Message from the Director: Talent Scouts Not Deficit Detectives

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Be a Talent Scout, Not a Deficit Detective” 

University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education

This slogan, courtesy of our colleagues at the University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), appeared on large buttons at the November 2021 National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) annual conference. I made sure to display mine prominently. Although the Belin-Blank Center refers to discovering talent rather than scouting for talent, either verb captures the essence of the Center’s daily work. Discovering talent in partnership with families and colleagues worldwide and in our home state is essential to developing thattalent. 

Below are a few examples of ways in which we partner with schools and families to discover and develop talent: 

STEM Excellence and Leadership is a long-running partnership between the Belin-Blank Center and rural middle schools in Iowa, funded by NSF grants and recently featured in the Phi Delta Kappan’sspotlight on rural education (December 2021/January 2022). STEM Excellence and Leadership focuses on increasing the achievements andaspirations of bright rural middle-school students to better prepare them for advanced coursework in high school. 

Students from rural communities are less likely to attend college and, if they do, they are 60% less likely to enroll in STEM majors. This discrepancy may be partly because under-resourced rural schools typically cannot offer the same advanced math or science courses that well-resourced urban and suburban schools have available to their advanced students. Positively, rural areas are often very desirable places to live because of their strong sense of community. In general, smaller school systems are typically less bureaucratic, and educators and administrators often have more flexibility in creating specialized opportunities for advanced students. These upsides enable the STEM Excellence and Leadership program to make a difference in rural schools. 

Academic accelerationis a broad topic, encompassing everything from minor adjustments to the curriculum to grade skipping. The Belin-Blank Center offers a wide variety of information about acceleration through our Acceleration Institute website and more individualized advice with the Integrated Acceleration System tool. Through our collaboration with the NCRGE, we’ve reached an even broader audience on the benefits of appropriate acceleration. For the next few weeks, educators have an opportunity to indicate their interest in participating in an upcoming NCRGE academic acceleration study, which will provide free professional learning, universal screening, and stipends for participating educators. Watch a two-minute informative video to learn more about the study and how partnering with the NCRGE can benefit gifted students in your school. More details are available on NCRGE’s website.  

Finally, we are in the final stages of developing a Graduate Certificate in Talent Development, an online 14-semester-hour graduate certificate for full-time professionals, non-degree students, and degree-seeking students. Coursework spans multiple theories and perspectives across several talent domains (e.g., art, writing, sports) and culminates with an independent capstone exploration. We expect coursework to be available in Fall 2022. Stay tuned for more about this graduate certificate in the coming months! 

There are only a few more weeks remaining in 2021.  I hope you are inspired to join us in discovering and developing talent in the coming year.  

Best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy 2022. 

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