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Research Paper on Creativity and Giftedness

5 pages
1370 words
Carnegie Mellon University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


To a large extent, creativity is a decision. Children as well as adults are creative, not by virtue of an innate ability, but by virtue of a set of decisions. In essence, they decide for creativity, rather than an innate set of abilities deciding whether they are creative. Thus, creative giftedness is not a fixed trait, but a decision-making skill that can be developed. In this article, I present ten decisions people can make to decide for creativity. Included are teaching examples of these decisions as well as teaching activities to facilitate students' learning how to make these decisions?

Educators as well as psychologists tend to view creativity as a gift from God, nature, genetic heritage, or some other source over which one has no control. An alternative view of creativity, however, is that it is, in large part, a decision (Sternberg, 1999c, 2000). According to an investment theory of creativity, people who are creative are those who decide to interact with ideas in the same way good investors interact with stocks: They buy low and sell high (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995). In other words, creative people generate ideas that are unusual and that defy the crowd and often are viewed as bizarre by their colleagues. This process is analogous to researching and then buying stocks selling at a low price-to-earnings ratio. The creative people then try to convince people of the value of their ideas. They then sell high, meaning that once some people have been convinced that the ideas do indeed have value. The creative people move on to their next unusual idea. They do not just stick with the same idea forever. This process is analogous to selling stock at a profit rather than holding on to it indefinitely.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the concept of giftedness has been associated with high intelligence and exceptional performance (Gottfredson, 1997; A. Robinson & Clinkenbeard, 2008). Largely in response to the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957, the federal government directed funds to identify and counsel bright students in fields related to math and science. This unfortunately short-lived but nonetheless significant attention to and infusion of financial resources for the gifted helped create gifted education practices and beliefs.

Almost 40 years ago, a seminal report authored by Sydney Marland, then Commissioner of Education, profoundly influenced how giftedness was conceptualized and defined. Included in what became known as the Marland Report (1972) was the statement encouraging states to identify a minimum of 35% of the school population as gifted. Some experts have suggested that the 35% estimate was proposed as a minimum upper limit and not a specific threshold, thus preventing any superintendent from claiming that their district had no gifted students (Borland, 2003). However, the 35% upper limit for defining gifted students became, in the minds of many, including state education policymakers, something real (Pfeiffer, 2003, in press-b).

Toward the end of the 20th century, and into the first decade of the 21st century, gifted authorities recognized serious limitations in utilizing only an IQ test score to identify gifted students. Authorities have advocated for a more comprehensive, conceptually sophisticated, and diagnostically defensible approach that includes multiple criteria (Borland, 2003; Pfeiffer, 2003; VanTassel-Baska, Feng, & Evans, 2007). Concerns over best practices in gifted diagnosis or classification have been accompanied by recommendations for increased, expanded, and differentiated programming services for the gifted (Feldman, 2003; Tomlinson, 2003, 2009).

How giftedness is defined and conceptualized has undergone significant change over the past two decades, particularly in the professional literature (Horowitz, Subotnik, & Matthews, 2009; Moon & Dixon, 2006). However, all too often, and as observed in school systems today, giftedness continues to be viewed as something identified primarily by a score on an IQ test (Borland, 2009; Edwards, 2009; Ford, 2010; Worrell, 2009). This IQ score continues to reflect a 35% cutscore suggested 40 years ago by Marland (1972).

The Education Amendments of 1969 (U.S. Congress, 1970) published one of the first federal definitions of giftedness. Three years later, and again in 1978, Superintendent Marland modified the federal definition. After several revisions, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (1993) published a definition that reflects contemporary understanding of gifted students:

Children and youth with outstanding talent perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment. These creative, and/or artistic areas, possess an unusual leadership capacity, or excel in specific academic fields. They require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools. Outstanding talents are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavour (p. 26).

Originally, educators defined gifted or talented more narrowly and only considered the constructs of achievement and/or intelligencewhich increased the probability that certain youth with non-academic gifts would be excluded from gifted consideration. However, over the past two decades, definitions of giftedness have broadened to include abilities related to leadership, creativity, and the arts. The term gifted has been removed from many current definitions, reflecting a more contextual, developmental, and talent development perspective (Cramond, 2004; Stephens, 2008; Stephens & Karnes, 2000). Procedures used for identifying gifted students have largely been based on individual scores on standardized IQ tests (N. M. Robinson, 2005; Worrel, 2009). For example, a student is typically labelled as gifted and talented upon obtaining a score of 120, 125, or 130 on the Stanford-Binet or Wechsler Intelligence Scales. A student referred for gifted identification who does not obtain a pre-established cut score on an IQ test is often deemed not gifted or ineligible for gifted programming and services (Brown, Renzulli, Gubbins, Zhag, & Chen, 2005; Pfeiffer, 2008, in press-a). There is an extensive research literature supporting the validity of IQ scores predicting academic achievement, as well as job performance, social-economic status, and other important life outcomes (Duckworth, Matthews, Kelly, & Peterson, 2007; Neisser et al., 1996; Rushton & Jensen, 2010). Consequently, the belief remains in the minds of many educators, psychologists, and policymakers that an IQ score provides the metric to define giftedness (Borland, 2009; Cramond, 2004; Pfeiffer, in press-a, in press-b).

On the other hand, there is a growing consensus in the gifted field that advocates using multiple and alternative approaches to identifying gifted students. Authorities in the gifted field report, however, that school districts nationwide have been slow to adopt new and alternative identification procedures (Callahan, 2009; Reis & Renzulli, 2009; VanTassel-Baska & Stambaugh, 2005). One goal of the present study was determining whether the perception of gifted authorities is valid. In particular, we were interested in learning whether change in adopting new definitions for and ways of conceptualizing giftedness at the state level have been slow or faster than gifted authorities suspect. Cassidy and Hossler (1992) conducted a nationwide survey of state definitions of giftedness, in part to determine whether definitions changed since an earlier report published in 1985. Surveys were sent to each state department of education and findings showed that the majority of states defined giftedness using a one-dimensional model and single criterion (e.g., the IQ score). It was also reported that states continued to rely heavily on the 1978 federal definition. F

Furthermore, 30 states had made no revisions to their respective definitions in more than a decade. Almost 10 years later, Stephens and Karnes (2000) also conducted a survey to analyze state definitions. Similar to Cassidy and Hossler (1992), the 2000 national survey was distributed to each state department of education to collect state definitions for gifted and talented. State definitions were compared with categories found within the federal definition of giftedness as well as compared with those definitions reported by Cassidy and Hossler (1992). Stephens and Karnes (2000) also presented each states 1990 and 1998 gifted definitions as a means of comparing specific changes. The reported findings illustrated a wide discrepancy among statewide definitions for gifted and talented students, with some states adopting definitions from the Jacob K. Javits Act (1988), others using Renzullis (1978) three-ring model of giftedness, and some states providing no definition of giftedness. Furthermore, although states acknowledged the existence of more than one type of giftedness, the 1978 federal definition continued to be represented in a majority of state definitions. Stephens and Karnes (2000) concluded that more recent definitions and conceptual models (e.g., Gardner, 1993; Sternberg, 2005) were often overlooked by states and were not adequately reflected in state definitions. They also concluded that eligibility for gifted services continued to be heavily influenced by the federal definition.


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