrics that extend beyond the benchmark and are appropriate for those who more readily master basic concepts or demonstrate higher levels of knowledge. Unfortunately, some schools use the OBE tenet that "All students can learn" to justify the elimination of gifted-talented programming of courses differentiated by academic rigor such as the Advanced Placement courses. Fortunately, our districts do not subscribe to this faulty line of reasoning and continue to differentiate curriculum to meet the needs of all their students.
Our educational system is in a state of major change. The goal of school reform is to raise standards and to improve the quality of education for all students. Achieving that goal depends on providing educational opportunities based on individual students' strengths and needs. Differentiating education for all learners, repeated opportunity for mastery for slower learners, as well as accelerated and enriched opportunities for gifted learners, must go hand in hand. We cannot allow any potential to be wasted! As Secretary Riley states in the Foreword to National Excellence: A Case for Developing America's Talent (1993).... "the United States is squandering one of its most precious resources -- the gifts, talents, and high interests of many of its students." We see the Wardian model of Differential Education for the Gifted as a framework for writing learning outcomes consistent with the needs of our gifted students.
Outcomes for Gifted Learners provides an educational process for school reform -- a process that will enable high ability students to excel without compromising the quality of the programs that Outcomes Based Education promises to provide for all students.
Herman, J., Aschbacher, P., and Winters, L. (1992). A Practical Guide to Alternative Assessments. Alexandria, VA. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Riley, R. (1993). Foreword to National Excellence: A Case for Developing America's Talent. Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.
Ward, V. (1980). Differential Education for the Gifted. Ventura, California: Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Office.
THE VALUE OF MENTORSHIPS FOR GIFTED STUDENTS
BY JILL M. REILLY
HONEYWELL, INC. MINNEAPOLIS
After working to develop the Mentor Program for more than eight years, I have observed firsthand how mentoring relationships affect and benefit students in many ways. The literature supports data elicited from the Mentor Program and my own observations.
The effects for students who participate in a mentoring program include honed thinking skills and creativity, increased self-esteem, better developed skills in the field, more clearly defined career options, connections made between work and school, increased motivation to achieve, friendships made with mentors and fellow students, the inspiration generated by a role model, a matured sense of responsibility and direction, and better understood and developed potentials. This article provides evidence supporting each of these benefits. The information presented should prove useful in persuading those who remain unconvinced about the value of mentoring programs for gifted secondary-school students. Hopefully, each of these findings also will encourage educators to initiate mentoring programs for students in their communities.
Increased self-esteem. Moore (1982) and Johnson (1980) both reported that mentoring resulted in strengthened self-esteem and confidence among mentees in academe and business respectively. While strengthened self-esteem and the intrinsic knowledge that one is capable in some area can be elusive to measure, these are extremely valuable outcomes from mentorship. One student wrote in response to a Mentor Program Survey for Graduates (MPG Survey) question, "I gained a sense of maturity and independence." A young woman who learned about international trade stated:
It's wonderful for self-confidence building. I felt I had some very valuable experience that others my age didn't such as meeting with adults, thinking on your feet, and analyzing written business materials. I also felt I gained autonomy and time-management skills.
A future artificial intelligence expert noted his strengthened self-esteem through growth in "professionalism" and his ability "to present a good, honest picture of who you are to other people, and to respect them."
The autumn after completing her mentorship, a budding scientist had to put her newfound confidence to immediate use. She reported:
I think learning about people's personalities is the best skill I could have ever learned. (It comes in handy in dealing with people who do not feel that women belong in a science related field.)
Sometimes, communicating with adults allows students comfort in revealing a bit more of themselves. A Mentor Program graduate summarized this idea by stating, "All the communications skills were great, I used to be really shy and the Mentor Program kind of opened me up. Thanks."
Booth (1980) also noted that the seventh- and eighth-grade students in her school's mentoring program also developed a positive self-image. Booth observed that the boost in self-esteem derived from students' acceptance of larger responsibilities than those that might have been demanded within a self-contained classroom. A Mentor Program graduate also reflected on the effect of those demands:
Learning to be flexible, compromising and organized has helped me in school work, jobs--in almost everything I do! Without flexibility I never would have gotten to Austria or through college registration and schedule changes.
Finally, Booth (1980) observed that students can learn to look outside of themselves through a mentoring experience. Their feelings of self-worth can grow stronger by contributing to others in the community. A Mentor Program graduate echoed this sense of personal empowerment when she commented, "By learning about etiquette and meeting important people, it made me realize that someday I could actually make a difference."
Better developed skills in the field of interest. Of course, confidence can evolve from a vast array of experiences. As the preceding students' comments suggest, developing new skills is one of the most frequently observed sources of esteem in a school-based mentoring program. Edlind and Haensly (1985) have noted that through the "career mentorships" affiliated with Texas A&M University, the high-school-age mentees increase their knowledge and skills both generally and within the field. Phillips (1977) also noted instruction or training as a key benefit to mentees. A Mentor Program graduate whose mentor was a journalist with a major metropolitan newspaper concurred. She recounted:
I learned that I can find out anything (almost) I want to know just by perseverance (and phone calls and trips to the library). One friend was in her junior year of a journalism major before the professor had the students do the same stuff [my mentor] had me doing my senior year in high school! I really do think the best way to learn how to do something is to do it and to be around people that do it as well! Without [the mentor's] help this never would have been possible.
Students need assistance to obtain valuable experiences and to help them build skills otherwise unavailable to them. As one young woman indicated, the Mentor Program's intervention on her behalf made a significant difference in her education:
"My mentorship has turned out to be great experience. I've not only learned lab procedures and etiquette, but I've also had the opportunity to meet many people in the field of molecular biology. In general, I'm learning things I could never do in high school."
Students in mentoring programs gain a diversity of skills in a variety of fields. High schools cannot offer such a variety of experiences with real-life emphasis, depth, and sophisticated equipment. The following students' responses to the MPG Survey suggest just a few of the diverse fields in which students can build applicable skills through a mentorship:
"I learned how to work better with special needs children and was given valuable insight into the social work system."
"While with my mentor, actually getting acquainted with the aviation "community"; and seeing what a day of operations is like [was most valuable]."
"I learned about the court system and the necessary official documents used in abuse cases."
"Before I did the Mentor Program I had no idea what the "real" duties of a doctor or nurse were, I learned a lot about the everyday activities involved in medicine."
Honed thinking skills and creativity. Isaksen and Treffinger (1985) distinguish between convergent thinking which involves judgment and divergent thinking which requires imagination. In high school mentoring programs, students learn how to think, observe Edlind and Haensly (1985). They use critical thinking skills to analyze problems and to think about themselves.
When asked his most valuable gain, a Mentor Program mentee of a recording engineer responded, "Setting goals and following through." He had gained the thinking skills necessary to structure solutions to professional problems, and to sequence his work to achieve the results he envisioned.
Another insightful student interested in becoming an entrepreneur stated, "Most important to me was just the time given to serious thought about one's self." This multitalented young man needed time to sort his personal priorities and options to make decisions about his future.
As Nash and Treffinger (1986) note, "People in mentoring relationships are problem solvers." (p. 20). They consistently confront the unknown and seek answers. In a mentoring situation, mentor and mentee find new ways to respond to problems within the field of mutual interest; they also use these skills in the process of developing their relationship. Boston (1976) observes that a key role of a mentor is to structure the "creative pause." The mentor may devise problems and allow time to teach the process of reflecting and generating solutions to them. Edlind and Haensly (1985) add that students' creative capacities were enhanced within their high school mentorship program. The research suggests, then, that students must apply both convergent and divergent skills in mentoring situations.
Feldhusen and Treffinger (1985) present "the three-stage model" of developing creative thinking and problem-solving. The third and final stage of the model culminates in "developing independence in research and creative production." (p. 15). In this stage, students take initiative and the classroom teacher assumes the role of "resource person and guide."
The mentoring process elevates students' educational outcomes to a level beyond what student and teacher can accomplish together. Perhaps, mentoring adds a "fourth stage" to the creative thinking and problem-solving model where students still take the initiative, the mentor acts as resource person and guide, and the teacher provides the "double-mentoring" or additional support.
In completing their mentorship projects, students have considered a wide range of problems: (1) creating an artificial hand with tension adjustment so the user can hammer nails, then adjust the tension to lift a rose without crushing it; (2) planning the optimum time interval to allow between breeding sows; (3) creating and mounting a personal art exhibit; (4) solving the "Saigon tower" problem in robotics; (5) probing the intricacies of genetically engineering the RSV virus associated with AIDS; or (6) planning and managing a fashion show for a local mall. The opportunities to solve problems and use both convergent and divergent thinking are endless. Says former Jewel CEO Donald S. Perkins of George L. Clements, his predecessor and Jewel Corporation mentor, "He could tap whatever creativity I had and bounce it off of his experience; that made a pretty good working relationship." (Anonymous, "Everybody Who Makes It Has a Mentor," 1978, p. 97).
More clearly defined career options. In a 1990 survey of American teenagers, the University of Michigan's Journal of Home Economics found that three of their top ten worries related directly to future careers. Teenagers listed the following career-related concerns in their top ten worries: Choosing a career or finding steady work ranked second on the teenagers' list; being successful in a particular line of work ranked third; and making a lot of money was the eighth biggest worry of today's teens. (Gelman, 1990). According to this survey, selecting among career options weighs very heavily upon the teenage population.
Among gifted/talented students, selecting career options is no less daunting. Simpson and Kaufman (1981) studied the career choices and relevant histories of 322 Presidential Scholars. They found that on their own, gifted children would not necessarily discover the opportunities available to them. They recommended a comprehensive career education program to "provide the guidance needed by gifted children to efficiently develop their potentials."
Simpson and Kaufman (1981), Berger (1989), and Frederickson and Rothney (1972) all uncovered the feelings of confusion experienced by multitalented people, and recommended they be guided to combine their talents in an unusual way. Simpson and Kaufman suggested that multitalented people who had successfully combined occupations and leisure activities could serve as mentors to help gifted students develop successful combinations in their own lives.
Students who apply for mentorships designate an area in which they seek advanced learning. Developmentally, however, high school juniors and seniors also seek direction for their future. Establishing their identity as individuals and as participants in society is a primary developmental task at this stage of life (Erikson, 1963). Because of their broader range of potentials, gifted students need more information and insights to realize a part of their unique career-development needs (Colangelo & Zaffrann, 1979; Fredrickson, 1979; Herr & Watanabe, 1979). Edlind and Haensly (1985) observed that mentorships help students to combine their talents into successful careers.
Students with talent in a variety of subjects or fields are often told, "You're so lucky! You can do anything you want and you'll be successful." This implies that they do not need help in choosing a career path. Counselors, teachers, and parents may conclude that their attentions should be diverted to those with less choices and opportunities. Unfortunately, these gifted/talented students are left confused with little idea how to sort their talents and apply them to their college or career choices. At the same time, they feel pressure from others' high expectations.
To complicate matters, these students often seek careers that require extensive training -- a high cost investment in terms of time, energy, and money. Gifted/talented students may view their career as a means of self-expression or as a lifestyle because of their heavy investment in reaching a particular career goal. While career education may not rank as the highest priority of school-supported mentoring programs, it should be a component. Students need help and support in evaluating their educational and career options, and mentors are often best equipped to provide that guidance.
Connections made between work and school. Kara's experience provides an excellent illustration of the impact of making real-life connections with classwork. When she observed veterinarians reconstructing a tail for a peregrine falcon, hematology work in a lab, and that algebraic calculations were the only means other than surgery to determine the gender of an eagle, she realized an application for advanced algebra and trigonometry. These connection inspired her to improve her performance in math class and ultimately to realize the importance of classroom instruction.
Increased motivation to achieve. Students who are allowed autonomous behavior -- acting with freedom of choice, self-determination, and personal control -- respond with high task interest, creativity, cognitive flexibility, positive emotion, and persistence according to a study by Deci and Ryan (1987). A mentoring program allows students autonomous behavior in choosing topics and focus, in selecting a mentor, in working with others, and in completing their individual project.
That participation in a mentoring program involves a moderate risk is another motivating factor for students (Deci & Porac, 1978; Hartner, 1978; Trope, 1978). According to these studies, moderate risk-taking increases performance, persistence, sense of competence, pride, satisfaction, and self-knowledge.
Clifford (1990) lists four circumstances under which moderate risk is likely to occur:
1. The success probability for each alternative is clear and unambiguous.
2. Imposed external constraints are minimized.
3. Variable payoff (the value of success increases as the risk increases) occurs in contrast to fixed payoff.
4. The benefits of risk-taking can be anticipated. (p. 24).
Students in a mentoring program experience all four of the circumstances leading to moderate risk:
1. Students hear what others students have achieved and what the mentor has to offer before a mentorship is finalized, so they can anticipate the benefits prior to a commitment.
2. Students determine their own course of study with minimal external constraints. They develop their own skills for autonomous learning to prepare for a mentorship. The mentors guide students in meeting their own learning needs.
3. Students in a mentoring program leave the security of the classroom and the familiarity of their high schools as they participate in a mentorship on a one-to-one basis. These risks are balanced by the hope of a much greater payoff in personal growth and achievement. Success is not guaranteed, but it is probable.
4. If a student truly wants to learn about a particular field of study, what better way to learn than from a successful practitioner expert with access to the additional resources of a professional environment. The benefits of the risk can easily be anticipated.
Students in a mentoring program are invited to take a risk, to learn tolerance for errors, and the pleasure of succeeding where success is not guaranteed. From the view of the researchers cited above, mentor students are invited to a motivating experience.
Friendships made. In mentoring programs, students establish new friendships, say Edlind and Haensly (1985) and Phillips (1977). Booth (1980) noted that mentees "said they liked having their ideas valued by a specialist from the community." (p. 11). Certainly, the sense of being valued by another contributes to the development of any friendship.
In the Mentor Program Graduate Survey (Reilly, 1990), over half (61 percent) of the students completing mentorships reported having continued contact with their mentors. Some also reported that they were employed by their former mentors.
Another form of friendship arises from the bonds formed between students who participate in a mentoring program together. Students tell me that outside of mentor class, they rarely have contact with similarly motivated and independent peers. The program instructors consistently observe that through this common experience, students share resources and ideas, socialize together, and become friends.
One group became such close friends that they always went out for pizza after class. I began to call them the "lunch club"; they, in turn, named themselves the "lunch bunch." Our last class session was conducted in that pizza parlor where I joined them for the first time. The students photographed the event and presented me with the results. Five years later, the enlarged 2' x 3' framed photo still hangs in my office, and they are still in touch with one another.
The inspiration generated by a role model. Phillips (1977) reported that mentors offer their mentees encouragement, advice or counsel, help with career moves, inspiration, and a role model. Phillips (1977) noted other aspects of role modeling in a mentor program are visibility and the excitement of being exposed to powerful people. When asked what her most valuable gain was from the Mentor Program, a student studying philosophy and physics at a prestigious national university responded:
"Inspiration: Had the opportunity to see successful motivated students and adults. I also discovered what people did in my field of interest; learned people skills that few students have and that are so necessary in college and the real world."
Another student expressed her progress as, "Openness, ease with people in authority: I'm more comfortable with anyone in authority now."
In Kaufmann's (1981) study of Presidential scholars from 1964 to 1968, the scholars were asked about the influence of their most significant mentors. The most frequently stated benefits of these mentors were to have a role model and support.
A matured sense of responsibility and direction. Martha Fulbright, director of the mentoring program in Walesco Independent School District in south Texas, reported, "Parents perceive an increased responsibility and sense of direction in their children" (Cox and Daniel, 1983, p. 59).
In the MPG Survey, Mentor Program graduates expressed similar personal outcomes. One former mentee wrote, "It gave me the freedom to pursue a field which I could not have discovered otherwise." Another observed, "The whole experience has enabled me to deal with difficult situations and to take advantage of my circumstances." A third program graduate stated, "It gave me confidence to go ahead and try new things." In a mentoring program students can also gain an equally valuable sense of direction by ruling out options as well as by selecting them.
Better understood and developed potentials. Phillips (1977) and Edlind and Haensly (1985) have documented that mentoring programs allow students to more fully develop their recognized talents and undiscovered talents. In an MPG Survey, a potential lawyer reflected that skills learned during her mentorship with a University law professor carried into her college career:
I also got involved in University politics and found I had a flair for it . . . good enough to put me in office. I am currently winding up as President of [my] State University Student Association.
BENEFITS OF A MENTOR TO AN INDIVIDUAL STUDENT
To better understand how the outcomes of a mentoring program outlined in this article influence a particular student, Katie shared her observations in an in-depth interview. Katie's experiences provide examples of how she has recognized, developed, and channeled her many potentials. Through the Mentor Program, Katie explored career options, built her skills, and gained a firmer sense of responsibility and direction. During that time, Katie encountered more than one person who served as a role model.
A college graduate at the time of the interview, Katie made connections between her mentoring and college experiences as she began a new phase of her life. The information and insights presented here were obtained through a personal interview in November 1990.
Connections made. Katie also noted the connections she made between her learning and what she now recognized as real-life "survival skills":
"It was also important to me that [the classroom teacher] cared and that it was important to her that I understood what she was teaching. I learned the importance of teachers as facilitators and role models--a communication skills model-- to help me understand what I'm thinking. I gained more respect for other people and how to share with other people what you're thinking and feeling in a respectful way. The most important thing I think I learned was how to call and look for information. These are everyday skills that college seniors finally must learn to interview for a job. Through the Mentor Program, I learned how to function in society and the benefit of staying in touch with people."
Since then, the only regret Katie has about the mentorship was that she feels she concentrated too much on career information and not enough on chemistry itself. Katie remembered that when she entered the Mentor Program "I knew nothing about chemistry or careers in chemical engineering. There was so much new information. I needed to understand benefits of the career field more than the chemical processes involved in laboratory work. I wish I had paid much more attention to learning about chemistry."
Honed thinking skills. Like other students involved with a mentoring program, Katie clearly articulated the value of independent thought:
"What I was reminded of once again by the pre-recruiter was that I could go into management in chemical engineering and work with people. You do solve technical problems -- you don't have to remember everything. Your training, like in Mentor, helps you to use resources to find answers, but my professors didn't say, Think about it . . . Think about it . . . They just said, "Regurgitate it." There was little emphasis on language and communications -- my brain was stagnating. You know, I have observed that international students understand America and its functions in the world better than Americans do. They have a better grasp of the world than we. Disturbing."
Increased self-esteem. As Katie neared college graduation, she reflected on where she had been and what the future held?
"I have had two successful intern experiences now. I know I have the interviewing and people skills to get jobs. I also have the technical expertise to work and get the job done and be successful. Throughout my college education I wasn't the A student any more. I was the one who does all homework, but didn't do well on the test.
"In college I felt the work load and the pressure to get points [grades]. I did not think about or absorb learning. I panicked. My boyfriend was concerned because I had to work so hard at it. Other things were easier for me than that. I felt pressured by the structure of the engineering school, and turned to easier courses. I took classes to get A's. I felt that a company would hire the best people. If you were the best, you had to have really good grades. I thought, 'How will they know I'm good, if I don't have the best grades.'
"Now I know if you're good, they will take you regardless. A degree tells them you can learn other skills. The big question is, 'How can you fit into my [corporate] culture?'
"For a while I thought maybe I picked the wrong thing. Business people do solve problems too, but I will get a job and people graduating a year ago with a business major can't get jobs. I have opportunities for corporate travel. I am excited to do research.
"There are opportunities to make an infinite number of things, but it makes a difference to me what I am making. I would like to find a product that helps, one that suits my business ethics -- maybe one which will aid healthful food availability in the world."
At the time of this interview, which was two months prior to her college graduation, Katie had already been offered three promising career positions.
Perspective on her education. Katie stated what she believed were the most significant gains throughout her education:
"Gaining a perception of careers and seeing how a technical engineering degree fits into business. I thought the business world was foreign. It was a great revelation that with a technical degree or marketing, you solve problems. In my education it was most important to develop the ability to communicate, to form an opinion and express that opinion respectfully to others, and to focus your energies and understand what is important. Being a perfectionist, when I just focus and say this is most important and then do it first, I'm happier and less stressed. The big thing -- if you can express yourself, you feel better about yourself."
Katie is just one student among hundreds. She now works as a chemical engineer for a major cereal manufacturer and has received three promotions in her two years with the company. Katie's story emphasizes several benefits of a mentoring program. Other students' stories may exemplify other benefits or the same benefits filtered through an extremely different perspective.
(For insights into other students' experiences in the Mentor Program and for more information about the Mentor Program please refer to the book, Mentorships: The Essential Guide for Schools and Business (1992) by Jill Reilly from which this article was adapted. Permission to print this article was granted by the publisher: Ohio Psychology Press; P.O. Box 90095; Dayton, OH 45490; (513) 890-7312.)
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A REVIEW OF:
NATIONAL EXCELLENCE: A CASE FOR DEVELOPING AMERICA'S TALENT
PAT O'CONNELL ROSS PROJECT DIRECTOR
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Every principal, counselor and teacher of gifted students should read this document. I believe it expresses the issues as clearly as I have ever seen. On the other hand, these issues will not be new to the well-read educational administrator and gifted education advocate.
The basic thesis of the document is that our efforts at improving education have been unilaterally directed toward bringing to fulfillment the talent potential of some students -- those who are deficient in motivation, and financial resources as well as ability -- while gifted students, even those from deprived backgrounds are left to "make it on their own." In general, this does not happen.
American schools are not turning out students who are prepared to enter the work force. In addition, they do worse in international tests and have read fewer books of the demanding kind expected in today's society than their European and Asian counterparts. They have generally spent less time on homework while in school, and they are otherwise poorly motivated. They aim for adequacy in their education, not academic excellence. Even those high achieving students listed in "Who's Who in American High Schools" report that they spend less than an hour per day studying. Other similar statistics are provided. In general, the curriculum offered to all students, but particularly the best students, is pedestrian and unchallenging.
The report finds the culprit in American folk attitudes toward excellence. In this view, to the extent that any kind of excellence bestows a "superior" label on an individual, it is undemocratic. Going back to de Tocqueville in the 1830s, the report finds a tradition of distrust of hierarchies, of intellectual and social distinctions, and of scholarship. Egalitarianism is the ideal, and a high level of education is supposed to deprive one of the common touch. Thus students are expected to graduate from (at least) high school, but not with more than a moderate degree of mastery.
The solution offered is a Vision for Excellent Schools in which children progress through challenging material at their own pace. They are aware that their parents and teachers have high expectations for them, and watch them closely to ensure that they work to the level of their ability to develop their potential. The community at large contributes resources to adapt and enrich the curriculum, while students develop self-esteem and confidence knowing that they will have the skills to join the intellectual and cultural work of the nation. Everybody wins. All students have an equal opportunity to develop. Diversity is respected. Rewarding possibilities exist for many children in this scenario as they are challenged to be active participants in their education, rather than passive receivers of knowledge.
REVIEWED BY DIANE D. GRYBEK SUPERVISOR OF SECONDARY GIFTED PROGRAMS
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SCHOOLS TAMPA, FLORIDA
(NATIONAL EXCELLENCE was published in October 1993. Order copies of this report from the Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954 or by calling the GPO Order Desk at (202) 783-3238. The Order # is 065-000-00603-1.)
C. S. LEWIS (1898-1963): A STUDY IN GIFTED SENSIBILITY
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
"The distinction can hardly be better expressed than by saying that the many use art and the few receive it." (from An Experiment in Criticism, 1961).
A highly acclaimed film, Shadowlands (1994), has brought into focus the life and work of the British writer, C. S. Lewis. His literary life typifies the content of sensibility. As one experiences both the individual and his work, every aspect of his literary production reflects his most outstanding quality -- the sensibility of giftedness.
Lewis's professional career was concerned with scholarship and teaching at Oxford and Cambridge universities. His scholarship not only involved interpretive analysis of the major writers in the English language, but also an examination of the act of reading itself. His expertise mainly included the Mediaeval and Renaissance English literary imagination, and he was especially fond of John Milton (1608-74). His approach to literary criticism combined both the cognitive and affective realms of the imagination, i.e., he examined both aspects to produce a comprehensive study of a writer's work and creativeness. Clearly, an important trait of gifted individuals is their ability to analyze and combine these two aspects of thinking and personality.
Lewis wrote a small and wonderful treatise on reading literature, An Experiment in Criticism (1961). In this essay, he analyzed with splendid, sparse and simple prose the differences between types of readers. This book should be used in all courses on teaching the gifted because he describes the sensibility of the gifted reader as contrasted with the non-gifted reader. The style is an antidote to "dumb-brightness" (i.e., having a high level of technical knowledge but little understanding of it implications) because it eschews technical jargon. It is also one of the best modern examples of expository writing. His style is epigrammatic with echoes of Montaigne (1533-92), a French Renaissance essayist. This French writer described the essay as an experiment in thinking. The gifted sensibility includes the ability to enjoy and derive pleasure from reflective thinking.
Everything C. S. Lewis wrote had a keen reflective quality. As a result of studying the great English poets (e.g., Edmund Spenser, 1552-99, and John Milton, 1608-74), he wrote about such topics as allegorical descriptions, concepts of love, religion, philosophy and psychological excavations of the mind. One of Lewis's most famous books was The Screwtape Letters (1942). It has developed a worldwide following and has been translated into every major language. The hallmark of a great writer is that although one may disagree with his major premise -- in this book, a defense of traditional Christian thought -- there is great respect and appreciation for his work. In The Screwtape Letters, this was due to the high quality of his writing and sensibility. Many gifted individuals read for deep personal meaning and self-actualization. In fact, this quest for self-actualization through reading is the primary mode of entertainment for many gifted students. This and other excellent books by Lewis will help them to fulfill this higher level need.
Lewis developed a charming and poetic approach for reaching gifted children through his fantasy and science fiction books. The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56), a series of fantasies, have a continuous attraction for gifted children because the sensibilites expressed in these books represent reflective philosophy in the context of children's fantasy literature. A close analysis of all of Lewis's books for children will show that they contain the same concerns as his adult writings. His science fiction works include the same themes of the great British writers such as Milton. What is especially significant is that he wrote science fiction as early as 1943, before this genre was very popular. Another trait of the gifted sensibility is to combine interdisciplinary aspects of science and literature. Lewis's science fiction (e.g., That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups, 1945) will appeal to gifted students because it stresses both aspects.
C. S. Lewis's masterpiece is another detailed essay, A Grief Observed (1961). It was written after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman Lewis, an American woman poet from the Bronx, New York. It is one of the most important prose works in the last thirty years, and becomes more relevant as the factory of pseudo self-help books pour out of publishers' assembly lines. This essay is an intense personal conversation with the reader. Many gifted students possess a similar trait of attempting to come to terms with life's profound experiences such as the death of a loved one. For Lewis, who had a strong religious commitment, he needed to face the impact of grief honestly, and in all its psychological dimensions. Although he was a traditional Christian, his sensibility was similar to what Freud expressed in Mourning and Melancholia (1917). C. S. Lewis's gifted sensibility gave his writing and thought a universality that transcends national boundaries, religions, and intellectual ideologies. "Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection . . . the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer." (from A Grief Observed, 1961).
TRIBUTE TO DR. VIRGIL S. WARD:
PRESENTED AT THE 1994 COUNCIL FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN (CEC) CONFERENCE DENVER, COLORADO*
BY MAURICE D. FISHER GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS
I first met Professor Ward approximately 27 years ago as a graduate student at the University of Virginia in 1967. He was my doctoral adviser and quickly became my mentor, and later -- my friend and colleague. What greatly impressed me about him from the beginning was that he engaged in real academic business. He was rough on his graduate students (and on himself too) in driving us to think in the most rigorous manner possible. One could easily see that Virgil loved engaging in rigorous thinking about the problems of educating gifted children. In this sense, his graduate students perceived him as being different from most professors of that time; he was more the "European" type of academic who was most comfortable with tackling the philosophical problems underlying the surface issues concerned with educating the gifted.
Because of his roots in philosophical analysis and his independent approach to solving problems, Virgil has usually been, if not a "minority of one," then a "minority of the few," who rigorously questions and analyzes each option for educating the gifted before deciding upon what is best for these children. John Dewey's philosophy of pragmatism and inquiry has had a great influence on Virgil's writings and viewpoints concerning what should be done in the gifted education field.
Virgil Ward has changed little in the 27 years I have known him. He is still interested in theory. He still emphasizes the same high standards for educating the gifted expressed in his book, Differential Education for the Gifted (1961, 1980). Today, he is troubled by the tide of mediocrity that is overwhelming gifted education. Despite the present situation, I believe his work in this field will not only last, it will prevail!
Congratulations, Dr. Ward, on your lifelong dedication to the differential education of gifted children. Thank you for the rigorous and unique education you have provided to your former graduate students, and for your universal dedication to providing the gifted with the best possible education.
*I greatly appreciate the following: (1) Dr. Karen Rogers' help in reading this tribute since I was unable to attend this meeting; and (2) The Association for the Gifted (TAG) for presenting Dr. Ward with its Certificate of Merit, 1994, at its annual meeting in Denver as part of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference. Dr. Rogers has informed me that Dr. James Gallagher had some very kind words to say during the TAG meeting about Ward's achievements in the gifted field.
"My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there." Indira Gandhi.