The Importance of Task Commitment

Today’s Venn diagram is Renzulli’s Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness:

What Makes Giftedness

Professor Joseph S. Renzulli is the Director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut and is one of the most highly respected experts in the field of gifted education.

I came across his Three-Ring Model in a 1985 edition of Education of the Gifted and Talented by Gary A. Davis and Sylvia B Rimm. The basic premise of the Three-Ring model is that gifted persons that make meaningful contributions to society are not just smart. Creativity is important as is Task Commitment.

Of the three criteria, task commitment stands out to me as the one that is most needed in our young people and most difficult to foster. Task commitment is the time and energy spent learning and perfecting skills within a specific area. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, documents the 10,000 hour rule. Across various fields from sports to music to chess to computers to industry, putting in a cumulative 10,000 hours of study and practice is a necessary component for achieving excellence.

In their studies of Talent Development, Bloom and Sosniak have also documented the importance of strong task commitment. In their research, after age 12, individuals who excelled in their fields as adults were spending as much time per week on their talent field as their peers were spending watching TV. This information was published in 1981 before our many choices existed for teenage entertainment. Now our students can watch their favorite shows at any hour on the Internet. They  are in constant contact with their peers through email, texting, and Twitter. A constant stream of “must see” YouTube videos closely tie them into popular culture in real-time. It is far more difficult today than it was in the 70s and 80s for our youth to proactively find the motivation and discipline necessary to put in the time necessary to reach the highest level of accomplishment in their chosen area of interest.

How much time are our talented students wasting on instant gratification and what will be the long-term consequences for them individually and for our society?