Why Identifying Talent Still Matters

Jeanne Paynter, Ed.D
Talent Program Solutions LLC
Jeanne Paynter, Ed.D

We all know by now:  In this time of instant messaging, we can get the message wrong.  What we can say in 140 characters might be pithy, but it can also be misleading, leaving out details that matter.  Here is such a message:  Talent isn’t natural; it’s developed.  Effort is what matters in achievement.  Identifying talent creates a fixed, not a growth, mindset.  That’s 140 characters which I believe create misunderstanding and educational missteps. Yes, there is compelling research done by psychologists like Carol Dweck, Angela Duckworth, and others which can be used to back up these conclusions.  And I highly recommend that you read their research—I am learning a great deal from it.  But the true story is more complex than the soundbites.

After reading the research on growth mindset, grit, and such, I conclude that identifying children’s talents still matters.  Here’s why: Each of us is as unique as our thumbprint.  We have different callings based on our innate aptitudes.  I now use buy essay paper the term “aptitude” as a synonym for talent because aptitude is defined by Webster’s as a “natural or acquired capacity” (italics mine).  We will do a disservice to children if we do not help them to discover and develop their innate capacities. They might miss their calling.  I once read a definition of calling as, “the one thing in this world that only you can do.”  Our calling is what we are “fit for” (apt=fit).  Aptitude does not negate effort.  In our own lives, we see that our greatest achievements were a result of natural inclination (talent) and hard work.
GRITIn her new book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth presents studies in which grit, or hard work and effort, counts more than talent.  The highest-achieving West Point cadets and National Spelling Bee champs weren’t “smarter” or more talented but “grittier.” They practiced with more focus and determination to improve.  I don’t wish to contradict the research, but to point out that grit doesn’t negate the role of aptitude.  Duckworth admits that the Spelling Bee champs had higher than essay writing service average verbal intelligence.  And aren’t all West Point cadets a uniquely talented group, even the less-gritty ones? Of course, if you read her book and not just the soundbites, you will learn about the power of passion in grit, and how an initial interest feeds intrinsic motivation and the engagement that fuels hard work and effort.  Is interest, then, the outward indicator of latent aptitudes that will need to be discovered and developed?

As educators and parents, we still need to be “talent-spotters.”  This means we are always on the lookout for the interests and “natural inclinations” or aptitudes of children.  At the same time, we will need to provide many opportunities for different talents to emerge. And when they do, we should identify them.  I hope we don’t become afraid to say to a child, “You are good at that” or “you are a good —.” By explicitly identifying aptitudes, we are helping a child discover his thumbprint, or unique identity.  As long as we follow up with, “Let’s see how you can work at this to get better,” I think we are promoting talent development viagra barata precios. and a growth-oriented, not a fixed, mindset.  We can still tell children that through hard work “You can be anything you want to be” as long as we help them discover who they are meant to be.

Don’t let “grit” or “talent” become an either/or.  Support talent development programs in our schools so that children can discover their talents and persevere in perfecting them.