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Dear Dr. Davis,
What is the balance between Nature and Nurture among children who are identified as being gifted?
The question of nature vs. nurture is one that has puzzled educators and community members for many years. The current understanding of human cognition suggests that ability of any child is a combination of nature/heredity and nurture/exposure to learning experiences throughout their life. Early exposure to learning through direct teaching of reading, writing, singing, computation and experiential learning like games, experiments, simulations, acting, all play a role in the development of a child’s mind and ability to relate new knowledge to previously learned experiences and to transfer knowledge across disciplines. For example, a child learning to read a book about animals can relate the new pictures to pictures in their memory of animals observed in the environment. Children learning to count can do the same thing. Learning to talk and articulate works the same way. In an earlier response to a parent of a potentially gifted two year old, I suggested to the parent that she talk to the child in full sentences so that the child would develop a large repertoire of words and understand how to form sentences over time.
Thus, exposing children to a wide variety of experiences, talking to them frequently, sharing books and other reading material, and providing opportunities to experiment, manipulate, construct, and create art & music give those students a wider array of tools and opportunities to develop and later, demonstrate their potential. When gifted evaluation is comprehensive (measuring language and problem solving ability) and fair, children from all backgrounds will be able to demonstrate their potential.
So, is it Nature or Nurture that determines ability? I’m with the educational community who believes that it is both!!
Dr. Joy Lawson Davis
Author, Bright, Talented & Black
Assistant Professor of Education
Director, Center for Gifted Education
Univ. of Louisiana, Lafayette
Co-Chair, National Association for Gifted Children
Diversity & Equity Committee