Dr. Leddo’s Blog
How to Help Your Gifted Child Develop His/Her Potential
- February 16, 2022
- Posted by: kmedigital
- Category: Uncategorized
By Dr. John Leddo
Graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University
At MyEdMaster, I’ve been privileged over the years to work with some very gifted students. Because I’m interested in helping all students develop their fullest potential, I started a research program at MyEdMaster where students and I research, among other topics, methods for improving education. I’d like to address two areas that have come out of this research in which parents can help their gifted children develop their abilities.
The first area is in homework. It is a given that students will receive homework at school, yet the scientific community is still debating how useful homework really is. After talking with students, we reached a hypothesis that the standard homework that students receive in school may not be that useful for gifted students, who may have learned the concept in the classroom and feel that the regular homework they receive in school doesn’t add to what they already know. We did an experiment that confirmed our hypothesis. Gifted students who receive standard homework show little improvement in their performance. However, we were aware that schools aren’t about to abandon homework, so we asked ourselves is there a better type of homework that we can give gifted students. In our next experiment, we gave gifted students extra challenging homework, especially problems that focused on real world applications of what they were learning. We found that gifted students receiving that type of homework showed much greater academic improvement. Ideally, schools would customize homework to the abilities and levels of each student. However, that may not be that practical since teachers already have enough to do. The students at MyEdMaster and I are working on AI-based software that adapts instruction to each student’s needs, but we are not yet ready for market. In the meantime, parents can help their gifted children by searching for advanced and challenging problems for their children to work on. Fortunately, there is a wealth of free resources on the Internet, and, of course, I am willing to help as well.
The second area I would like to talk about is self-directed learning. This is when students learn topics through their own initiative, typically using online resources. A challenge that gifted students face is that classroom teachers are often forced to teach “to the middle”, thereby reaching as many students as possible with each lesson. The challenge here is that gifted students may feel bored and lose interest in the class. In one of our research projects, we found that gifted students can learn on their own equally as well as in a classroom. Times have changed dramatically since we were all kids. Back then, knowledge was in the teacher’s head or in library books. Now, virtually anything a student could want to learn can be found online. If your child has an interest or, better yet, a passion, encourage him or her to fulfill it by going online and taking advantage of all the resources available there. Technology will only facilitate this more and more as time passes on. In our machine learning research, we are developing software that lets a person enter a topic into the software and then it goes online, reads websites, learns the topic and teaches it to students. We have some sample videos of this software in action at myedmaster.com/aieducational.
Keep your child challenged through challenging homework and self-directed learning and s/he will develop into the genius you know s/he should be. These are more than just words of encouragement. Scientific research shows that the brain is in many ways like a muscle. When you challenge the brain through advanced learning, a person not only learns better, but the person’s capacity to learn also increases. In my own case, I remember taking an IQ test when I first entered Phillips Exeter Academy. After a couple of challenging years at the school, I was retested, and my IQ had risen 18 points. I was smart to begin with and challenging my brain made me even smarter. Challenge your child and, hopefully, the same will happen to him/her. By the way, scientific research shows that these principals apply to us adults as well. By challenging ourselves as we get older, we keep our minds sharp and alert and help ward off debilitating diseases that can sap our cognitive abilities.