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Means and Ends in Gifted Education

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Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of SIG AT EMORY (11)You’ve all heard the saying “The ends justify the means,” meaning that as long as you get where you want in the end, it doesn’t matter how you get there. In gifted education, I think it’s more about the means than the ends, and that those means do matter. In other words, it’s more about processes than products. Sure, you can imagine the end you want and choose various means to get there from your repertoire, but first you have to have a repertoire. So the means justify the ends. You may be looking for a different outcome each time, but if you have high quality processes at your disposal, you’ll never be stuck for a high quality solution.

Gifted students benefit from learning and practicing a wide variety of processes that they can refer to over and over. If you are an educator, think about where you hope your gifted students will end their study— generally with original, thoughtful products that reflect new information that they have integrated in new ways, right? Then think- how will we get there? Will tests on basic core information get us there? Will back and forth short answer questions with students get us there? Not likely.

If we want thoughtful engagement with curriculum we have to model high level thinking, teach students to question, do research, and pursue advanced content that challenges them and fills in their blanks—their missing pieces of information. We have to help them find the intriguing elements in and out of the content that will spur them to undertake further study. We have to pull real and current examples and scenarios from the world on a global scale where this newly gained content has application. By engaging these kinds of processes, which are ultimately more valued and valuable for gifted students, we teach them much more than their prescribed curriculum. We teach them how to be creative life-long learners, with means to whatever ends they desire.

If you have had experiences with gifted students who were more fascinated by the processes of discovery than the outcome, do share your anecdotes with us.

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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