Renzulli Creativity Programs are based upon decades of research and practical experience in thousands of classrooms across the globe [www.gifted.uconn.edu]. The programs combine several educational principles that allow participants to achieve levels of learning and creative thought not available in traditional classrooms. Various organizational and delivery options (discussed below) allow for different arrangements based on local program requirements and circumstances.
The programs incorporate four research-based subtheories: the Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness, the Theory of Blended Knowledge, the Enrichment Triad Model, and Executive Functions. Renzulli Creativity Programs also utilize technology that allows students to access the wider world of knowledge by learning how to use Just-In-Time (J-I-T) knowledge acquisition techniques.
Subtheory I: The Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness
The Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness attempts to portray the main dimensions of human potential for creative productivity. The name derives from the conceptual framework of the theory—namely, three interacting clusters of traits (Above Average Ability, Task Commitment, and Creativity) and their relationship with general and specific areas of human performance.
Perhaps the most salient aspect of this theory is that it is the interaction among these clusters of traits brought to bear on a particular problem situation that creates the conditions for the creative productive process to commence. A second aspect of the theory posits that whereas abilities (especially general intelligence, specific aptitudes, and academic achievement) tend to remain relatively constant over time, creativity and task commitment are contextual, situational, and temporal.
Finally, these clusters of traits emerge in certain people, at certain times, and under certain circumstances. The Enrichment Triad Model (discussed below) is the compatible learning theory from which educational conditions are provided that create the conditions for stimulating interaction between and among the levels of knowledge described below.
Subtheory II: Blended Knowledge
Blended Knowledge combines the three levels of knowledge required to achieve the goal of Creative Productivity:
- Received Knowledge includes traditional instruction of facts, vocabulary, numeracy and other data derived from textbooks and lectures. This information is usually assessed through standardized testing and provides the foundation for more advanced levels of knowledge.
- Analyzed Knowledge develops thinking skills, which include interpreting, extrapolating, comparing and contrasting, ranking, prioritizing, determining cause and effect, and making analogies. These higher level skills are achieved through discussion, debates, critiquing and questioning which foster the development of advanced analytical skills.
- Applied and Created Knowledge is the most advanced level of problem solving and construction of knowledge, but it requires curiosity, creativity and task commitment to achieve this level of competence. Individuals that possess these abilities are highly productive and creative, which enables them to become successful contributors in their respective fields through the development of original ideas, materials and products.
The benefits of Blended Knowledge mastery are listed above and are part of our mission of guiding students toward thinking, feeling, and carrying out creative and investigative work like practicing professionals, even if they are working at more junior levels that adult scientists, writers, designers, filmmakers, or entrepreneurs.
Subtheory III: Enrichment Triad Model
The instructional methods used at Renzulli Creativity Programs include the Enrichment Triad Model, which allows students to solve problems through:
Type 1 Enrichment – General Exploratory Experiences
Exposure to ideas, topics, and areas of potential interest not ordinarily covered in the regular curriculum. The purpose of Type I enrichment is to give students a wide variety of options from which they might want to pursue advanced study.
Type 2 Enrichment – Group Training Activities
Provides systematic training in the following six areas:
- Cognitive Thinking Skills
- Character Development and Affective Process Skills
- Learning-How-To-Learn Skills
- Using Advanced Research Skills and Reference Materials
- Written, Oral, and Visual Communication Skills
- Meta-Cognitive Technology Skills
Type 3 Enrichment – Individual and Small Group Investigations of Real Problems
Application of the above skills to a self-selected problem or area of interest that results in a product designed to have an impact on an intended audience.
The combination of these enrichment activities fosters Creative Productivity through learning in a natural environment rather than a highly structured environment. The use of these three interrelated types of enrichment is modeled after the modus operandi of practicing professionals in the adult world.
Subtheory IV: Executive Functions – Leadership for a Changing World
The fourth and final theory enables individuals to pursue a desired goal in an efficient and effective way. The most creative ideas, advanced analytic skills, and the noblest of motives may not result in positive action unless leadership skills such as organization, sequencing, and sound judgment, self-regulation, and time management skills are brought to bear on problem situations.
Executive functions are broadly defined as the ability to engage in novel situations that require planning, decision making, troubleshooting, and compassionate and ethical leadership that is not dependent on routine or well-rehearsed responses to challenging combinations of conditions.
It has been argued that great leadership works through non-cognitive traits such as self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and social skills. There is general agreement among researchers that the so-called “Big Five” personality traits are the basis on which talent development programs should focus:
- Openness—Inventive and curious as opposed to consistent and cautious
- Conscientiousness—Efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and careless
- Extraversion—Outgoing and energetic as opposed to solitary and reserved
- Agreeableness—Friendly and compassionate as opposed to cold and unkind
- Positive Self-Concept—Secure and confident as opposed to sensitive and nervous
These skills have important implications for the academic success of students, career decisions, and even the economic productivity of nations. Although not minimizing the importance of traditional cognitive ability, these authors point out that conventional assessments account for a small portion of the variance when examining long-term academic and career accomplishment, especially as it relates to the advancement of adult competencies in highly demanding professions where leadership skills and creative productivity are the criteria for success.
These functions are especially important to highly capable people because of the positions of leadership and influence to which they typically ascend.