Thursday, January 23, 2014

Understanding the Universal Traits of High Performance

Giftedness is often seen in the context of culture and therefore may only partially explain the phenomenon. The authors Foreman and Renzulli (2012) argue that giftedness should be seen as those unique traits that apply to the population across various cultural vantage points. As each culture emphasizes certain behaviors as appropriate they inherently skew the recognition of the traits that lead to higher performance.  Having universal and global gifted traits will help in the proper identification and development of this unique population.

North American scholars are seen as advanced within their gifted assessment and understanding. They still struggle with finding practical applications of such ability and falter under the multiple perspectives and conceptions. Certain traits may be more universal in nature and transcend local cultures depending on which philosophical perspective the researcher desires to take.

Philosophical traditions focus on different fundamental aspects of truth. This naturally impacts their scientific understandings and can lead to skewed understandings. For example, pragmatist’s perspectives by William James and John Dewey believe that truth is from putting concepts into practice.

Social constructionists would argue that science is culturally oriented and cannot be easily separated unless one believes in a global culture. Pragmatists focus on emic and etic understandings while constructionists focus more on the emic side. Emic looks at the person within a culture while etic is focused on universal traits that can be applied to other cultures.

The author argues that understanding giftedness should now move beyond culture to more pragmatic etic approaches whereby the traits have universal application. Culture, when studying the gifted, can be seen as a bias, whereby specific traits are accepted or rejected only because they have or do not have cultural relevance to the people judging them.

Let us put this to an example. You have two tribes. One tribe values hunting while the other tribe values writing. If a gifted person is raised as a hunter and excels in this skill and is then transferred to the other tribe they would be viewed as less competent. The person may have been able to master both but has no training or experience in the other culturally laden occupation.

The author argues that giftedness research should begin to focus more closely on universal traits. Through universal traits that apply across multiple cultures a more beneficial understanding can be found and applied for development. Through new theoretical and culturally neutral approaches the research can advance to higher levels of understanding and development.

Comment: If gifted is primarily a biological trait that cannot be ignored or thwarted then it will be universal in its nature. If that development includes a more connected brain that efficiently processes information and sees the multiple possibilities of different situations then culture will determine how it is manifested. Depending on culture, family, and educational perspective the gifted will be pushed down varying paths as artists, laborers, theorists, sports players, religious figures, writers, actors, etc. through the value projections of their upbringing.

Foreman, J. & Runzulli, J. (2012). Culture, globalization and the study of giftedness: reflections on persson’s analysis and recommendations for future research. Gifted and Talented International, 27 (1)

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