Neither high nor low capacities: let’s bet on personalized teaching


People, students, are not highly capable: they have capacity to varying degrees, as occurs in other less elusive aspects such as weight, height or any other physical condition.

Both ignoring it and trying to make categories based on measurements of whatever kind is to lose focus. To consider “high ability” as a dichotomous variable (“some are” and others “are not”) is to turn your back on research, or to consider them as a trait or attribute enjoyed by some, a certain “golden chromosome  , as the American expert Joseph Renzulli says .

It is not like this. It is enough to look around to verify that people have more or less capacity in very diverse fields and that, precisely for this reason, the task of their personal development lies before them. Nobody is born a pianist, nor a Tour de France winner nor a space physicist.

Rather, it would have to be said that people have capacities that they have to turn into talents if the appropriate personal and environmental circumstances are given. The family, school, and society are the environments mainly responsible for facilitating or hindering this deployment.

Capacity, environment and work

Various investigations indicate that talents emerge and grow evolutionarily, and for some they do not emerge because there is no adequate stimulation at school and in the family. Those who work with young people must see talents and potentials as something teachable and emergent, and not something fixed and immutable.

If talent does not express itself spontaneously, but rather as a combination of capacity, environment and work, identification becomes essential if we want the most capable to turn their potential into performance, in whatever field.

But what should we identify? Who should do it?

Relevant dimensions

We must identify all the dimensions that are relevant to learning and personal development: areas of interest, abilities, knowledge, skills, learning preferences, styles of expression, abilities of the most diverse type… The interested reader can visit the Renzulli website learning .

Likewise, the scales and questionnaires developed for this purpose that are available on the Internet are useful . Any teacher can take advantage of these tools that will help them create a “learning portrait” of each of their students.

We are currently working on the validation of other scales for parents and teachers that have a similar purpose.

With this type of instrument, teachers of any educational level can have precise information on the intellectual , academic, creative, social, artistic aspects, etc. of each student to organize the curricular development plan of each one in a personalized way .

There are other important aspects, such as psychological ones, which must be carried out by technically qualified professionals.

Various speeds

Everyone knows that diversity exists, even though we insist on hiding it in classes or classrooms in which the teacher is the main agent of the action.

The school is organized on an assumption that is pedagogically untenable: that all students of the same age have the same educational needs; Or if you want to say another way, that all students will learn in the same way based on the speed of development of the curriculum by the teacher (who will target the average student, the one that does not exist).

But differences in ability and the other dimensions noted immediately produce significantly different learning speeds . In addition, a basically the same curriculum for all students of the same age will, in fact, cause some to have little level of challenge and interest and for others too much. One thing is as bad as the other: little challenge produces abandonment and intellectual laziness; too much challenge causes frustration and a feeling of incompetence.

Personalized learning

The research indicates that the challenge must be adapted to the capacity and speed of learning in an “optimal match “, which is different for each student due to their personal conditions.

There is a model that allows you to reach that level of adjustment called “diagnostic assessment followed by prescriptive instruction” ( DTPI ), and it is based on principles of personalized learning to achieve mastery of what has been learned , among others. .

The links to additional readings on these considerations will help the reader to decide whether or not they are willing to recognize that talent is the result of concrete pedagogical actions that must be carried out.

If we continue to make nominal or bureaucratic changes in educational laws, we will only get teachers fed up, justified, and, as a consequence, talent will continue to be lost, many times before it emerges.

Author Bio: Javier Touron is Emeritus Professor at the International University of La Rioja (UNIR). Former Vice Chancellor of Innovation and Educational Development (expert in High Abilities and talent development; educational technology) at UNIR – International University of La Rioja