Talent development

All children have special talents that need to be noticed and nurtured, so they will do well in school and in their later lives. Children’s talents should be developed as early as possible so they can achieve their full potential. Finding and nurturing special talents in children and youth, and seeing those students and their talents blossom, are among the great joys of teaching. In the early years, children’s talents may be quite undifferentiated. They may be limited to what Gardner (1983) calls the seven “intelligences” (logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal). As children experience varying environments at school, at home, and in the community, they demonstrate more specific strengths or aptitudes. Feldman (1993) describes the middle and later stages of talent development as follows:

  • 4–10 years: Growth in cognitive control through exploration and observation
  • 10–13 years: Talent development through mentors, models, contests, apprenticeships
  • 13–18 years: Commitment to talent development, idealism, blending self with talent
  • 18–22 years: Crystallization of talent with a career choice.

Sir Ken Robinson (TED talks), an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation, brings much needed inspiration to the subject. He talks about how to identify children’s unique talents and passions, what to do if you’re passionate isn’t something you’re good at, and why not everyone can make a living doing what they love and more. He says that people make very poor use of their talents – people endure life rather than enjoy it. According to Sir Ken Robinson, education is one of the major reasons why most people don’t do what they love. Because education “dislocates many people from their natural talents”. These talents, says Robinson, “you have to looking for them; they’re not just lying around. One’s talent, or talents, need to be searched for and discovered, a job that education ought to fill. Unfortunately, too often, it doesn’t”.

Robinson quotes a poem of W.B.Yeats: “Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with gold and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”, and concluding that “every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly”.

A major premise of talent-oriented education is that all students deserve instruction and learning opportunities at a level and pace that are appropriate for their current development and talents. Teachers at all grade levels and in all areas should do a better job of identifying and developing the talents of students with average and low potential, as well as those with very high potential. They can do this within any instructional arrangement – heterogeneous inclusion classes, pullout classes, or special classes for honors or advanced placement students (Feldhusen, 1996).

In a nutshell, education has to address us all as individuals. Schooling needs to be thoroughly reorganised so that each individual can find out where his or her talents lie and can make the most of them. It is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.


Feldhusen, F. J. (1996). How to identify and develop special talents. Students with Special Needs, 53(5), p. 66-69.

Feldman, D.H. (1993). Intelligences, symbol systems, skills, domains and fields: A sketch of a developmental/contextual theory of intelligence. Proceedings: Edyth Bush Symposium, “Intelligence: Theory into practice”, p. 83-95. Tampa: University of South Florida.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Robinson, K. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution [Recorded at Ted2010]. Retrieved from: http://blog.ted.com/2010/05/24/bring_on_the_re/

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