True Grit


Quick!  Which of the following — creativity, task commitment, or general ability — has the greatest impact on gifted behavior?

Well, long term studies of children with superior general ability have shown that having a high IQ doesn’t guarantee success in life.  Lewis Terman ran one of the first longitudinal studies of intellectually gifted individuals.  He followed his “Termites” for more than thirty years and ultimately concluded that “intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated.”  When Terman took a look at the 150 most successful individuals from his study and compared them to the 150 least successful individuals from his study, he found that “the greatest contrast between the two groups was in all-round emotional and social adjustment and in drive to achieve.”

An examination of creativity yields similar results.  Simply possessing a set of traits  associated with creative individuals — the ability to defocus attention, flexibility of thought, independence, possessing a wide array of interests, and ability to cope with ambiguity — does not necessarily result in creative production.  In fact, when looking at creative production, R.A. Ochse discovered that what had the greatest impact was a person’s willingness to work hard and spend extensive time in an area of interest.

So, let’s try again.  Which of the following — creativity, task commitment, or general ability — has the greatest impact on gifted behavior?  The correct answer?  All three!

The fact of the matter is that educators have wrestled with the notion of just what makes someone “gifted” for years.  But all that wrestling still hasn’t resulted in a universally agreed upon definition of giftedness.  What experts DO seem to acknowledge at this point is that Joe Renzulli, one of the gurus of gifted education, was on to something when he created his “three ring model of giftedness”.  Imagine three overlapping circles.  One circle represents creativity, one represents task commitment, and one represents general ability.  Where the three overlap, gifted behavior will be present.

Task commitment, perseverance, resilience.  They’re all different names for the same thing.  But that “thing” is pretty vital to your child’s future success.

Note:  NPR news featured a story on Thursday about “grit” in education. It’s what got me thinking about all of this.  If you want to listen to the full story, just click here: Does Teaching Kids to Get “Gritty” Help Them Get Ahead?


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