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Toward a New Paradigm for Identifying Talent Potential

Mary M. Frasier
A. Harry Passow

In passing the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-297), Congress reasserted the belief that youngsters with talent potential are found in all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor. The Javits Act reaffirmed the conviction that in every population there are individuals with potential for outstanding achievement who are in environments where this aptitude may not be recognized nor nurtured. Such individuals are most likely to come from racial/ethnic minority or economically disadvantaged groups.

The under-inclusion in programs for the gifted of economically disadvantaged and minority children has been well documented. In recent years, there have been significant and continuing increases in both the number and proportion of racial/ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged children in the school population. Yet, those students are consistently underrepresented in programs for the gifted while being disproportionately represented in special education programs.

This monograph contains six sections which provide practitioners with a useful paradigm for identifying giftedness among all groups of young people. First, a review and critique of traditional identification approaches is provided to highlight the limitations the tests may have for identifying talent potential among those currently underrepresented in gifted programs. Second, the values and environmental influences of several cultures are examined. Specifically, cultural and environmental values, which are different from mainstream values, are underscored to illuminate the additional challenges posed to high achieving, ethnically diverse students. Within-group cultural differences are also illuminated because they are often as great or greater than differences among subgroups. The third section concerns the results of an exploratory study designed to examine the characteristics of economically disadvantaged and limited English proficient gifted students. In the fourth chapter behaviors that characterize gifted performance are examined. Simply put, research suggests that there may be well-known, "absolute" behaviors which characterize high performance cross-culturally, as well as specific attributes or behaviors which manifest themselves in particular cultural contexts or settings. These specific behaviors are not as well known as the absolute behaviors and can be used by practitioners to identify the talent potential among racial/ethnic minority or economically disadvantaged groups. Emerging insights from the Javits Gifted and Talented Students' Education Act are addressed in the fifth section of this monograph. Finally, all insights are synthesized in the last chapter. Five elements that will feature in a new paradigm of giftedness are presented and discussed. These elements include: new constructs of giftedness, absolute and specific behaviors, cultural and contextual variables, authentic assessment, and identification through learning opportunities.

Reference:
Frasier, M. M., & Passow. A. H. (1994). Toward a new paradigm for identifying talent potential (Research Monograph 94112). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, University of Connecticut.


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Toward a New Paradigm for Identifying Talent Potential
Mary M. Frasier
A. Harry Passow


Conclusions

  1. Youngsters with talent potential are found in all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor.
  2. New constructs of giftedness reflect a multifaceted, multicultural, multidimensional perspective and are defined by traits, aptitudes and behaviors to be nurtured rather than by static test performance.
  3. There are absolute attributes of giftedness, traits, aptitudes, and behaviors which characterize high performance cross-culturally as well as specific attributes or behaviors which manifest themselves in particular cultural contexts or settings.
  4. Increased sensitivity to and understanding of culturally determined and environmentally affected behaviors will help educators to recognize and interpret performance indicators of talent potential in the context in which they are displayed.
  5. The use of multiple criteria and authentic assessment techniques—instruments and assessment tools other than intelligence and achievement tests—is widely advocated.
  6. The provision of rich learning opportunities for all students provides a means for children to display their gifted behaviors and talent potential.