By Dr. Kris Wiley
Assistant Professor of Education & Child Development
In 1921, a Stanford psychologist by the name of Dr. Lewis Terman introduced the concept of intelligence quotient or IQ into the American conversation. Building on his work with French scientist Alfred Binet, Terman used his newly developed IQ test to identify students
exhibiting what he called “genius,” ultimately establishing the longest running longitudinal study in the social sciences.
Terman’s study was a watershed moment in American education. It came at a critical time in the development of public education, telling the story of yet another group of students who had extraordinary needs, both in the classroom and in the world. In
conjunction with researcher and educator Leta Hollingworth, Terman established a framework for what we now call gifted education.
In the nearly 100 years since, America has developed a complex relationship with giftedness as an idea. We know some people seem to have an easier time acquiring understanding in the classroom, and we also carry a notion that some people seem to interface with ideas differently than others. As a society, we
sometimes respond to these talents as a resource, dedicating time and money to their development (a common example is the emphasis on science and math education during the Kennedy administration). In contrast, we have a national tradition of viewing fast thinkers with caution. In a society where knowledge is increasingly related to power, accentuating academic inequities by providing appropriate education for advanced learners can sometimes seem as if it is opposed to democracy itself. Our current solution is to dedicate the overwhelming majority of our resources to bringing all students up to a line of minimal proficiency, then stopping our efforts there.
The early 1980s, on the other hand, were a relatively good time for gifted education. This is the when Drury University’s gifted educational programming took form, alongside efforts in the Springfield Public Schools. A small set of dedicated parents and educators in the area perceived that students had educational needs that were going unmet, and they further felt that it was their job to meet those needs. At a time when the national consciousness was just warming to the prospect of special services for students with high cognitive capability, this group presented the argument that every student deserves to learn, every day. The public schools responded with a groundbreaking program for students identified as gifted (WINGS), which has expanded into three sister programs and continues to provide both resources for gifted students and a strong example for others.
Drury, in turn, formed its Center for Gifted Education (CGE), initially to provide summer programming for middle school students who love to think and learn through a program called Summerscape. In the thirty years since its inception, Summerscape has responded to popular demand by expanding its offerings to cover the entire K-12 spectrum. The rate at which students return, often applying to be residential assistants after graduation, is a testament to the quality of the programs.
In addition to its summer programming, Drury has become a regional center for graduate study and teacher certification in gifted education. In close partnership with Springfield Public Schools and its gifted programs, Drury maintains a healthy supply of educators equipped to address the needs of students who are identified as gifted. This year our campus also hosted both the state conference for the Gifted Association of Missouri and international speaker Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson, an expert on curriculum and instruction. In April, the CGE and WINGS brought Rick Wormeli, a national speaker on creativity and diversity, to campus. With every passing year, we see Drury leveraging its institutional tradition of thoughtful engagement to maintain momentum as a place where giftedness is considered and served.
As technology and mobility shrink the world to the size of a smartphone, there can be little doubt that thinking hard and thinking well, in conjunction with the developing our hearts and ethics, is our path forward. Drury’s combination of professional training and liberal arts education is putting our future educators in the middle of that path with a running start.
In addition, gifted education is itself facing a major paradigm shift. We once treated giftedness as a single, innate quality of an individual. We now recognize that intelligence, in its many manifestations, is being brought together with creativity, motivation and wisdom to define multiple avenues of research and service. Some of our efforts belong to the Einsteins and Picassos of our day—individuals we believe are likely to bring revolutionary change to their domains of activity. But we also have responsibility for the students, present in every classroom, who will spend half of the year being taught what they already know. Drury is in a promising position to contribute to the conversation.
DRURY’S SUMMER PROGRAMS FOR GIFTED STUDENTS
Drury’s Center for Gifted Education leads four successful programs for gifted students each summer: Summer Pals, Summer Quest, Summerscape, and Drury Leadership Academy. Many of our students come to us underserved or without any gifted programming in their schools. Our goal is to make up for the shortfall. Most important, students discover commonality in their differences. They forge fast friendships with kindred spirits. In living together, learning together, and laughing together, in a real sense, they have “come home” here.
The students bloom under the summer camp culture of understanding, acceptance, patience, challenge, protection and love. We encourage them to be who they are by providing a forum for emotional and social development. Our instructors inspire students to be passionate about learning and provide them with the tools necessary to follow their dreams into adulthood. Students stretch their minds while on campus and open the window to untold possibilities.
- Summer Pals: pre-kindergarten to 1st grade
- Summer Quest: 2nd to 5th grade
- Summerscape: 6th to 8th grade
- Drury Leadership Academy: 9th to 12th grade
Director, Center for Gifted Education