Associate Professor Tracy Riley’s recent research, shared in a SENG article, Thinking Along the Same Lines, and to be further explored at the upcoming NZAGC conference, puts like-mindedness in the spotlight.
Like-mindedness is an important part of gifted education. The benefits of grouping gifted children together, creating like-minded environments, are both intellectual and social. Intellectually, like-minded students can work together at a faster pace, in greater depth, can challenge and question each other in order to bolster their individual and collective learning. Research by Adams-Byers, Whitsell and Moon (2004) found that gifted students saw the academic advantages in learning with like-minded peers as being challenge, fast pace, quality and depth of discussion, and lack of repetition of content. Sandra Kaplan highlights that in like-minded groups, students can share perspectives and ideas that can be more readily understood, without the need for protracted explanation. This sentiment was strongly expressed by the students who shared their ideas about like-mindedness here.
Socially, like-minded students can feel a sense of connectedness to others who share similar experiences. A sense of ‘getting’ each other is experienced, and students experience a noticeable lack of teasing in like-minded groups (Adams-Byers, et al., 2004). Sandra Kaplan (2014) reminds us that social connectedness within like-minded groups stems from a deep well of self-understanding.
The intersection between intellectual and social benefits is also noted by Kaplan, who reminds us that students in like-minded groups feel as though their contributions are both understood and valued.
Talking of connectedness, appropriately paced and challenging material, valuing and understanding reminds me of the idea of inclusion. Inclusive Education on TKI, whilst sadly not acknowledging gifted students under the remit of special education, note that “At fully inclusive schools, all students are welcome and are able to take part in all aspects of school life. Diversity is respected and upheld. Inclusive schools believe all students are confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners and work towards this within the New Zealand Curriculum. Students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and their learning needs are addressed.”
For gifted students, spending time working exclusively in like-minded groups might be one way to ensure inclusion… ensuring they become confident, connected, involved life-long learners.
All this talk of like-mindedness started a slightly different train of thought for me – what about like-mindedness and adults? Should teachers operate in a like-minded fashion? What would that like look? Imagine this… specialist teachers plus regular teachers plus parents working together as like-minds, with the child at the centre of our thinking. Working together in ways that are fast-paced and challenging. Understanding and valuing each other’s experiences and ideas. Connecting, ‘getting’ each other. Imagine the benefits for that child, those children. Here, I believe, is the real power of like-mindedness in gifted education – like-minded adults working for the benefit of each gifted child in their care. I now ask you, how can you create your own like-minded environment?
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