Looking Outward: Exploring the Intersections of Sociocultural Theory and Gifted Education

By McGlonn-Nelson, Kimberly | Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Looking Outward: Exploring the Intersections of Sociocultural Theory and Gifted Education


McGlonn-Nelson, Kimberly, Journal of Secondary Gifted Education


As scholars in the field of gifted education continue to explore ways of improving the educational services provided to gifted and talented students, attention must be paid to the infinite amount of potential that an interdisciplinary theory offers. To this end, the following essay explores the intersections of sociocultural theory and gifted education. More specifically, it extends sociocultural theory to the field of gifted education by proposing a new lens for not only expanding the responsibilities of the field in terms of its ability to properly identify gifted students, but also for educating new teachers of the gifted.

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Since its inception, the notably fickle masses have been largely uncomfortable with the concept of "gifted education." To some extent, this discomfort has its roots in a deep-seated resentment and jealousy. After all, why should children already shown favor by nature be furthered advantaged by society? These critics are infamous for voicing their lack of appreciation with questions like, "Don't we all have gifts?" Undoubtedly, a portion of this anxiety is caused by a lack of knowledge on the nature of the academically gifted, and more specifically, the nature of their needs (Clark, 2002). A portion of this uneasiness, however, has perhaps arisen due to the fact that the field of gifted education lacks a single, clearly articulated, widely accepted theoretical framework that works to posit the vital role it plays in schooling (Cross, 2005). To this end, the following essay explores the intersections of sociocultural theory and gifted education. More specifically, it attempts to extend sociocultural theory to the field of gifted education by proposing a more focused lens for not only expanding the responsibilities of the field in terms of its ability to properly identify gifted students, but also for educating new teachers of the gifted.

The following literature review begins with an examination of the brief life of Lev S. Vygotsky, the man considered by most to be the father of sociocultural theory and thought. From there, the study moves into a discussion of what sociocultural theory offers the field of gifted education, in terms of improving the quality of schooling it presents to the students it is designed to serve. Next, one of Vygotsky's better known educational concepts will be defined, that of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Finally, the essay will explore the preparation of teachers new to the field of gifted education; more specifically, the nature of the education that a sociocultural approach suggests that such teachers must have in order to be considered well equipped.

Despite the fact that individuals familiar with the field of gifted education are always searching for innovative ways of improving the quality of education that gifted students receive, an inadequate amount of attention has been paid in the past to discovering what sociocultural theory can offer to such scholarship. Consequently, this essay will work to build upon a much-needed connection between theory and the field of gifted education. More specifically, it will work to better identify two things; first, the gaps in research between sociocultural theory and gifted student identification/assessment, and second, the promising relationship between sociocultural theory and the education of teachers new to the field of gifted education. Hopefully, future research efforts will continue to highlight the vast possibilities for refining work within the field by connecting it with discussions of theory.

Lev S. Vygotsky and His Contribution to Human Thought

Lev Vygotsky, a Russian-born psychologist, is undoubtedly one of the many ghosts within the field of education who, long after his death, continues to influence our ways of knowing the world. Born in 1896 in northern Russia to Jewish parents, Vygotsky's earliest understandings of the world were filtered through the lens of a middle-class home. …

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