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Ecological issues bridging educational concerns.

An astute advocate for gifted education seizes any and every opportunity to focus attention to inform and provide new insights and possible solutions related to gifted students and their needs, interests, and abilities. Current political, economic, and social discussions surrounding ecological issues provide the backdrop for educational advocacy by engaging in analogous thinking. Creating analogies enables advocates to form an intellectual bridge from a contemporary public concern, such as ecology, to pressing current issues of gifted students and their education.

* Recycling

* Going Green

* Global Warming

* Renewable Resources

Each of the topical areas listed above easily can become the connection between popular rhetoric of candidates, pundits, editorials, organizations, and gifted education.

Conservation of energy is the ecological issue that readily provides an entry point to advocate for gifted students. Conservation of energy parallels the ever-present dilemma of quantity versus quality confronting gifted students. The high cost of intellectual energy can be related to the high cost of natural and manufactured energy resources. Allocation of extra credit or points to reward more work still equates with "good work," productive students, or sometimes the definition of giftedness. As simplistic as the comparison seems, overuse of any form of a natural energy source is contradictory to ecological awareness and conservation. Even more antithetical to the cry to conserve energy is the vast amount of redundant work and learning experiences presented to the gifted due to misconceptions of learning theory and the concept of practice, lack of articulation in a scope and sequence for differentiated curriculum, and inappropriate or insufficient assessment data to warrant decisions about learning success and needs.

Just as each household is expected to monitor its personal utilization of energy sources, the gifted student should be encouraged to conserve his or her intellectual energy. Students sometimes overzealously outline the workload or task disproportionate to both the value of the assignment and the time allocated to its completion. Spending more intellectual energy on a task than is required is as ecologically unsound as utilizing too much electrical energy.

Conservation of energy also is dependent on understanding the processes needed to perform a task. Procedural knowledge facilitates the conservation of intellectual energy. Too often gifted students are given scanty directions based on the assumption that they can "fill-in" the needed information or already know what to do. This results in a waste of physical, emotional, and intellectual energy. Just as the nation labors over energy efficiency standards so should educators of the gifted define standards for conservation of intellectual energy.

Conservation of intellectual energy can and should be taught as an integral feature of a differentiated curriculum. Specifically, the development of a "productivity" unit of study could be designed to accommodate this need. A "productivity" unit of study allows gifted students to discover the relationship between effort and interest directed toward a task, the relationship between internal and external factors that exhibit or facilitate the accomplishment of a task, and the relationship between perceived ability and success when confronting an intellectual struggle. A differentiated curriculum focused on productivity would address time as a variable and its use, misuse, and/or abuse with respect to intellectual energy.

Conservation of energy also includes discussions to identify diverse energy sources. The parallel to gifted students is to appropriately construct learning experiences that allow for diverse means to fixed ends. For example, educators need to consider the diverse intellectual energy that is demanded when the same bibliographic reference is used four times for four different purposes to discuss a topic rather than requiring four different references for the same topic. Considering the diverse energy requirements when gifted students are expected to select creative rather than traditional strategies to attain an answer, solve a problem, or resolve a conflict, is aligned to conserving intellectual energy.

Addressing the ecological issue of conservation of energy is only one topical area to use in assisting professionals, parents, and community members to ponder how vital it is to recognize the need for conserving intellectual energy. Importantly, every current issue has the possibility to bring to the fore issues of gifted students and the chance to advocate on their behalf.

Sandra Kaplan, Ed.D.
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Title Annotation:advocacy
Author:Kaplan, Sandra
Publication:Gifted Child Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Previous Article:Raising the ceiling in the art room for the artistically gifted: an interview with Barry Shauck.
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