The Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness
Developed by Joseph Renzulli, the three ring conception of giftedness has been a popular view of giftedness for over 30 years. The three rings represent three clusters of traits: 1) above average ability, 2) creativity, and 3) task commitment. According to Renzulli, these three traits combine and interact with each other to form creative accomplishment (or gifted behaviors). According to the theory, students who exhibit, or have the potential to exhibit, sufficient levels of these traits require opportunities and challenges above and beyond those offered in the regular classroom.
Renzulli also notes that these three rings do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, personality and environmental factors create contexts for the three rings to develop. Perhaps chief among the personality factors are what Renzulli calls co-cognitive factors that help develop social- and intellectual-capital. Co-cognitive factors include: optimism, courage, romance with a topic or discipline, sensitivity to human concerns, physical/mental energy, and vision/sense of destiny. Personality traits such as these interact with cognitive traits to develop student potential.
Under this view, gifted education serves two purposes: First, gifted education should seek to maximize opportunities to develop potential within individuals. Second it should seek to increase the number of people who can advance society through solving problems and producing new contributions. Being able to frame your child’s needs through these perspectives when speaking to school officials will help you “speak their language” and thus better position yourself to help meet your child’s needs.
Renzulli, J. S. (2005). The three-ring conception of giftedness: A developmental model for promoting creative productivity. In R. J. Sternberg & J. E. Davidson (Eds.), Conceptions of Giftedness (pp. 246-279). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Renzulli, J. S. & Systema Reed, R. E. (2008). Intelligences outside the normal curve: Co-cognitive traits that contribute to giftedness. In J. A. Plucker & C. M. Callahan (Eds.). Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education: What the Research Says (pp. 303-319). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.