I’d like to give you an idea of some of the topics that I plan deal with on Minds On Fire. They’ll give you an idea of where the blog is going and where I am coming from. There are a few topics that may be slightly controversial, and I hope that you will give me a chance to explore some aspects of those issues that you might not have considered.
Most of these topics are too big for single blog entries and will be recurring topics considered from a few different perspectives.
Toxicity of Boredom – boredom is Bad, Bad, Bad. The vast majority of kids like to learn — especially asynchronous learners — but when the lessons are too easy (or too hard) there can be serious long-term ramifications.
Shared Stories – asynchrony manifests itself in ways that don’t fit in with the conventional notion of “giftedness”. I plan on having a section of this site where people can share their and their children’s stories.
Why Asynchronicity Matters – many people wonder: “Is it important to know if a child is an asynchronous learner?” The evidence is pretty strong that knowing what kind of learner your child is will help you understand their needs. Asynchronous learners often need someone (usually parents) that can advocate for their needs since educators are often unaware of the relevant issues (such as the need for authentic challenge). When they are doing well and breezing through school, it is sometimes hard to accept that could ever change. But, things sometimes go great until suddenly they don’t.
Whether there is anything that actively needs to be done to address the asynchronicity is another matter, and one that I’ll be discussing a lot. So much depends on the individual child and the particular educational and social environment: whether the child has a cohort of cognitive peers in their class and whether the class is able to provide lessons that keep a child learning.
The more asynchronous a child is with regard to age-peers (or with respect to themselves), the harder it is for their needs to be adequately addressed in mainstream age-organized classrooms and the less likely they are to find cognitive peers with whom to relate. Their internal asynchrony (uneven development of different faculties) can benefit from awareness and consideration as it can be especially frustrating to be out of sync with oneself. Uneven development sometimes leads to confusion both for the individual and for teachers.
Socially adept asynchronous children can often go for many years seeming to happily go with the flow until suddenly they hate school or themselves or their peers or their parents, but a little bit of awareness can go a long way.
Identifying Asynchronous Learners – While some children make their asynchronicity manifest, such as the child that starts speaking in full sentences at one or suddenly reading at three, some asynchronous learners (even highly asynchronous ones) often go unrecognized. I’ll be discussing some of the signs that a child might have an asynchronicity that needs attention (terminally bored in school! Cough, cough) and some of the methods used to identify them. Identification is sometimes tricky as some children (anecdotally-speaking this seems especially true in girls) develop an awareness of their differentness before adults catch on and try to hide it. Many a parent of an extremely asynchronous boy who has been acting out in school is surprised when testing reveals that their well-behaved easygoing daughter is equally asynchronous and has been hiding it from everyone. My mother, who started reading at three, pretended not to be able to read when she entered kindergarten because no one else in the grade was reading.
Sometimes highly asynchronous children have learning disabilities for which they compensate so brilliantly that no one catches on. They may seem average or advanced but not particularly advanced unless their disability is addressed at which point they may take off.
Consequences of Unmet Needs – asynchronous learners often have unmet educational needs. They can go for years in school without adequate challenge. During those years, they may (incorrectly) infer that being smart means that you don’t need to try. They may think smart means that you magically know stuff and master new skills without effort — while they may sometimes learn things more quickly or with greater ease than normal, real mastery will at some point require effort, deep engagement and involves bumps on the road — even for the most brilliant mind. While their classmates are learning to learn, they are sitting bored, often losing respect for the notion of education. If they are not go-with-the-flow sorts, they may act out in class or be identified as having any number of pathologies (including ADHD or any number of social or learning disorders). If they are socially adept, they may hide their true selves in order to fit in. The ramifications of these unmet needs varies from child to child, but they can seem to suddenly erupt in crisis or the child may simply languish and do poorly in school. Did you go to school with someone that seemed obviously brilliant but who barely managed to graduate?
Self-Theories and their Implications – experimental psychologists have shown fairly convincingly over the past 40+ years that our own personal ideas about the nature of ability have a huge impact on our ability to learn. Regardless of one’s innate abilities, time, passion, perseverance and deep engagement are required to develop mastery. All real learning will involves mistakes and failures. Explicit and implicit messages about the source of ability play an important role in shaping our views. Highly asynchronous children are often inadvertently bombarded with messages (often implicit) that encourage them to see ability as a gift that simply exists without needing to be developed. A shockingly large number of prodigies fail to advance beyond high school or to develop their skills to a level suggested by their early precocity. The mixed messages that these learners receive play a role in their ability to deal with the inevitable setbacks that occur on the road to mastery. I want to look at some of the ways that highly asynchronous learners are at-risk because of these messages.
I plan on delving into some related issues such as the importance of feeling welcome in an environment which plays a large role in both performance and an ability to learn. There is important research that shows that performance may drop if attention is called (even inadvertently) to one’s belonging to a stigmatized group. For instance, questions about gender or ethnic background asked before a standardized test is given can have a large impact on performance. A feeling of belonging is important to academic achievement. A bright child who feels that they are not accepted may find it difficult to develop their potential.
Carol Dweck & “Mindsets” – (See Self-Theories). I don’t love the word “mindset”, but the research about their importance is compelling. Carol Dweck’s research over the past 40+ years sheds a lot of light on the way that our attitudes about the nature of ability influence our ability to attain mastery. Her work has repeatedly demonstrated that our attitudes are influenced by the environment and the messages we convey (often unintentionally).
While her work was foundational in establishing what are widely considered best-practices in gifted education, there are misconceptions and misrepresentations of her work that have recently led some in the gifted community to be hostile to her work. I will be looking at some of these misconceptions as I think that mindset is critical to understand.
It is my feeling that this topic is of special relevance to asynchronous learners since they are often bombarded with attention for their abilities. Asynchronous children (especially the most asynchronous) are especially at-risk for developing a belief that being smart means being able to do things automagically. They inadvertently get trained by the environment to believe that if you have to try, you aren’t smart. Learning may come so easily for so many years that when they encounter their first obstacles, they don’t know how to reconcile the setback with their belief that smart people don’t have to try. This is why it is important for them to be exposed to challenges commensurate with age-typical learners: so that they can learn to learn.
The “Gifted” Label & Why Labels Matter – Over the past several years, I have become convinced that the word “gifted” is an obstacle to effective communication about issues related to asynchronous learners. There is strong attachment in the community to the work, but it is an artifact of 19th-century notions of intelligence, ability, genetics and eugenics. Many advocates for gifted education emphasize the need to communicate that one doesn’t mean “better than” when using the word gifted. But, that is a Sysyphean task. The valuative notions of “better than” and special are built into the every day meaning of the term—even if they are not part of the intended meaning. The term was originally chosen in the 19th century to indicate the cognitive-elite. And that inflection is hard to overcome.
The word gifted as used in relation to cognition has had shifting meanings since it was coined and has no one single accepted well-defined meaning even now. Additionally, the everyday meaning of the word (which one cannot simply get away from by saying “that’s not what we mean”) implies the notion of something-for-nothing that plays into the issues of mindset and self-theories of intelligence.
The Whole Child View Of Asynchrony –
Life Stories – asynchrony manifests itself in so many different ways that highly asynchronous people sometimes don’t recognize asynchrony as having played a role in their lives until they hear other people’s stories.
Intelligence, Skill and Talent –
Math Literacy/Illiteracy –
Identifying Needs and Advocating for Your Child –
2E Learners –
The Peer Problem –
The Challenge Challenge –
Assessment, Motivation and Risk Taking –
Fun, Weird and Interesting Stuff that doesn’t have any neat category
Roadmap by Edward Spiegel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.