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Unlocking Potential: A discussion on Talent Development with Kate Cichon

On the evening of 8 March 2024, we hosted a lively discussion with Kate Cichon, assistant director of the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. You can see a full recording of the session here -

Here are some of the key takeaways I made note of during the event.

According to Kate, Giftedness is a combination of -

  • Attributes of talent and ability

  • Specific academic areas of interest

Everyone has areas of relative strength, and those strengths can be developed. It requires parents, students and teachers to have the right mindset - that students can grow their abilities. Students may need specialised services to do that, outside of the standard school day and curriculum.

People who have extraordinary abilities can have extraordinary impacts on the world. And they can lead happy and fulfilled lives. We want to enable people to reach top levels of creative productivity, and that requires that we scaffold them from the early stages of identifying their interests, all the way until they are able to be creatively productive in the spaces that they choose.

Talent development requires that we both challenge students, and support them to grow from those challenges.

They need to be challenged at the right level - just beyond their comfort zone. This often requires experienced mentors or well structured programs that can provide challenges that exceed the standard school curriculum.

Getting the right support structures in place is also crucial. Students with a fixed mindset with balk at the first sign of difficulty. So we need to help them develop a flexible mindset.

Kate listed out the following psychosocial skills as being connected to talent development - Mindset, Persistence, Strategic Risk Taking, Social Skills, Addressing Fears, Mastering the Game, Tasteful Self-promotion, Finding a Personal Niche

Through the session, parents resonated with the framework of talent devlopment that was shared. They shared about how they felt overwhelmed by the speed at which their children acquired new knowledge, and achieved competency in new domains. They were glad to have a community in which to discuss it and grow.

I have been an educator for the past decade, but mainly worked in undergraduate education at the college level. I started working with middle school students only over the past two years, and have found it to be really exciting. Kate's session and the framework of talent development from CTD really made a lot of sense to me. I encourage any teachers or enthusiastic parents to watch the video of the session to get the full picture.

I would love to hear from any readers in the comments about which part of this session resonated with you.

Do stay engaged with our activities and postings on Gifted World. Look forward to seeing you at our next events!

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