Mindsets in the Classroom - Chapter 7


Welcome to our study of Mary Cay Ricci's book, Mindsets in the Classroom.  If you are new here, you might want to peek back at our introduction - ***CLICK HERE*** - and then work your way through each chapter post (which we publish on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays in June).

Whether you've been with us from the start - or if today you are visiting for the first time - thank you so much for joining us!  We'd love to have you comment here with your thoughts, or - even better! - write about this chapter on your own blog and link up with us at the bottom of this post so that we can come visit YOU!



Today we focus on Chapter 7, in which the author addresses the question, "Can gifted education and a growth mindset belief coexist?"  Ricci writes that identifying - or labeling - a student as GT may do more harm than good unless the teacher's goal (and that of the school and district) "is to develop an instructional philosophy that addresses the needs of our most advanced learners while at the same time allowing access to instruction to all learners" (page 95).

This chapter is of greatest interest to me, because my background is in Gifted education.  I started as a pullout program teacher in the early 1990s, and although I taught in a variety of situations over the decades, I returned to the Gifted classroom and finished out my last few years teaching self-contained Third Grade until retiring.  I read the chapter from that perspective, and I will be interested in seeing what other teachers' thoughts are from their own unique and varying experiences.

To tell you the truth, I entered the chapter with the prejudice that the author was going to say we do not need Gifted education.  But as I read and re-read her opinions, examined the ample research and anecdotal evidence she presented, and applied it all to my own experience, I realized that Ricci is actually presenting a philosophy of Gifted education that will benefit all students - including the Gifted kids.

Here is an overview of my take-aways from this chapter.  You can click on the image to download a pdf version for easy reference:


Like most of us, I like to reflect on what I'm reading in professional development by applying it to my own practice.  Here are some of my own thoughts and experiences as they relate to what Ricci writes about:


Identification

It's so important that we never inadvertently exclude any student from maximizing his or her potential!  In Gifted education, careful thought must be given to how we identify students.  Do the instruments and methods we use to identify Gifted students take into account cultural backgrounds?  How about the possibility of dyslexia, ADHD, or communication impairments - or other ways that might interfere with how the student performs on a traditional assessment?

I've always worked in districts where the CoGAT (Cognitive Abilities Test) was the primary instrument used to identify children.  But thankfully, we have always included additional measures to accommodate students who may not use English as the primary language at home, or who may have other hurdles that might obscure talents and strengths on traditional assessments.  Outside testing results are also accepted on a list of approved instruments, expanding possibilities for students who may not typically perform optimally in the school setting.

An area for improvement would be blanket evaluation of all students.  I've always worried that there are students who are overlooked because a parent or teacher did not recommend him/her for evaluation.

Multiple Intelligences

Traditionally the areas looked at for Gifted identification are those most closely resembling what is considered academic in the classroom:  verbal, quantitative, and (less easily defined by many) non-verbal.

I was blessed with the opportunity to work in a charter school years ago that based their charter on Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  The best part of this experience was the awesome training I received, including conferences with leaders in the field.  And the most lasting impact this had on my practice was to honor each child for his/her unique strengths - indeed, gifts.

I love this quotation, most often attributed to Albert Einstein (for the record, the origin of this proverb is not fully known):


The Takeaway

It should NOT be about identifying Gifted kids just so that we can pull them out of the crowd.
It should be ALL ABOUT honoring what exists inherently - uniquely - in every child that can be nurtured and developed.
It is about believing that every child has some special spark that will eventually impact the world in a positive way, and that our role as educators is to help the child discover and nurture that spark.



Ultimately, I found that my initial prejudice was unfounded.

Ricci's thoughts on how Gifted education ideally inspires, nurtures, and develops the very best in ALL learners through a growth mindset provided me with a lot of food for thought... and left me with the happy validation that many of us are indeed practicing this in our classrooms.

What were your thoughts on this chapter?

Please share in the comments below, or link up with us to share your blog post!



25 comments :

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Teresa! I was pretty darned happy when I realized it was "my" chapter! xo

      Delete
  2. Wonderful chapter summary, Pamela. I love the idea that we need to help all students shine and not just the ones judged to be "gifted".

    Debbie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Debbie, I don't know how I missed your nice comment! I just now read it!
      Yes, I loved this aspect of the article as well. What a wonderful challenge to look for the unique gifts inherent in every child! xo

      Delete
  3. Chapter 7: Another WOW chapter! I think this mentality needs to apply to our special education population too. All students need the opportunity to be challenged in their educational setting. Too often its "he's a sped kid" or "she's a gifted kid" and that's not my job. Now I may not have heard this often, but it is something I've heard. Why are we not shifting towards the growth mindset of they are all my students and the gifted teacher and sped teacher are supports in my classroom. Now I'm not saying every kid doesn't provide their own sets of challenges, but I am saying why are we not challenging them because no matter their strengths they are capable. Students can be challenged no matter what their capabilities are and I am a firm believer in that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With a growth mindset, teachers believe that students can improve and show growth regardless of circumstances that are beyond our control. I had the opportunity to work with groups of students that could rise to rigorous expectations and I tried to look beyond if he or she was gifted and instead ask, what are his or her needs?

      Delete
  4. I love this quote from the book, "If students believe that they will with effort and persistence, be successful in environments of challenging instruction, they are more likely to succeed." Children have to believe in themselves and for them to believe in themselves they have to have teachers (adults) that believe in them. I watched a student in my class this year who struggled greatly across subjects (when she wrote it was unreadable and she continually made very simple math errors) not really put much effort into her work. I talked with her sped teacher and she was doing the same thing in her reading class. I knew she had more potential. So one day I sat her down and told her that I knew she could do more and that if she really focused and tried harder she could achieve so much more. By the end of the year she could write a few words in a simple sentence (I could get the gist of what she was talking about), and she could complete simple addition/subtraction problems without assistance. I was so proud of her and when I would tell her what a wonderful job she was doing she would brighten up and I could see her try harder. All it took was her believing in herself and her knowing someone believed she could achieve.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said Carla, the child and the teacher has to believe.

      Delete
    2. My teachers need to believe in themselves too! What a hard working team!

      Delete
  5. What I took away from Chapter 7 is that we must respond to the instructional needs of ALL students and that we should focus on developing each child's own talent. I especially liked the statement that we must learn to recognize "sparks" in our students and then provide challenging instruction in all subjects at all grade levels.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This chapter really did make me reflect on past practices in my classroom and the perceptions that students had about themselves and others. It also made me think about the way that I thought about these "gifted" students and the pressure they might have felt from me, as well as the entitlement feeling that others had. I liked the suggestions for ways to adjust our thinking about these students.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I really liked the philosophy of gifted education from a district that has adopted a growth mindset. It calls for differentiation for all students. I agree with the statements on the last pages. I think that all students deserve to have the a teaching/learning philosophy that address differentiation, curriculum development, and high teacher expectations.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This happened to a few of our students this year in third grade....one of the main reasons that barriers exist is due to a conception of giftedness that emphasizes and values only already developed ability. When identifying who would be in our GT group, our 3rd graders were already weighed out by their abilities, talent, and or performance from second grade. MANY STUDENTS WERE OVERLOOKED, ones that were very capable of achieving that next level of success, but were never given the opportunity. I had a student that in second grade go from one of the least successful students, to one of the most highest achieving by the end of third grade. I had the opportunity to loop with him and I'm forever blessed to have that child two years in a row. Because I had faith in him, and I would tell him all the time how much I believed in him, and what he was capable of...he lived up to those expectations, even through all his hardship. He definitely beat the odds that were against him!!

    I think at the beginning of the year it is very wise for a teacher to tell all their students they are capable of achieving any goal they set for themselves, and explaining to them that you are there for them from that day forward. Even after the school year is over, you will still be there watching them grow and continue to be successful. You will always be a part of them and will be there for them after the school year is over.

    Basically we need to make every child feel loved, special, and capable of succeeding. Teachers need to have more of an open mind towards their students and give each of them the benefit of the doubt that they are talented and each posses a special gift of their own.

    I had never thought about the pressure we might put on the more talented students, or ones who posses the ability to zoom through curriculum, by telling them they are so smart and so gifted. We are setting up frustration levels when they don't get something so easily as they did the day before. This is something I will definitely keep in mind when setting groups, or trying to encourage students. I would never want their frustration levels to be any higher than they actually need to be.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've seen students react in a multitude of ways when they are apart of the GT program and honestly it isn't always pretty. Some students (the roll with the punches kind) will simply go when told, accomplish what needs to be accomplished and return to class. Others either have such a superior attitude because they are apart of the program or are petrified of failing at anything because they have this label on them of "gifted". Either way it doesn't make for a good learning experience or good community within the classroom.
    The concept laid out in this chapter of meeting all students where they are and helping them to develop and grow from there is so important. GT students are not the only ones who should be nurtured and supported enough to allow talents, creativity and cognitive abilities to grow. ALL students should receive those same supports and opportunities.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Many of the student express different feelings and emotions about the gifted program. Some are not identified and are indeed gifted, but maybe are unable to demonstrate performance on the assessment. Maybe the child experiences testing anxiety. Again we get away from the growth mind set concept of praising a student for what he does, not who they are. Children being labeled sends a message that these are permanent traits and their being judged. Besides when reflecting on growth mindset and the malleability of the brain research reveals that everyone can get smarter with persistence, effort, and motivation. In my opinion, everyone is blessed with gifts and talents we as educators just need to help the students identify, grow, and utilize those talents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have really thought a lot about this too, Gigi.

      Delete
  11. My graduate-level coursework in Gifted Education really came back to me with this chapter. My professor in the course was not what I expected. She believed that all students were "gifted." She said that obviously everyone has the potential to become an expert. I love the idea of using "high potential" or "highly motivated." Everyone has potential that needs to be nurtured. Does telling a child that he/she is gifted manifest a fixed mindset? I believe so. Praise what a child does. I have seen students become overly cautious and challenge-avoidant, as fear of mistakes or keeping the "gifted" label.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow! I am trying to catch up on my blog and it has worked out to be a good thing that I waited... In my math class this morning, the instructor pointed out that many times we as teachers exclude students from more challenging math concepts because they are not "fluent" with math facts. In reality, many of those students may be able to very successfully accomplish the "harder" math skills and activities despite the lack of fact fluency. It is yet another label we inadvertently place on students... "Johnny does not know Marh Facts thus he is not strong in Math". Maybe it is subconscious when we do this, I know I have never really thought about not including a student in an activity due to lack of math facts, but maybe I have treated them a little different. Yet, another reminder to be conscious of growth mindset for every topic and every child.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm right there with Lauren. All of our students need to be fostered and believe that they can grow and achieve more, we need to meet them where they are and help them see that if they have the right mentality about what they are working on and keep persisting they can and will have a better understanding and become 'smarter'.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love how she helped her son see a positive with the glass half/half empty. I'll have to remember to use this at home when the next "woe is me" shows up. I feel she is spot on when she says a successful child is a confident child.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Correction glass half full/ half empty.

      Delete
  15. I love Val's statement she learned in class --- everyone has the potential to become an expert! I have believed for years that every student needs his or her own personalized learning plan---"[any] the label becomes unimportant when the students' instructional needs are being met consistently! Let's get everyone on board for personalized learning!!!

    ReplyDelete