Information Age Education
   Issue Number 19
June, 2009   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by David Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. For more information, see the end of this newsletter.

The previous issue of this IAE Newsletter focused on Talented and Gifted Education. This issue also focuses on TAG education. The specific emphasis is on some work done by Joseph Renzulli, a long time world-class leader in TAG education.

Here is a thought experiment that sets the tone for this newsletter. Suppose that a “magic IQ pill” were developed that, if taken by a women reasonably early in a pregnancy, would lead to the doubling of her child’s IQ. Thus, a child who would normally face life in our society with an IQ of 70 would grow up with an IQ of 140—comparable to a child classified as TAG in our current world.

Interestingly, using today’s typical definitions of TAG, this child would not be classified as TAG. Rather, this child would be viewed as cognitively challenged, with an IQ in the bottom two percent!

This thought experiment is one type of argument that supports the idea that we should view all students in our schools as having considerable cognitive abilities and being very capable of learning.

Joseph Renzulli

Joseph Renzulli is Professor, University of Connecticut, Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and Director, National Research Center on Gifted and Talented. (See http://www.tki.org.nz/r/gifted/reading/theory/renzulli_e.php.) He has long been interested in creating school environments that are appropriate to serving learning needs of the full range of students in a school.

Renzulli is a strong supporter of project-based learning. Consider project-based learning in which each student works individually on a project over an extended period of time. (See http://iae-pedia.org/Project-Based_Learning.) A key idea is that students are engaged in projects that they find interesting and that are appropriately challenging to their current levels of cognitive development, knowledge, and skills. Some students will do both broader and deeper work than others. In a well-designed PBL environment, all students will learn—but there will be major differences in what and how much different students learn.

There are many interesting and challenging projects that cannot be accomplished by one student working alone in the time that is available. A team of students is needed to carry out such projects. Moreover, it is important for students to learn to work in a team environment.

Some teachers shy away from allowing a team to consist of the “best and brightest” students in a class. However, think about the future work environments that these students will face. They can benefit immensely by learning to work collaboratively with other TAG students.

Total Talent Portfolio

One component of Renzulli’s work that I find particularly important is called the Total Talent Portfolio. Quoting Renzulli, “The Total Talent Portfolio is a vehicle for gathering and recording information systematically about students' abilities, interests, and learning styles.” See chapter 3 of my book available at my free TAG book available at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/13-computers-in-education-for-talented-and-gifted-students.html.

The basic idea is that each student is to have a personal TTP that is used to assist the student in learning, learning to learn, and learning about themselves as a learner. A student’s TTP is also quite useful to the student’s teachers.

For a very young student, the teacher develops an initial TTP for the student. This is done through an interactive discussion with the student as well as by drawing on the teacher’s knowledge about the student. There are some similarities between this process and the development of an Individual Education Program (IEP). However, developing, making use of, maintaining, and revising a TTP can be a very informal process.

As students gain in maturity, they can assume more and more personal responsibility for their TTPs. Quoting Renzulli:

Students should achieve autonomy and ownership of the TTP by assuming major responsibility in the selection of items to be included, maintaining and regularly updating the portfolio, and setting personal goals by making decisions about items that they would like to include in the portfolio. Although the teacher should serve as a guide in the portfolio review process, the ultimate goal is to create autonomy in students by turning control for the management of the portfolio over to them.

There are many possible components of a TTP. Here are a few possible main headings and subheadings in a table-like approach to a representing a TTP:

1. Special strengths and abilities.
2. Interest areas.
3. Style preferences:
a. Instructional style preferences
b. Learning environment preferences.
c. Thinking style preferences.
d. Expression and performance style preferences.

 TTP and Teacher Education

A few years ago I inserted a unit on TAG education into a preservice elementary education course that I taught regularly. This unit of study made use of my free TAG book available at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/13-computers-in-education-for-talented-and-gifted-students.html.

In parallel with my course, students were doing classroom field experience work in various elementary schools. I gave an assignment that required each of the preservice teachers in my class to select two high-achieving students and two low-achieving students in an elementary school. Their task was to work with these four students individually to develop a TTP, and then to report in some detail about the process and results. This turned out to be one of the more successful assignments that I have given over the years that I taught the course.

Developing and maintaining a personal TTP is a useful component of a student learning to become in independent, self-responsible learner. The process, along with periodic revisions and updates to the TTP, is a good topic for student journaling. Students in their early teens may benefit by reading my (free) book Becoming More Responsible For Your Education available at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/39-becoming-more-responsbile-for-your-education.htm.


About Information Age Education, Inc.

Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. IAE is a project of the Science Factory, a 501(c)(3) science and technology museum located in Eugene, Oregon. Current IAE activities include a Wiki with address http://IAE-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://I-A-E.org, and the free newsletter you are now reading.

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