Design Blended Learning

Talent development of students

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What do we mean by talented students? Drs. P. van Eijl and prof. dr. A. Pilot
All students have a talent for something. We focus on this page on talent development in special programmes in higher education, mostly called “honours programmes”. Do these students learn to perform more difficult tasks, solve complicated sums or analyze difficult texts? Are these students now only getting an A+? No!
When we talk about talented students, we focus on the qualities of a student that can be further developed and lead to exceptional results and outstanding performance. These qualities can relate to many domains. In education, students can achieve good results in a particular domain, both in practical terms (“they have golden hands”) and in theoretical subjects (“brains”). For example, they can learn to work very systematically, recognize and use their creative potential, communicate clearly, or cooperate reasonably together. Sometimes, students (in an honours programme) discover the importance of taking the initiative and seizing opportunities

2. The concept of talent
In the Dutch language, the qualification “talent” often has a broad meaning of potential: everyone has a talent, hidden or visible. For extraordinary talents, the term “giftedness” is used. This may be general intelligence as measured by IQ tests, but may also relate to a creative, musical, practical, artistic, sporting, social, spiritual or intra-personal level (Gardner, 2006; Zohar 2000). “Academic talent” refers to above-average performance in one or more academic domains (Tomic & Span, 1993).
One of the discussion points on talent development and talent is the ‘nature-nurture’ debate. It is generally believed that talent is present partly when a person is born (nature) and that environmental factors (nurture) determine the extent to which talent can blossom. People who do not use their innate potential are called ‘underachievers’. Ericsson et al. (2006) are the most well-known advocates of the ‘nurture’ position. According to Ericsson, almost anyone can achieve excellence in about ten years by training a lot and in a good way. Personality traits such as intrinsic interest, dedication, perseverance and curiosity are considered the engine that could bring the talent to fruition. Furthermore, hard work and a stimulating environment are important factors in the development of talent (Scager, 2010).

3. Talent and professional excellence
From research by the American psychologist Renzulli (1978) into professionals recognized by fellow professionals for their unique achievements and creative contributions, it appears that these professionals possess three clusters of characteristics. Renzulli has presented this visually in a model comprising three rings (see Figure 1). The three clusters of characteristics are:
1 above-average abilities;
2 above-average task commitment;
3 above-average creativity.

Renzulli's three-ring model

Figure 1 Renzulli’s three-rings model (1978)

Professional excellence is a synthesis of the qualities of the three rings. The content of ‘above-average abilities’ will differ in each domain (Coppoolse et al., 2013).

4 Articles: The circle of talent development
In interviews with honours students, it turned out that they experience a lot of activities in their honours programmes that are important to develop their talents. Not every student goes through these activities similarly (Van Eijl & Pilot, 2016). For clarity, we have arranged these activities in ten steps in the “circle of talent development” (see Figure 3), which was inspired by “The Hero’s Journey”, a book by the anthropologist Joseph Campbell (1949).

ten  steps talent development

Figure 2: The Ten steps into the circle of talent development.
These steps will be elaborated further in some “articles” on this website (work in progress).
Step 3: Selection in honours programmes

5 References

Campbell, J. (1949). The hero with a thousand faces. 1st edition, Bollingen Foundation, 1949. 2nd edition, Princeton University Press. 3rd edition, New World Library, 2008.

Coppoolse, R., Eijl, P.J. van, Pilot, A. (2013). Hoogvliegers, ontwikkeling van professionele excellentie. [Translation English Highflyers, Development towards Professional Excellence] Rotterdam: Rotterdam University Press, Synopsis in English

Eijl, P.J. van & Pilot, A. (2016). The honours Experience, talentontwikkeling door de ogen van de honoursstudent. [Translation: The honours experience: talent development through the eyes of the honours student] Rotterdam: Hogeschool Rotterdam Uitgeverij. Synopsis in English

Ericsson, K.A., Roring, R.W. & Nandagopal, K. (2007). Giftedness and evidence for reproducibly superior performance: an account based on the expert performance framework. High Ability Studies 18, 1, 3-56.

Gardner, H. (2006). Five minds for the future. Boston MA: Harvard Business Press.

Renzulli, J. S. (1978). What makes giftedness? Reexamining a definition. Phi Delta

Kappan, 60, 180-184.

Scager, K. (2010). Wat is talent? In: P.J. van Eijl, A. Pilot en M. Wolfensberger (2010). Talent voor morgen. Groningen: Noordhoff Uitgevers.

Simonton, D. K. (2000). Creativity: Cognitive, Personal, Developmental, and Social Aspects. American Psychologist 55(1), 151-158.

Sternberg, R.J. (2003). WICS as a model of giftedness. High ability studies, 14, 109-139.

Tomic, W., & Span, P. (1993). Onderwijspsychologie.  Beïnvloeding, verloop en resultaten van leerprocessen: Lemma BV

Zohar, D. (2000). SQ: Connecting with Our Spiritual Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury.


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