At the 2012 NAGC Convention in Denver, I was part of a trio that presented the session “Discussion Groups: A Focused, But Flexible, Affective Curriculum.” My co-presenters were Jean Peterson and George Betts.
I started using Jean Peterson’s book The Essential Guide To Talking With Teens 10 years ago in my student discussion groups in middle high school and high school. The newest version of the book is titled Talk With Teens About What Matters To Them (Free Spirit Publishing).
George Betts, co-author of the Autonomous Learner Model (ALM), was my professor when I got my masters degree in gifted education from the University of Northern Colorado in 2002.
The three of us previously co-authored a chapter on discussion groups as a best practice in gifted education in the book Social-Emotional Curriculum With Gifted and Talented Students (Prufrock Press).
Here’s how Jean described our NAGC session: “The growing emphasis on social, emotional and career development reflects a sense that gifted individuals’ experience of development is qualitatively different. Discussion groups can be effective development-oriented, affective curriculum. More facilitative than didatic, these open-ended experiences moved gifted students out of a competitive, evaluative environment to a place where they can be “human”, make social connections, challenge achiever and underachiever stereotypes, develop strategies for coping with stress, find peer support, and consider the fit of personality and needs with career.”
I’ve been doing student discussion groups for over 10 years and have found these groups to be a very successful way to get students to talk together about social and emotional issues that they may, or often may not, be talking about with anyone else. Although it’s not therapy, it’s very therapeutic for students.
Adults don’t have to have a counseling degree to conduct student discussion groups in school because it’s affective education, not counseling. The most valuable qualities an adult leader can have are to be knowledgeable about giftedness, and to be approachable and understanding. Discussion groups are a highly effective and beneficial way for students to become more aware of themselves, and of others.
My goal at this NAGC Convention session was to help teachers and educators understand the purpose of these groups and perhaps get a few of them interested in starting a discussion group for gifted students in their school.