Perceptions that Promote Achievement

Guest post by Del Siegle, PhD

Del Siegle is a professor in gifted education in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, where he was honored as a teaching fellow. Prior to earning his PhD, Del worked as a gifted and talented coordinator in Montana. He is past president of the National Association of Gifted Children and has served on the board of directors of The Association for the Gifted. He is also past chair of the AERA Research on Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent SIG. He has been co-editor of the Journal of Advanced Academics and  Gifted Child Quarterly. He writes a technology column for Gifted Child Today. Del’s research interests include web-based instruction, motivation of gifted students, and teacher bias in the identification of students for gifted programs. Along with Gary Davis and Sylvia Rimm, he is an author of the popular textbook, Education of the Gifted and Talented (6th and 7th ed.). He is the Director of the National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), which replaces the former National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT).

Gifted students, similar to other students, can be at risk for academic failure, and the seeming lack of motivation of many academically gifted students is an area of frustration and concern for many parents and teachers. The underachievement of some of America’s most talented students represents a loss of valuable human resources for the nation, as well as unrealized fulfillment for the individual.

We know that

•       Teachers nominate three times as many gifted boys as underachievers as they nominate gifted girls as underachievers. Are more gifted boys underachieving, or are gifted girls who are underachieving being overlooked?

•        Parents and teachers indicate higher rates of inattentive behavior at home and school for underachievers. Is inattention a cause of underachievement or a product of the underachievement?

•        Developing trusting relationships with gifted underachievers, making school meaningful, and helping students see the important of school appear to be the strongest strategies for improving gifted underachievers’ grades. How can educators make school more meaningful for gifted and talented students?

One way to understand why students are not motivated to achieve is to study what motivates individuals. Our work has demonstrated there is a relationship between and among three key perceptions (self-efficacy, goal/task value, and environmental perceptions), and a resultant behavior (self-regulation). Students must believe they have the skills to do well before they will tackle a task. This self-efficacy appears to be necessary, but not sufficient for students to achieve.

Students must also find school tasks meaningful and valuable. Even if students believe they have the skills (self-efficacy) to do well in school, if they do not see their schoolwork as meaningful, they will not complete it. Many gifted students do not see the work they are doing in school as meaningful for several reasons. They may already know much of what is being presented to them. They also often have specific passion areas they enjoy exploring, but are seldom given opportunities to pursue in school. Educators often fail to share with students why content they are teaching is significant and how it relates the world in which live.

Additionally, students’ perceptions of school and home events, the nature of teachers’ and parents’ expectations and support, and the patterns of interaction between students, teachers, and parents have an impact on their academic attitudes and behaviors. These environmental perceptions interact with students’ goal/task values, and self-efficacy to help them set realistic goals and self-regulate. If any one of these three attitudes is low, individuals can fail to engage and achieve. Self-regulation and study skills are important for academic success; however, they interact with attitudes and are a resultant behavior that enables students to be successful. Helping students recognize and appreciate the abilities they are developing, helping them see the meaningfulness of the tasks we ask them to do, and letting them know we support their efforts as they approach challenges promotes the achievement oriented attitude necessary for success.

Resources for parents of gifted students

Last week’s post by Dr. Pfeiffer was one of our more popular posts so far. Dr. Pfeiffer wrote about facilitating a presentation for families of gifted children during which the audience discussed answers that they had submitted in response to the question, “What is the one thing that you find most worrisome or challenging as a parent of a gifted child?”

Dr. Pfeiffer wrote about the power of the discussion as participants shared similar concerns and experience. We know that having a community of families with similar interests and concerns can provide an important source of information and support.

To follow up on that post, we collected a set of resources that we hope will be helpful for parents to learn more about available educational opportunities, research about giftedness, and organizations that support gifted students and families. These resources can also be helpful for educators to share with students and families.

National Association for Gifted Children – Resources for Parents. A great set of resources, publications, links for further information, and tips for parents of gifted children. The site includes brochures and handouts that families can share with schools. Also check the websites of your state-level organization. For example, the Ohio Association for Gifted Children (OAGC) includes information and documents that parents and families could find helpful.

Your state department of education and your local school district should have a page with information for parents specific to your state and local community. The resources on the Ohio Department of Education website include information about giftedness, educational strategies for serving gifted students, and links to state and national organizations.

Of course, we suggest that you look at the Duke TIP website for information. Dr. Pfeiffer, former Executive Director of Duke TIP, and I, former Research Postdoctoral Fellow, have great respect for the work, research, advocacy, and resources that Duke TIP offers students, families, and the gifted community.

University centers offer useful research-based resources and services for students. Below is a sample of these centers. You can see that resources are located across the country and in a variety of institutions. These are just a few of the centers that focus their work on gifted students. Check your area to see if a local institution of higher education has a summer program, research center, or program that could be of interest.

These websites are a great place to start your search or to learn about new developments and research about effective educational strategies and programming for gifted students.

What are the Greatest Concerns that Parents of Gifted Kids Worry Most About?

I just returned from a trip to Calgary, Canada, where I was invited by the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education and their Integrated Services in Education to lead a group of professional workshops for teachers, educational administrators, and psychologists. I also was asked to provide an evening talk with parents of gifted students. This blog is about the evening parent talk, which proved to be an extraordinarily fascinating and moving experience.  

I was rather tired from the six-hour professional workshop that same day, so I decided to structure the 2-hour parent evening event as a more informal and more interactional experience. As a speaker, you never know how the event will be received or turn out for the attendees! I’ve given perhaps 200 parent talks over the course of my career, both across the USA and internationally; some prove to be awe-inspiring and amazing, whereas others, sadly and sometimes inexplicably, can be rather uninspiring and lackluster grinds! Well, this meeting of parents of gifted kids in Calgary was, thankfully, breathtaking and awesome!  

One aspect of the evening parent workshop that proved to be particularly interesting was my reading to the group of over 120 parents in the audience from a stack of 3×5 inch index cards the comments that the parents provided to me- anonymously! The information on the index cards was in response to my very specific instructions to write down, privately, with no identifying information on the card other than the gender and age of their gifted child, on their card: “What is the one thing that you find most worrisome or challenging as a parent of a gifted child?”   Much of the rest of the evening was sharing and discussing some of the parent-reported challenges.

What makes this technique particularly powerful, in my experience, is that many parents who are struggling with how to best raise their gifted child, are reluctant for any number of reasons to share in a group setting their very private and personal struggles. In groups like these, you always have a sub-set of more outspoken parents who are quite willing and comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings about their gifted child. But there are many, many parents who keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, hoping that some other parent will “speak for them” in sharing a challenge or concern that they also are struggling with in their life as a parent. The anonymity of each and every parent being able to privately write down their own personal challenge on an index card without having to voice the challenge out loud in a social group setting or even write down their name is powerful.

I’d like to share a handful of the challenges and struggles that these courageous and concerned and loving parents shared with me, and permitted me to share anonymously with the group for discussion. I hope that in sharing these parental concerns, the reader is provided some additional insights and new perspectives into the world of parenting a gifted child. These are in no particular order:

  • “My daughter, age 6, is a very smart kid, but she is way-to-cautious and hates risk. How can I get her to try new things?”
  • “Denise’s [name changed; age 16] room is incredibly messy. Horrible. She refuses to clean it up. She still manages to do well in school, be successful in extra- curricular activities, and be social.  What is the root of her problem and what can I do about it?”
  • “You write about family meetings as very helpful to promote character strengths, social skills and emotional intelligence [this parent has obviously read my books!]. How can we as a family organize family meetings?”
  • “What are the risks of not having gifted programming for a gifted child? Meaning, what are the risks of my child staying in the mainstream school system?”
  • “My daughter, age 9, who is gifted, has significant anxiety at bedtime over things out of her control, such as the house burning down, the dog dying, etc. She overthinks every scenario. What can we do to help her?”
  • “Our daughter, age 17, is very passionate about her interests but lags far behind her age-peers in socio-emotional development. For example, she does not want to drive, does not want to get a job, doesn’t want to do “adulting.” Any thoughts on how to support her development as an independent adult?”
  • My ten-year old daughter is gifted. She rarely performs to her full ability. How do we encourage her to show how talented she is?”
  • “Has your research supported sports as a method to increase the gifted child’s ‘heart strengths’ “(another parent familiar with my work!).
  • “In reference to misdiagnosis of ADHD, what differentiating factors would you look for to assess whether my child is just bored or has ADHD?”
  • “Is social intelligence deficiency more pronounced in the gifted children population, and if yes, why is this?”
  • “Our 16-year old son questions everything, analyzes, scrutinizes all. How do you get your child through the educational system when they question, debunk, and poke holes in the way the system operates!”
  • “What would be the positives and negatives of not telling your child about giftedness? Our 6-year old was recently tested as gifted.”
  • “Our gifted daughter (age 10) is demonstrating isolation and periodic emotional breakdowns.”
  • “Our 7-year old son is super-sensitive and gets easily upset. How can we deal with this issue as his parents?”
  • “How can you set high expectations without overwhelming your child?”
  • “Our son, in grade 1 (age 6) wants to be perfect at everything he does. When he can’t meet these expectations, he internalizes it, thinks poorly of himself as a result. How can I help him build his self-esteem and self-confidence when he has these unreasonable expectations for himself? Nothing I say o encouragement helps.” 
  • “At what age, generally, do gifted kids become aware that they are different”?
  • “How can we help our daughter (age 7) maximize her potential without pushing past her boundaries and being a ‘tiger mom’?”
  • “How do you make your child interested in your opinions as a parent?”

As you can see from the above sample of almost 100 questions on index cards that were posed by the group of parents, there are quite a huge variety and range of concerns, unanswered questions, and fears that parents of the gifted worry about.  The take-home for me, as the leader of the evening session, and as a practicing clinical child/school psychologist, is that those of us who work in the gifted field need a ‘heavy measure’ of humility, patience, understanding, compassion, and answers based on facts and not opinion, if we hope to be responsive and helpful in our work with parents and families of gifted kids.        

Note: It is with great indebtedness that I express my gratitude and appreciation to the many parents that I met with at the Westmount Charter School in Calgary, Canada. Their honesty, sincerity, candor, and authenticity made for a very powerful evening. This blog post is dedicated to these parents, who permitted me to share their thoughts and feelings.

Grant Evaluation for Gifted Educators – A Deeper Dive

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

In the January 16, 2020 post, I discussed grant writing for gifted educators. In today’s post I address how program evaluation aligned with a project’s research agenda can enhance your project, and provide good reasons to include an external evaluator in your project.

Program evaluation: enhance your proposal and your project

Respond to the call for proposals. The first reason to focus on evaluation in your grant proposal is because funders ask for it. We know that the key rule of grant writing is to include all the elements that the funder seeks. Most education-focused grant programs at the National Science Foundation, National Institutes for Health, and US Department of Education require an explanation of how grant activities and outcomes will be evaluated.

Support program implementation and improvement. Evaluation is not just important because the funder asks for this, but also because evaluation can help support a team’s work and can provide information and feedback that could improve the success of the project.

Program evaluators speak of two types of evaluation: formative and summative. Formative evaluation collects information and provides feedback to a project team about progress and perception of activities. This information can help the team understand if they are on track to complete project activities, if changes to the project plan or timeline should be considered, and if the expectations of the project participants and stakeholders are being met. Summative evaluation focuses on the outcomes of grant activities and assesses the impact of a program on participants and the extent to which a program resulted in expected outcomes.

Program evaluation aligned with the research agenda

External evaluation and research activities can focus on similar areas and use similar, or even the same data, to answer different questions. An evaluator can be assessing the extent to which a curriculum meets teacher needs, provides sufficient support and materials for implementation, and engages the interest of students. Concurrently, the research team can be examining the connection between student engagement and motivation.

Research and evaluation plans should be closely aligned to ensure efficient and complete data collection while avoiding repetitive or intrusive data collection. Communicating to grant reviewers, program participants, and stakeholders that the research and evaluation efforts are aligned and coordinated helps build trust and shows respect for participants.

In order to create an aligned plan, engage an evaluator early in your planning and proposal writing process. Developing an evaluation plan along with the research agenda can help align and organize data collection activities and ensure that all required information and data be available by project end.

External evaluation support

No doubt you are thinking “since the research team is already studying the project, can’t the research team just collect information about implementation and participant feedback?” Yes, that is possible. However, here a few reasons a skilled and experienced evaluator should be engaged.

First, an outside perspective is helpful. Evaluators can help shed light on a theory of action that is missing a step or help clarify assumptions at program onset. Discussions with an evaluator often help solidify thinking about project work and can position a project for successful implementation.

Experience is another reason. Experienced evaluators can offer a broad knowledge about assessment tools, data collection practices, and evaluation methodologies that can improve the work of the team. These skills can improve research efforts, as well, allowing you to focus on answering the questions that are of interest to you and your research agenda. A skilled independent evaluator should not come to your project to answer his or her own questions, they should come to your project with the goal of answering the questions that will help ensure that your program runs smoothly, and as intended.

And finally, an evaluator can help disseminate results, new practices, or innovative methods to different audiences. Evaluators can share innovations in assessment tools and methods, data collection strategies, analysis methods, and effective data visualization and reporting efforts. Often evaluators are willing to accompany principal investigators and project teams to conferences or professional meetings to help share and promote project outcomes.

With the right partner, external evaluation support can be a benefit to any project. If you have an idea for a grant submission that you would like to discuss, please email me at Our team would be excited to work with your team to develop your idea, to support your grant writing and grant evaluation efforts, and to increase research about effective programming for, gifted learners.

Censeo Group helps clients set their goals, as well as attain them!

The Tripartite Model of Giftedness

Steven Pfeiffer is first author of the Gifted Rating Scales (GRS). He is a popular speaker on best practices in gifted assessment and how to raise successful and psychologically well-adjusted gifted kids. He is Emeritus Professor at Florida State University. Prior to his tenure at FSU, Dr. Pfeiffer was a Professor at Duke University, where he served as Executive Director of Duke’s gifted program, TIP. He also served as Director of Devereux’s Institute of Clinical Training & Research, headquartered in Villanova, PA.  Author of over 200 articles and book chapters, he is lead author of the Gifted Rating Scales, published by MHS (

The Tripartite Model of Giftedness

There are many different ways to conceptualize giftedness. Sternberg and Davidson suggested at least twenty different ways to view giftedness in their 2005 book. The alternative models imply different ways to define, conceptualize, identify, and nurture what we mean by kids with gifts. The different models reflect, in part, to what extent we view giftedness as a disposition within the child vs. a more contextual view of developmental conditions necessary to allow some individuals to demonstrate superior performance in real-world, culturally valued domains.

My model, the tripartite model of giftedness, is not contradictory to any of the major models that most readers are familiar with. In fact, the tripartite model incorporates elements from a number of the more popular models.  The tripartite model is a practical model, developed based on my experience working closely with highly gifted youth during my tenure as Executive Director of the Duke TIP summer programs. The tripartite model provides three different ways of viewing students with high ability or extraordinary potential. The tripartite model offers three different, complementary ways to conceptualize, identify, and provide evidence-based psycho-educational interventions for gifted learners. The three distinct lenses through which high ability students are viewed within the tripartite model are as follows:

  • Viewing giftedness through the lens of high intellectual ability;
  • Viewing giftedness through the lens of outstanding performance and accomplishments; and
  • Viewing giftedness through the lens of potential to excel

The first perspective of the tripartite model, the high intelligence view, is familiar to most readers. This first view dates back to Charles Spearman and Lewis Terman. Applying this first lens, an IQ test score or cognitive ability test score, or its proxy, can be used to identify students functioning at a certain level considerably above average intellectually. The criterion for high intellectual giftedness should be based on compelling, and scientifically reliable, evidence that the youngster is advanced intellectually, when compared to her or his same-age peers. The first perspective of the tripartite model can follow a general (g) or multidimensional view of intelligence. For example, the popular C-H-C model of cognitive abilities fits nicely within this first lens for viewing giftedness.  However, applying the first lens to operationalize giftedness could also be guided by any other of the other models of human intelligence, such as the structure of intellect model, multiple intelligences, or even recent neuroanatomical models of intelligences. The point of the first lens of the tripartite model is that high intellectual ability defines giftedness.   

The rationale for gifted programs based on viewing giftedness through the first lens of the tripartite model is that students with superior intelligence need, and benefit from, advanced, intellectually challenging and often more fast-paced academic material not typically found in the regular classroom. Based on this first lens or perspective, gifted education would be arrayed to reflect highly accelerated and/or academically advanced and challenging pedagogical approaches. The Johns Hopkins and Duke TIP summer programs are two examples.

The second perspective of the tripartite model views giftedness through the lens of outstanding accomplishments. This second perspective does not scoff at or minimize the value or importance of cognitive ability. However, the second perspective does emphasize viewing giftedness through the lens of a student’s actual performance in the classroom and performance on real-world projects as a core defining characteristic for giftedness in the schools. As we conceptualize giftedness applying the second lens of the tripartite model, evidence of real-world excellence compared to other same-age peers is the sine qua non to qualify a student for gifted programming. Not a high IQ test score. Standardized and rigorously developed portfolio and rubric assessment of actual student products are the templates that should be used to identify high-performing students as gifted through this second lens of the tripartite model.  

Viewing giftedness through the outstanding accomplishments lens, educators, school administrators, school psychologists, and parents would be looking for direct and incontrovertible evidence of authentic academic excellence. Creativity could be emphasized when viewing giftedness through this second lens, since we often expect ingenuity and creativity in judging outstanding real-world thinking and accomplishments. When we developed the Gifted Rating Scales (GRS), now revised and newly standardized with a teacher and parent form (GRS-2), we intentionally considered items such as displays an active imagination and generates many ideas to what if questions for the scale, reflecting our appreciation for the value of reliable assessment of classroom evidence of high levels of creativity. 

The rationale for gifted programs based on an outstanding accomplishments perspective is that students who excel academically have earned and deserve special academic programs and services because of their consistently outstanding effort and superior accomplishments. Gifted education, based on this second lens of outstanding accomplishments, looks somewhat different from gifted education guided by a high intelligence perspective. For example, gifted programs would consist of highly enriched and academically challenging curricula, although not necessarily fast-paced or highly advanced.

The third lens or perspective of the tripartite model is called potential to excel. What do I mean by this third way to view giftedness? In my clinical experience, and in consulting with many educators over 40 years, I have come to appreciate that some children and youth -for any number of reasons, have not been provided nearly enough opportunity or intellectual stimulation. I have also come to recognize that all-too-often, many children are not provided exposure and development of facilitative socio-emotional skills and attitudes that make a real difference in the expression of academic success and intellectual competence. This third perspective of the tripartite model is supported by a growing body of research (for example, Nisbett’s work [2009]). I am sure that most readers can identify with this third perspective and can think of one or more students that they taught or worked with who possessed latent, not-actualized high potential.

Most of us agree that not all children start out on equal footing -on a “level playing field.” Some children from poverty, immigrant families, from homes in which intellectual and academic activities are neither encouraged nor promoted, or children growing up in overcrowded or dangerous communities with limited community or neighborhood resources or educational opportunities, are at a distinct disadvantage to develop their gifts. This was the rationale for the third perspective within the tripartite model

The third perspective implies a prediction that students of high potential will likely flourish and excel when provided with “just the right” special resources and psycho-educational interventions. The assumption underlying this third perspective of the tripartite model is that with time, an encouraging and highly stimulating environment, and the proper social-emotional interventions, these students will actualize their yet unrealized high potential and distinguish themselves from among their same-age peers as gifted and talented.

Gifted programs guided by a potential-to-excel perspective should consist of highly motivating and enriched curricula and instructional approaches that may actually require compensatory interventions. This third category of gifted carries with it a prediction. The prediction is that if the identified student is provided a well-conceived, comprehensive and “high-dosage,” evidence-based set of psycho-educational interventions -often requiring an integrated home component -then she or he will thrive and ultimately appear almost indistinguishable, or at least very similar to, students who are already identified as falling within one of the other two gifted categories, high intelligence or academically gifted learner.

There isn’t a good deal of empirical research supporting -or refuting, for that matter -the hypothesis that there exists this third type of gifted, the diamonds in the rough. Children and youth who will flourish in astounding ways with well-designed and intensive psycho-educational interventions. It is apparent that the psycho-educational interventions need to be comprehensive and high dosage to compensate for the early, missed educational and psycho-social experiences and opportunities. It is also apparent that the earlier educators and school psychologists can identify these young, high potential students, the more likely a number of them will respond favorably to the planned, evidence-based psycho-educational interventions. This is a very exciting and promising area of research opportunity, both in the USA and globally. When we developed the Gifted Rating Scales (GRS), including the new parent scale (GRS-2), we intentionally included non-intellectual rating scale items ( ). We wanted to have behaviors that could be reliably rated that measure motivation, drive, persistence, academic passion and socio-emotional maturity – things that we believe help identify this third group of gifted children and youth -the diamonds in the rough. These items on the new GRS-2 teacher and parent scales reflect important, non-intellectual factors that differentiate successful from less successful gifted students.

In summary, these three categories of the tripartite model constitute three different types of bright children, which reflect different levels and profiles of cognitive and social-emotional abilities. However, the three groups are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, there are many students with exceptionally high IQ score who are also academically gifted learners with a burning passion to learn. The tripartite model, was developed, in part, to reduce much of the acrimony often found in the gifted literature and in the schools when one group of educators, administrators or parents advocate for adopting only one, typically narrowly defined view of giftedness that reflects only high IQ. The tripartite model intentionally goes beyond viewing giftedness as a unitary quality inherent within the child. It embraces multiple ways to view gifted learners, including recognition of non-intellectual factors, the role of the family and environment, and dynamic, developmental considerations. Interested readers may find my 2015 book, Essentials of Gifted Assessment,published by Wiley, informative ( ). The book details how to operationalize the tripartite model.

Grantwriting for Gifted Educators – Program Evaluation Support

Since it’s still January, let’s continue discussing our professional goals for the new year. Let’s focus on your goal to start or increase the success of your grant funding efforts – or maybe that is a goal of your superintendent or department chair.

January is a great time to begin working toward that goal, and as a professional program evaluator and frequent contributor to grant applications, I am both equipped and glad to help you. If you are thinking, “Hm, perhaps my organization can finally write for or be awarded one of these grants this year”, read on!

Grant writing meeting
Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Over the past 15 years, I have led a team of evaluators, statisticians, and data collectors at Censeo Group, an external evaluation consulting firm. We support school districts, state departments of education, faculty, and grantmakers in implementing and measuring the impact of grant-funded activities. We help educators craft evaluation and research sections of grant proposals and ensure that goals, activities, plans, and personnel are aligned. Our team has evaluated programs across the country at the K12 and postsecondary levels in formal and informal education settings. We have worked with educators who are creating curriculum units and teacher professional development aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Minecraft activities to help middle school boys and girls develop spatial skills, literacy initiatives, mathematics and Earth science teacher professional development, and online learning for gifted students in language arts instruction.

Censeo Group is currently the external evaluator of a newly-funded School Climate Transformation Grant (SCTG), and we are familiar with federal evaluation requirements for proposal writing and evaluation reporting. We have extensive experience evaluating US Department of Education awards – from Reading Excellent Act and Reading First grants in the 1990s to Javits and current SCTG grant awards.

The Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program at the U.S. Department of Education is by far the largest and most focused grant program for gifted educators. The 2019 appropriation for this program was $12,000,000. As of this writing, there is no information posted about the FY 2020 Javits competition, but if the timeline is consistent with the 2019 competition, the grant application could be available in early May and deadline to submit in early June. The FY2019 competition was open to state educational agencies, local educational agencies, the Bureau of Indian Education, institutions of higher education, and other public and private agencies and organizations. If you are thinking about submitting a Javits grant proposal , we can help you by discussing your project ideas and evaluation plan so that perhaps your program can be one of this year’s Javits awardees.

A good deal of Censeo Group’s evaluation work is with Primary Investigators funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). We are knowledgeable about the formal and informal education grant programs and can help you tailor your proposal for the NSF. A number of completed NSF grants have focused specifically on services for or the study of gifted learners in informal settings, through the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) grant program, including projects at the Belin-Blank Center and at the University of Connecticut Neag. Gifted researchers at the University of North Texas received an Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program award and researchers at George Washington University (OSPrI project) and SRI International (iSTEM project) received funding through the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) program.

Currently, 24 active National Science Foundation (NSF) grants include gifted students in project activities. The majority of these projects, funded by specific NSF science directorates, focus on basic science research and include gifted students in summer experiences or lab visits. For example, the Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) funded a study of faint dwarf galaxies at Ohio State University (NSF award number 1615838) that includes, as a small component, a dwarf-galaxy-hunting project for gifted high-school students attending a summer program, scholarships for students to attend the program, and a video blog (vlog) and a guide for students interested in scientific careers.

Censeo Group evaluators could support NSF-funded projects that include gifted learners in several ways:

  • Measure changes in student STEM attitudes, learning, and career interest as a result of their engagement in project activities.
  • Investigate the methods and impact of mentoring provided by undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Study the impact of mentoring on project staff.
  • Measure the impact of the summer learning experience and activities.
  • Support building curriculum materials from summer programs into robust learning experiences for informal or formal science settings.
  • Study the process of implementation, and the factors that supported or interfered with project activities in order to improve implementation in subsequent years.
  • Support and evaluate the effectiveness of dissemination and communication efforts.

If you have an idea for a grant submission that you would like to discuss, please email me at We would love to work with you to develop your idea and support your grant writing and grant evaluation efforts to increase research and effective programming for gifted learners. Censeo Group prides itself on helping clients not only set their goals but also attain them!

[It is] All about Parents…

Guest post by Dr. Hanna David

Dr. Hanna David is an Israel-born expert of high ability, giftedness and creativity. She received her PhD “magna cum laude” in educational psychology from Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München and worked at the Tel Aviv University between 1976 and 2004. Dr. David has published six books and over 70 articles in psychology of giftedness, didactics in special education with an emphasis on mathematics for gifted students, gender-related issues of giftedness, educational policy and administration, and sociology of high ability. Currently she is a counselor of gifted children and their families.

During the last 50 years I have met many hundreds – maybe thousands – of parents of gifted children. During my childhood they were mostly parents of friends, family members or neighbors; people who had no idea the word “gifted” existed, and certainly did not consider themselves special or admirable because they “produced” an intelligent, curious, talented daughter or son. These parents were mostly concerned because their child asked for music, gym, or science lessons they could not afford; because the daughter had already read all books in the local library “suitable for her age” and asked for more, or because their son’s teacher complained that the “good, sweet boy” they had raised asked “too many questions”, “spoke up”, or even – god forbid – “argued that the teacher had been mistaken”. Having nobody to consult with, these parents discussed these issues with each other; my parents, who had two such “troublesome” children were included. These talks took usually place in German, Hungarian and Yiddish: most of these parents did not know Hebrew well enough, but they also believed that “children must not know that we worry because of them”. This was my first lesson about gifted children: their parents always want the best for them; they are concerned about them, but too often they do not know how to fulfill their needs.

I started tutoring gifted children when still in high school; it was always their parents who approached me; the parents arranged for the lessons; the parents brought their children to my parents’ apartment and paid for the lessons. This has not changed since then. It is the parents who support their gifted children emotionally, socially, academically – practically in all life aspects. Parents are the soldiers who stand right there, in the battlefront against boredom, solitude and estrangement their children so often feel, as well as against lack of understanding, jealousy, a variety of prejudices and unwanted remarks or advices. 

Dear Parents of gifted children:

You have been blessed with a precious treasure. But this treasure needs maintenance which is your sole responsibility. Sometimes it seems that there is nobody there for help, sometimes it looks like you are not even allowed to complain because your problems seem minor, or because “everybody would love to switch their child’s problems with yours”. Experts in psychology and education of the gifted are there to help you. But of no less importance is expanding your own knowledge about giftedness especially in subjects you need for your child or adolescent gifted girl or boy, such as double-exceptionality or the gifted-disabled, the gifted girl, the creative gifted child, the mathematically or scientifically gifted, the socially gifted, the artist, the stage star, the chess champion – or any other exceptional child.

Hanna David has recently published the first two books in the series Giftedness: Identification, Assessment, Nurturing,
and Treatment

Emotionally, Socially and Learning Disabled Gifted Children: Theory and Treatment


Understanding Gifted Children: Perspectives, Gender Differences and Challenges (Edited by Hanna David)


The third book in this series, Dynamic assessment of gifted children, will be published in October 2020.

Mid-school year reflection

The end of the first semester provides a good opportunity to reflect on the successes that you experienced and the work that you hope to accomplish before the end of the school year. It is a good time to start thinking about professional development, consider changes in your practice, and reaffirm, or perhaps create for the first time goals for the 2019-2020 school year.

Today’s post provides a downloadable worksheet to help you reflect on your classroom instruction, gifted assessment practices, support you are providing gifted learners, policies or procedures that you would like to address, or a problem that has been nagging you.

You will have the chance to reflect on questions questions such as, “What plans did you make for your classroom, district, or department when the school year started? Have you made progress on those goals? Are there professional development opportunities that you have been thinking about? Have you heard about a book or article that could help with your work? Are there opportunities to share your work with colleagues in your district, state, or professional organization?

By the end of the exercise, you will have an action plan, ideas for what you will accomplish each month and how you’ll hold yourself accountable for your goal.

Part 2 – Interview of Dr. Steven Pfeiffer, first author of the Gifted Rating Scales (GRS) and noted authority on giftedness and talent development

This blog is a preview of an interview with Steven Pfeiffer, GRS author, conducted by Dayana Sanchez, bilingual school psychologist and CEO/Founder of 2e Minds. The full interview appears in an upcoming blog post at 2e Minds was created to provide guidance and resources for twice-exceptional (2e) students and their families. Check out the website to learn more about “how to assist 2e children in identifying their strengths, embracing their learning differences, and building essential skills to thrive and tap into their highest potential.”

INTERVIEWER: There are a few conceptualizations of giftedness that I appreciate and use to guide my work with high ability children. I’m an advocate of Joseph Renzulli’s Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness, which proposes that gifted behaviors are the result of an interaction of three clusters of traits: creativity, above-average ability, and task commitment. I also appreciate your Tripartite Model of Giftedness and find it very valuable in my work with twice-exceptional (2e) children. Can you share the key elements of your Tripartite model and the implications of viewing giftedness through each of the three lenses? 

There are many different ways to conceptualize giftedness. There are educational conceptualizations, like Professor Joseph Renzulli’s brilliant three-ring conception. There are also political conceptualizations, philosophic conceptualizations, and psychometrically-driven conceptualizations. The psychometrically-driven models, in fact, are the ones most often taught in school psychology and clinical psychology training programs. No one conceptualization is correct. They are all simply different ways to view kids (and adults) who are, in some way, special or unique.

In addition to Renzulli’s Three-Ring Conceptualization, other often-cited models include Julian Stanley’s mathematically and verbally precocious model (SMPY), Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences model, Francoys Gagne’s developmental, differentialted model of giftedness and talent (DMGT), and Nancy Robinson’s psychometric model- which I was trained on during my graduate school days at UNC-Chapel Hill. There is also Robert Sternberg’s wisdom, intelligence, creativity, synthesiezed (WISCS) model. And dozens others!  Each of these models presents unique ideas and perspectives that tries to explain what is meant by students of “uncommon” or exceptional ability and promise.

The models are similar, but in a few ways, they have unique wrinkles. For example, some of the models view giftedness as unique qualities and characteristics inherent within the child. In other words, gifted kids  are born gifted and are different from kids who aren’t born gifted. Other models view giftedness from a more dynamic, eco-systemic and developmental perspective; the unfolding of abilities that require thoughtful planning and nurturance over time. The most recent consensus among most authorities is that giftedness is best viewed as specific, not generic, and that the expression of giftedness occurs within particular domains. I tend to agree with this position- at least by ages 8, 9, and 10.  

Over the course of my work with high ability students, I developed what I consider a practical model for academic giftedness based on my experience “on the sidelines” as a parent of a young, gifted athlete. Watching my young daughter’s athleticism and skills in soccer nurtured and developed over the years as a member of the U.S. Olympic Development Program helped me formulate my tripartite model of giftedness. The tripartite model offers three different apertures to focus on kids who might be gifted. identify. The tripartite model incorporates these three distinct but complementary lenses or apertures through which one can view giftedness.

The first lens I call the High Intelligence perspective. This first lens is familiar to most readers. An IQ test or its proxy (for example, the SAT test for college admissions) is used to identify students who are functioning at a certain cognitive ability level, considerably above average. This first lens can employ a general [“g”] or multi-dimensional view of intelligence (for example, Cattell-Horn-Carroll model (CHC), structure of intellect, or multiple intelligences view). It can even be based on the newer, neuroanatomical models of giftedness that are appearing in the scientific literature. This first lens views giftedness and high IQ as strongly genetic, and well-established at birth. The rationale for gifted programs based on viewing giftedness through this first aperture of High IQ is that students with superior intelligence need and/or are entitled to advanced, intellectually challenging, and/or more fast-paced academic material, not typically found in most regular classrooms. Another assumption of this first lens of the tripartite model is that students are entitled to special gifted education services throughout their public education.

The second perspective or lens of the tripartite model is called Outstanding Accomplishments. This second viewpoint does not minimize the importance of the IQ or intellectual ability. However, through this second lens, there is a heightened emphasis on a student’s performance in the classroom and on the success of performance on academic tasks. According to this second lens, evidence of academic excellence is the sin qua non to qualify as a gifted student and to qualify for admittance into a gifted program, nor high IQ.  Gifted identification, embracing this second aperture, includes assessment of academic performance – evidence of “authentic” academic excellence. Evidence of creativity is often emphasized when viewing giftedness through this second lens. Obviously, the importance of motivation, drive, persistence and passion- clearly non-intellectual factors- are all considered highly relevant when viewing giftedness from an Outstanding Accomplishments lens. These non-intellectual factors are recognized as impacting the talent development of all students, and critical for high-level academic performance in the classroom (and in life!).

The rationale for gifted programs based on an Outstanding Accomplishments perspective is that students who excel academically have earned and deserve special academic programs because of their outstanding effort and superior classroom accomplishments. Gifted curricula typically would consiste of highly enriched and academically challenging material. Within this second perspective, students are not viewed as “gifted for life.” One practical and exciting implication of the Outstanding Accomplishments perspective is that re-assessments should be conducted every 2-3 years, with opportunities for new students to qualify to enter gifted programs.

The third and final lens of the tripartite model is what I call Potential to Excel. What I mean by this third type of gifted student, within the tripartite model, is that some children – for any number of reasons – have not been provided enough opportunity or stimulation to develop what remains latent and as yet undeveloped or under-developed intellectual or academic gifts. This third group is based on my experience working with many students of unactualized, but obvious high potential, the experience of countless others, and an abundant body of compelling research that I cite in my book, Serving the Gifted.      

I think that we all agree that not all students start out on an equal footing. Some children from poverty, families in which intellectual and educational activities are neither encouraged nor nurtured in the home or community, or in which English is not the primary language spoken in the home, children growing up in rural or overcrowded or dangerous communities where intellectual stimulation and educational opportunities are rare, are all at a distinct disadvantage to develop their gifts. I frequently label kids in this third group as the “almost or potentially gifted student.” From this third perspective or aperture, the student with high potential to excel is viewed as very likely to increase her tested IQ and/or her academic performance when provided with special resources and special attention. The assumption is that with time, an encouraging and stimulating environment, and the proper array and dosage of psycho-educational interventions, these students will eventually actualize their yet unrealized high potential and distinguish themselves from among their peers. There is, in fact, some compelling research to support this very notion. Gifted programs for this third group, the Potential to Excel, should consist of highly motivating and enriched curricula that may include compensatory activities.

I hope that this provides a succinct overview of the Tripartite Model and some of the implications for identification and gifted education programming. 

Creativity and Design Based Learning – Applications to Gifted Education

One of the domains measured by the Gifted Rating Scale is creativity. When we think about creativity, we often think about its role in artistic endeavors. In today’s blog, I wanted to highlight the importance of creativity in research, engineering design, and design-based practices and offer several resources about these practices in gifted education.

At Censeo Group, the external evaluation firm that I lead, our portfolio includes a number of science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) evaluation projects. Our evaluation team often supports faculty who are developing and researching the effects of STEM curriculum materials and instructional practices on student learning. We recently completed a project supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. The University of Akron Zip to STEM team developed a curriculum unit that integrated engineering and technology into force and motion science instruction. Middle school students in the Akron Public Schools (APS) used technology, including CAD software and a virtual wind tunnel, to design, test, and race a soap box derby mini car. Through this project, 8th grade APS students had the opportunity to experience hands-on, engaging learning, use technology, and apply science concepts to a practical task.

Activities that incorporate the engineering design process or design based learning allow students to engage in hands-on, applied projects in which they search for problems, investigate the viewpoints of those who use a product or engage with a system, work with diverse teammates who bring different perspectives to problem solving, analyze their proposed solution, and iterate to improve solutions. Design based learning processes guide students to deep learning around a practical problem for which students propose solutions.

A recent episode of Bonni Stachowiak’s Teaching in Higher Education Podcast with guest Nicola Ulibarri provides a great introduction to design thinking and the importance of creativity in research and design endeavors. Dr. Ulibarri’s recently-published book, Creativity in Research, is a good resource for researchers and for teachers who are supporting student-led research activities. Although the podcast focuses on teaching in higher education, there are many ideas relevant to K12 educators and gifted education.

Below is a list of articles and books that discuss engineering design and design based thinking in gifted education that provide a good start to learn more about this topic.