14 - The Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness: A Developmental Model for Promoting Creative Productivity  pp. 246-279

By Joseph S. Renzulli

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He drew a circle to shut us out

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win

We drew a circle that took him in.

Edwin Markham, Quatrains

The record of human accomplishments and the progress of civilization can, in many ways, be charted by the actions of history's most gifted and talented contributors to the arts, sciences, and all other areas of human performance. As early as 2200 B.C., the Chinese had developed an elaborate system of competitive examinations to select outstanding persons for government positions (DuBois, 1970), and down through the ages almost every culture has had a special fascination for persons who have made notable contributions to their respective areas of interest and involvement. The areas of performance in which one might be recognized as a “gifted” person are determined by the needs and values of the prevailing culture, and scholars and laypersons alike have debated (and continue to debate) the age-old issues of how certain human abilities, personalities, and environmental conditions contribute to what we call giftedness.

A fascination with persons of unusual ability and potential for extraordinary expertise in any and all fields of human performance has given rise to an area of study in psychology and education called gifted education. In a very general sense, this field focuses on two major questions:

  • What makes giftedness?
  • How can we develop giftedness in young people and adults?