A Case for Affective Education: Addressing the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Students

By Stephanie Ferguson.

Full Title: A Case for Affective Education: Addressing the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Students in the Classroom

Professionals in the field of gifted education have documented the affective characteristics of gifted individuals as well as the social and emotional needs related to those characteristics (Clark 2002; Cohen & Frydenberg, 1996; Cross, 2003; Delisle, 1987; Roeper, 1995; Silverman, 1993). Despite the evidence and support provided by the literature, often proactive attention to the affective domain is overlooked in many schools unless that attention is in reaction to some overt threat or maladaptive behavior identified by the school community (Peterson, 2003).

Defining the Term

There are many theories which attest to the connection between the affective domain and cognitive processing. Although many of these theories were not developed with gifted individuals specifically in mind, they nonetheless have influence on educational practice. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1971), Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration (Dabrowski, 1964) and overexcitabilities (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977), Kohlberg’s stages of moral development (Kohlberg, 1974), and Krathwohl’s affective taxonomy (Krathwohl, Bloom & Masia, 1964) all address various aspects of the social-emotional milieu as they relate to cognition. The aforementioned theories provide a foundation upon which numerous definitions of affective education have been built. However, just as there is no “standard” definition of giftedness, there are a myriad of facets associated with affective education, but no clear operational definition. Some elements associated with affective education include:

· individualized value systems (Krathwohl, Bloom & Masia, 1964);

· attitudes, beliefs, and values (Sellin & Birch, 1980);

· interests and appreciations (Carin & Sund, 1978);

· persistence, independence, and self-concept (Levey & Dolan, 1988);

· feelings, emotions, and awareness of self and others (Treffinger, Borgers, Render & Hoffman, 1976);

· interpersonal relations (Treffinger, et al., 1976);

· humanitarianism (Weinstein & Fantini, 1970);

· curiosity, risk-taking, complexity, and imagination (Williams, 1970); and

· character and leadership (Delisle, 2002).

Why Is It Important?

With factors such as these linked to gifted education, the affective domain should be given a priority in school curricula. With current emphasis placed upon standardized testing and content standard accountability, the need to seamlessly incorporate strategies aimed at balancing the cognitive and affective for a balanced educational product seems greater than ever.

Morelock (1992) defines asynchronous development in gifted individuals as an uneven rate of development in the cognitive, affective, and physical domains. When school curriculum focuses solely upon the cognitive realm, the uneven development of the other domains may be enhanced, thus emphasizing the gifted child’s feeling of being ‘out of sync’ with his or her peers (Silverman, 1993). Roeper (1995) contends that if asynchronous development is left unchecked, the adoption of unhealthy lifestyles (e.g., perfectionism, self-criticism, poor self-concept) or maladjustment (e.g., depression, eating disorders, antisocial behavior) may ensue. However, when affective issues are addressed and social emotional needs met, gifted students face their challenges with emotional balance and appropriate coping mechanisms that promote success in reaching personal potential rather than failure to do so (Roeper, 1995).

As further support for addressing