Perfectionism or Pursuit of Excellence?

Perfectionism or Pursuit of Excellence?

“The pursuit of excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude.” –  Manoj Chandra Handa Perfectionism has often been misunderstood as a good quality to possess. It is not. What is good is the pursuit of excellence which is something quite different. Delisle and Galbraith (2002) make a clear distinction between the two concepts. Perfectionism means that you can never “fail”, you always need approval, and if you come in second, you are a loser! The pursuit of excellence means taking risks, trying new things, growing, changing – and sometimes not succeeding. Jim Delisle and Judy Galbraith in their book, “When gifted kids don’t have all the answers”, point out that perfectionism can take a heavy toll on a student’s self-esteem, relationships, creativity, health, and capacity to enjoy life. As perfectionism is not possible, and yet that is what some students want—and that they won’t be satisfied with anything less—it is a recipe for disappointment. Delisle and Galbraith (2002) affirm that gifted people of all ages are especially prone to perfectionism. This may be rooted in the awareness of producing the best quality and nothing else. Once they see how something “ought to be done” (ought to sound, ought to look), they may naturally want to do it that way. And they may overwhelm themselves (and others) in the process. This is why gifted students need support to persist despite their constant awareness of “failure”. Many of problems students have with high expectations are reinforced by the environment, particularly if they have had a string of early successes. Ruth Duskin Fieldman, a former “Quiz Kid” (in Delisle & Galbraith, 2002, p.... read more
Innovative Habits of Mind

Innovative Habits of Mind

“Innovation education is about tapping into the inner entrepreneur.” – MCH Click here to listen to the podcast, “Innovative Habits of Mind”.  At the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) Conference in Brisbane, I presented a paper, “Creating innovators by choice and not by chance”, in October 2013. At the presentation, I proposed that one of the fundamental goals of 21st century learning for our young people is innovation, not just creativity. It is about providing innovation education and fostering entrepreneurial mindsets (Shavinina, 2009, 2013). Through an exploration of (a) research-based case studies of gifted learners, and (b) a Framework of Innovation Pedagogy that I had developed, I shared with the audience what it means to innovate, and how we can develop the capacities of young people to become entrepreneurial. My research findings revealed that “innovation education” should be embedded into curriculum at all levels through problem-based, multidisciplinary, collaborative learning, encouraging “design thinking”, and promoting the development of real-world designs (“prototyping”). By fostering “play, passion, and purpose” among young learners, we help them become innovation-ready (Wagner, 2012). To achieve this goal, we require “teacherpreneurs” who have innovative habits of mind. Research shows that teachers—who work in radically diverse multidisciplinary teams, and model innovative habits of mind—can share and mould young students into innovators of the future. We require “leaderpreneurs”, i.e., leaders who create conditions in schools and systems that inspire and encourage educators and students to imagine, experiment, and innovate. After my presentation, I was invited by Rosanna Stevens, a Canberra-based writer, to record a podcast, “Innovative habits of mind”, that I share with you in this post. The drawing, “Le bonhomme à fleurs”, is by André François (1915-2005),... read more
Motivation and Teacher Influence

Motivation and Teacher Influence

“There is not enough darkness in the world to extinguish the light of one small candle.”                                           – Spanish proverb Motivation is now widely seen as a key to learning. The affective domain of Bloom’s taxonomy is considered to be as important to successful schooling as the cognitive domain. What is motivation? The term, motivation, is usually associated with words such as desire, enthusiasm, ambition, interest, commitment, inspiration, drive and “hunger”. In psychological terms, motivation is usually defined as some sort of internal state or condition which serves to activate, arouse, energise or direct behaviour and to give it impetus, direction and focus. Contemporary frameworks and theories of motivation tend to be ingrained in the cognitive perspective. Schunk, Pintrich, and Meece (2008), for example, define motivation as “the process whereby goal-directed activity is instigated and sustained (p. 4). This definition implies that motivation includes choosing some goals and not others, commencing work toward a goal, and persevering in the pursuit of that goal. Studies have found that gifted students appear to be more intrinsic in their motivation for engaging in academic pursuits than other students (Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993; Gottfried & Gottfried, 1996; Olszewski-Kubilius, Kulieke, & Krasney, 1988; Feldhusen, Dai, & Clinkenbeard, 2000). Motivation – the inner candle – is central to learning because its presence can lead to persistence, enthusiasm, commitment, perseverance and risk taking by the student. Lack of motivation can lead to – and be fuelled by – fear of failure, low self-esteem and low self-expectations, creating a vicious downward cycle. Teacher Influence Teachers’ instructional practices affect student motivation. The tasks teachers choose, the types of assessments they give,... read more
Fostering Independent Learning

Fostering Independent Learning

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” – Confucius (551-479 BC) Self-regulated study is the most frequently recommended instructional strategy in programs for gifted students as a means for differentiating and individualizing instruction (Clark, 2013; Colangelo & Davis, 2003; Davis & Rimm, 1998; Feldhusen, VanTassel-Baska, & Seeley, 1989; Gallaghar & Gallaghar, 1994). Independent study is also preferred by gifted students (Dunn & Griggs, 1985; Stewart, 1981). However, while gifted students like instructional strategies that emphasise independent study and discussion, they do not always have the necessary skills that are essential to self-directed learning. Once they acquire the critical independent strategies, gifted students are able to become lifelong learners, capable of responsible involvement and leadership in a changing world (Betts, 1985). Johnsen and Goree (2009) define independent study as a planned research process that (a) is similar to the one used by a practising professional or authentic to the discipline; (b) is facilitated by the teacher; and (c) focuses on real world problems that go beyond the regular class setting. Keighley (2003) points out that five interdependent components are essential to student motivation and achievement: control, choice, challenge, complexity and a caring teacher. The five C’s, according to Keighley, determine the extent of the students’ engagement in the learning and subsequent productivity.  Steps in Independent Study Johnsen and Goree (2009) suggest nine steps that might be used in independent study. All of the steps may or may not be used in every independent study since the teacher and student may already have defined... read more
Unleashing Creativity among Gifted Students

Unleashing Creativity among Gifted Students

Creativity is a basic human need to make something new. Creativity is the ability to generate ideas, products, or solutions that are considered novel and useful for a given problem, situation or context (Amabile, 1996; Beghetto, 2008; Plucker et al, 2004; Runco, 2004). Evidence indicates that highly productive creative thinking is generated by thinking productively, not reproductively. With productive thinking, the aim is to generate many different approaches. The least obvious must be considered as well as the most likely approaches. With each new approach or perspective, understanding deepens and one begins to understand the essence of the problem. In order to find creative solutions, one may have to abandon the initial approach that stems from past experience and reconceptualise the problem. By adopting more than one perspective, highly productive creative thinkers solve existing problems and even identify new ones. Reproductive thinking, on the other hand, can produce too rigid thinking. This can produce an inability to solve a problem that resembles past experiences only in superficial ways. Interpreting such a problem through past experience will not be productive. Reproductive thinking produces solutions which we have employed before and not original ones. The ability to tolerate ambivalence between opposites or two incompatible subjects is thought to characterise highly productive creative thinking. Edison’s invention of a practical system of lighting involved combining wiring in parallel circuits with high-resistance filaments in his bulbs, two things that were not considered possible by conventional thinkers at the time. As Edison could tolerate the ambivalence between two incompatible things, he could see the relationship that led to the breakthrough. Teachers play an important role... read more

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