From the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development

2e Center News

By Susan Baum, Ph. D.

September, 2016

Strength-based and Talent-focused: What does it mean?

About this Column

The 2e Center for Research and Professional Development is located on the campus of Bridges Academy in Studio City, California. In this column, we share what’s happening at our center and report research findings, teaching ideas, and parenting suggestions we have found to be successful in helping 2e kids thrive.

— SB

What does it mean to be a strength-based, talent-focused school? How do the ideas of honoring the strengths, talents, and interests manifest in settings that celebrate neurodiversity? In truth, the strategies that accentuate understanding what children can do, and focus on identifying the areas in which they excel, allow students to build academic self-efficacy and agency, and promote positive sense of self.

These ideas were reinforced for us when a team from Bridges Academy attended and presented at the first annual conference of the International Positive Education Network in Dallas, Texas, July 18-21. This well-attended event included notable speakers like Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology; Angela Duckworth, whose work on grit has gained much attention; and Scott Barry Kaufman, who spoke of curiosity and imagination. All of them emphasized what happens when the focus is on what students can do and how a state of happiness or well-being results in higher achievement and satisfaction.

For these reasons, over the coming school year this column will focus on strategies that are strength-based and talent-focused. In a sense, we are trying to personalize learning so that all minds — neurotypical as well as atypical — can engage deeply in curriculum.

Defining Our Terms

Talent development refers to encouragement and support of identified talents and abilities that are nurtured in their own right — not as an opening for remediation nor as a reward or motivator for achievement (Baum, Schader, & Hébert, 2014).

Strength-based describes curricular and instructional approaches that are differentiated to align with students’ cognitive styles, learning preferences, and profiles of intelligences.

Talent-focusis an overarching term that includes talent development, involves on-going identification and recognition of a student’s advanced abilities as well as budding interests, and incorporates explicit options for exploring and expressing those abilities and interests within and outside the curriculum.

Personalizing Learning

At Bridges Academy, personalizing learning focuses on adapting instruction and learning experiences to align whenever possible with the students’ interests, learning and personality styles, talents, and abilities. Doing so requires systematic ways of collecting and analyzing information about students’ traits and abilities. Once collected, this knowledge allows the faculty to design curricular choices and to provide appropriate resources that tap into the students’ individual profiles.

To get to know each of our students, both in terms of their strengths and challenges, we set aside three days at the beginning of the school year. During this time, students engage in enriching activities where their teachers can observe the students and note which experiences seem to resonate with each. Students also complete strength-based assessments. The information gleaned through these observations and other information we have on hand is collected and used to develop strength-based opportunities to promote success within the curriculum. This information is particularly helpful in designing individual talent-development opportunities for students that assure their talents and interests are addressed.

Because of the success of this approach over the years, the 2e Center developed a suite of tools, Putting the Person in Personalized Learning, to guide professionals in developing strength-based and talent-focused opportunities for students. The four tools shown here comprise the suite. 

Tool

Description

Purpose

My Learning Print®
(Schader & Zhou, 2004)

Developed to record information about several facets of learning, including:

  • Interests
  • Academic strengths
  • Learning styles
  • Hobbies and collections

This information reveals each student’s unique “learning fingerprint.”

Quick Personality Indicator (Baum & Nicols, 2016)

Depicts different personality styles that help us to understand:

  • How we relate to and organize our worlds
  • How we relate to others
  • How we like to learn

Each of us has a unique profile of preferred and less preferred styles. Understanding students’ profiles helps us design appropriate approaches to promote growth.

C.L.U.E.S.
(Schader & Baum, 2016) 

Helps to identify and organize information about students’ strengths and weaknesses that will guide learning and counseling; is an acronym for Collect information, Look for patterns, Understand and interpret from different perspectives, Envision goals, Synthesize findings

This tool allows us to do the following:

  • Collect essential information from multiple perspectives about the conditions under which individuals engage and produce at a level commensurate with their high abilities both within and outside the classroom
  • Use this information to make decisions about creating strength-based and talent-focused approaches found in the following tool

Creating Possibilities
(Baum & Schader, 2016) 

Consists of two parts:

  • Plan for Success, which provides a sketch pad for designing learning opportunities
  • The Talent Development Opportunities (TDO) Maker, which organizes opportunities in a purposeful way

The two parts of this tool work together to:

  • Leverage interests and strengths to build academic and personal skills
  • Develop a student’s expertise in particular areas of strengths, interests, and talent

Using this approach with all students can assure that each individual in a class is positioned to engage in learning according to who they are and how they are able to perform at their personal best. The 2e Center offers training workshops in how to use these tools and how to become a trainer in the use of the tools. (Read the impressions of one workshop attendee here.) For more information, contact Kim Vargas at kim.vargas@bridges.edu.

Find Out More About Positive Education

  • Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. NY: Simon and Schuster
  • Kaufman, Scott Barry (2015). Wired to create: Unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind. New York: Penguin Random House.
  • Seligman, Martin (2007). The optimistic child. New York: Houghton Mifflin

—SB

References

  • Baum, S., & Nicols, H. (2016). Quick Personality Inventory. Studio City, CA: Bridges Academy.
  • Baum, S., & Schader, R. (2016). Creating Possibilities. Studio City, CA: Bridges Academy.
  • Baum, S. M., Schader, R. M., & Hébert, T. P. (2014). Through a different lens: reflecting on a strengths-based, talent-focused approach for twice exceptional learners. Gifted Child Quarterly, 58(4), 311-327.
  • Schader, R. & Baum, S. (2016). Suite of Tools: Putting the Person in Personalized Learning. Studio City, CA: Bridges Academy.
  • Schader, R., & Zhou, W. (2004). My Learning Print. San Francisco, CA: Robin Schader.

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