Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Developing Gifted Scientists Through Student Exploration

A great mind is a terrible thing to waste. Thousands of gifted people fall through the educational cracks and do not contribute fully to the world in which we exist. Future scientists and great discoveries are left unpackaged and unturned because we have failed to foster their minds in a way that breaks the mold of our defunct education system. To be a great nation and support the spreading of our way of life means we need to ensure the best and brightest come forward to take their rightful place as contributors to society.

 Our gifted are not the ones you think they are. They are the hidden nuggets among the masses that are unchallenged, engaging in esoteric pursuits, contemplating the meaning of life, and developing in a way that many do not understand. They are not the most socially connected, the best looking, the richest or even the one's who get the best grades. They are the unknown .01 percent of society that are pushed aside in a the stream of self-focus.

This problem of pushing aside those with the most potential has been going on for a long time. According to John Stuart Mill, society often buries their geniuses under dogmatic pathology. "The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time."

Highly intelligent people are unique because they view the world through a different lens. They gaze deeply into things out of curiosity, might have more refined nervous systems that retain more information, and act in ways outside of the norm. They are qualitatively and quantitatively different which makes them eccentric to many who do not hold the same capacities and traits that force them to see the world in a different way.

Giftedness is associated with a person's intelligence and innate ability to learn, develop and understand. They may be a genius in one or more areas as their minds develop and integrate information. According to Gardner in his book "Frames of Mind" (1983) there are seven, updated to nine, distinct types of intelligence. Areas where genius may succeed in logic, linguistic, visual-spatial, musical, kinaesthetic, interperspersonal and intrapersonal. They may also develop global and naturalistic mindsets that understand the bigger systems and the nature of things.

One might be a great dancer and another a skilled scientist; some might be both. There could be some who excel in multiple areas and are capable of pushing the envelop. Succeeding in these areas means the gifted person must be exposed to new opportunities. A "hit or miss" opportunity arises where innate skill matches some activity in their environment and they begin on the path of interest and development. Some skills may never develop because of a lack of exposure.

When the environment matches skills gifted individuals excel in higher order thinking skills. These skills are related to logical, critical, and creative thinking (Demirel et. al. 1998). This means that they can use solid logic to think through information, critically analyze that information in a way that offers new insight and are creative enough to develop new ways of doing things. In essence, they are the innovative and strategic thinkers we want them to be.

Modern curriculum seeks to pour knowledge in a linear fashion into student's minds. This is great for basic working knowledge for positions that rely on repetitive work but is not the best manner for discovering new ideas or seeing the deeper meaning of things. Gifted students want to create as many neural connections to the information as possible by touching and manipulating objects to understand their fundamentals.

The more connections they create the better and in more depth they understand a subject. Eventually, the dept of their knowledge leads to new insight and discovery that can be reapplied to create new meaning that society can use to advance in development. Enhancing gifted education requires changing the basic make-up of how curriculum is developed.

Instead of teaching in a linear fashion the student should be able to explore all sides of a topic by integrating information up and down and horizontally. They should be able to explore in all directions until they come to a satisfactory understanding of the issue. They may then move onto parallel branches of knowledge that add to their overall understanding.

Creating stronger scientists requires a more exploratory approach to education. The student becomes the master of their own education while the professor encourages and guides them to deeper understandings. The professor helps with the thought processes while the student picks the topics based on personal interest. The guide and the guided will eventually lead to a path of development where scientific exploration contributes to discovery.

Gifted students need enhancement to ensure they use their unique gifts to the fullest potential possible. One of developing scientists is to help them explore their interests but the other part is to help them understand their uniqueness to ensure they have the confidence to continue to try out new ideas. The student's psychological development is directly rated to their scientific mastery and career confidence.

Demirel, O., et. al. etc...(1998) İlköğretimde çoklu zekâ kuramının uygulanması [Applications of multiple intelligence theory in elementary grades]. VII. Ulusal Eğitim Bilimleri Kongresi, SelçukÜniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi, Cilt I, 531-546.

Gardner, H. (1983), Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

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