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An Interview with Scott Barry Kaufman

Kaufman Scott Barry

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman will deliver the Keynote, From Evaluation to Inspiration, at the Closing General Session of this year’s Annual Conference of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented on December 5th in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Kaufman is the Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-founder of the popular website The Creativity Post and writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American Minds. He has a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Yale University, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Cambridge University where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar and B.S. degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Kaufman is an outspoken advocate for a new approach to understanding intelligence and the role of imagination. Recently, he accepted our invitation to be interviewed. His insights based on extensive research and inspired by personal experience are changing the conversation surrounding giftedness, creativity and the direction of education.


Dr. Kaufman speaking at the 2014 NAGC Convention

M: What is the difference between creative giftedness and intellectual giftedness?

SBK: To me, intellectual giftedness is a reflection of advanced development of a range of characteristics that facilitate ascertaining what is, including intellectual curiosity, intellectual interests, academic intrinsic motivation, quick and efficient learning of new material, abstract reasoning, visuospatial reasoning, and vocabulary. In contrast, creative giftedness reflects the advanced development of a set of characteristics that facilitate ascertaining what could be, including daydreaming, imagination, prospection, perspective taking, divergent thinking, and nonconformity. Obviously, there is overlap, but not complete overlap.

M:  How does a child’s environment affect their ability to learn?

SBK: The environment is crucial in bringing out optimal learning outcomes in all children. There’s a lot of emerging research showing the importance of student engagement for learning. Environmental factors can influence engagement in the way it increases (or decreases) a sense of belonging, support, high expectations, and inspiration.

M: Could you explain the difference between intelligence testing and intelligent testing?

SBK: The notion of intelligence testing is that we can determine a person’s level of intelligence through a single, decontextualized testing session. I much prefer to think of each testing session as an opportunity for intelligent testing on the part of the examiner to determine the child’s unique learning needs, style of responding, engagement, and creativity. The great intelligence researcher Alan Kaufman has been arguing for intelligent testing since the year I was born!

“Every person on this earth is full of great possibilities that can be realized through imagination, effort, and perseverance.”

M: The concept of inspiration; what role does it play in inspiring student engagement and can it increase cognitive efficiency?

SBK: Inspiration transforms people’s views of their own capabilities, and their place in the world. People who are inspired are typically inspired to realize some new grand vision they have for themselves or others, and inspiration motivates people to approach that vision. In a lot of ways, it’s an organic, longer lasting way of motivating students to want to do well, because inspiration is about as intrinsically motivating at you can get.

M: What advice would you give to educators to help them recognize potential in their students?

SBK: I’d suggest that educators stop thinking of potential as something that is set in stone at any moment in time, but as a moving target constantly changing and highly dependent on engagement. Personally, I much prefer the word “possibility” than “potential”. Every person on this earth is full of great possibilities that can be realized through imagination, effort, and perseverance.

Thank you, Dr. Kaufman, for bringing perspective to these important issues. We look forward to hearing your Keynote at TAGT 2014. Look for our tweets at hashtag #tagt14 on Twitter December 3rd through the 5th.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Books by Scott Barry Kaufman:

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (Amazon)

The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice (Amazon)

The Psychology of Creative Writing with James C. Kaufman (Amazon)

The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence with Robert J. Sternberg, editors (Amazon)

The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays with Elliott Samuel Paul, editors (Amazon)


The Psychology Podcast (website)

Daydreaming and Mental Contrasting for Goal-Fulfillment with Gabriele Oettingen

The Science of Growing Smarter with Annie Murphy Paul

Talking Mastery and Social Intelligence with Author Robert Greene


The Problem with Standardized Tests

Why the Current Definition of Intelligence Isn’t Smart

A Defense of Daydreaming (Audio 52:05)

The Innovative and Creative Power of ADHD (Audio 9:35)


From Evaluation to Inspiration

Who Is Currently Identified as Gifted in the United States

Creativity and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders Across the Arts and Sciences

The Creative Gifts of ADHD

Confessions of a Late Bloomer

American Education and the IQ Trap


Photo of Scott Barry Kaufman from

Photo of Dr. Scott Kaufman at NAGC courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Closing the Excellence Gap

Talent on the Sidelines

As Global #gtchat celebrated its 2nd year of support from the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, we welcomed a formidable panel of guests to discuss “Closing the Excellence Gap”. For over a decade, U.S. education policy-makers have sought to close the achievement gap; virtually ignoring its brightest students believing they would make it on their own. Worse yet, low-income and minority students who should have been receiving support were not even invited into the room.

Let’s meet our guests for this chat! Dr. Joy Davis is Associate Professor at Virginia Union University,  author of Bright, Talented & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners and a return guest to #gtchat. Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman is co-founder of The Creativity Post, Blogger at Scientific American and author of Ungifted. Rebecca McMillan is Senior Editor of The Creativity Post  and founder of The Brain Café on Facebook. Rebecca is also an online instructor for Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Dr. Jonathan Plucker is Professor at the University of Connecticut and Lead Author on “Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps and America’s Persistent Talent Underclass.” Dr. Donna Y. Ford was unable to be with us due to travel delays, but has agreed to be our guest for another chat in the near future. We look forward to chatting with her.

Joy-davis                                                                  Dr. Joy Lawson Davis

Scott Barry KaufmanDr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Rebecca McMillanRebecca McMillan

Jonathan PluckerDr. Jonathan Plucker

Our first question delved into the difference between the Achievement Gap and the Excellence Gap.

Dr. Davis: “It’s [EG] a gap that prevents equitable access to advanced education programs; creating a schism between haves and have-nots. The have-nots are as capable, but lack access and opportunities; thus achievement cannot be fairly measured.”

Dr. Kaufman: “The ‘excellence gap’ represents the growing gap between high performing disadvantaged youth and more affluent peers.”

Rebecca McMillan: “Whereas the achievement gap focuses on the percentage of culturally diverse and disadvantaged students that reach proficiency, the excellence gap focuses on the percentage of culturally diverse & low-income students who reach higher levels of achievement as measured by participation in GT programs, AP & Honors classes, and advanced scores on state and national assessments.”

Dr. Plucker: “Excellence Gaps are achievement gaps at the high end of the achievement range. Excellence Gaps are big & persistent. The term represents intersection between equity & excellence. The U.S. is one of the few countries that treat equity & excellence as mutually exclusive.”

What groups comprise ‘America’s Persistent Talent Underclass’?

Dr. Davis: “[Groups include] students of color, particularly African American & Latino students & the poor, those from single parent headed households.”

Dr. Kaufman: “Any student who is systematically blocked from resources that would allow him or her to flourish is vulnerable. The culture of the school can also have a tremendous impact on vulnerability to excellence gaps.

Rebecca McMillan: “I would include homeless, abused, and neglected students. Students with unstable or difficult home environments.”

Dr. Plucker: “Underprivileged minority students and poor students, primarily. Some evidence that racial Excellence Gaps are closing at VERY slow rates; but poverty Excellence Gaps appear to be growing”

How can inequities specifically related to racial differences in gifted & advanced learner programs be addressed?

Dr. Davis: “By recognizing the very real discriminatory factors that prevent equitable experiences in schools. Ensuring that teachers are trained and sensitive to the needs of diverse students and how culture and race impacts learning. [While] doing PD in Title I school, teacher said to me: ‘aint’ no gifted kids in this school!

Dr. Kaufman: “I advocate a holistic evaluation of possibility for all students that assesses ability, engagement, and personal goals.We must take all dreams seriously, no matter how big or small, and help students get there step by step.”

Rebecca McMillan: “Identification issues are paramount. We need multiple, wide-gauge methods. Creativity must be considered. In my view, what drives both the excellence and achievement gaps is an engagement gap.”

Dr. Plucker: “Use local norms. Inexcusable to have no services in majority minority or high poverty schs. Local norms help change perceptions.I still hear racist comments in schools, for ex., “We can’t let too many of ‘those kids’ into the program.” Need to confront! [This] goes for poor kids, too: We don’t talk nearly enough about anti-poor bias in U.S.”

A complete transcript of this chat may be found here.


Talent on the Sidelines: The Widening Gap in Excellence” at the Creativity Post by Scott Barry Kaufman 

Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps & America’s Persistent Talent Underclass” by Dr. JonathanPlucker (pdf)

Excellence Gap 2012 (website)

Dr. Jonathan Plucker Bio @UCONN

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman Bio

The Brain Cafe on Facebook

Dr. Joy Lawson Davis’ Blog WeAreGifted2

Interview with Dr. JonathanPlucker on Talent on the Sidelines (podcast)

Improve Education While Increasing Child Poverty – An Impossible NC Strategy

Hispanics Struggle to Graduate: An Issue of School Choice?

Report: ‘Excellence Gap’ Growing Among American Students

Excellence Gap Among American Students

Long Read: Narrowing the Excellence Gap

Report Cites Growing ‘Excellence Gap’

Report: Race, Wealth Remain Factors in State Achievement Gap

Race Equity & Excellence in Education Network  

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (website)

Dr. Donna Ford Bio

“Excellence Gap” from GiftedPhoenix

Scientific American Blog Beautiful Minds by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Scott Barry Kaufman’s Website

“Academic Survivability in High-Potential, Middle School Students” GCQ 1996 Plucker/McIntire

5 Questions for Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman about ‘The Creativity Post’ by Dr. JonathanLWai

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (book – Amazon) by @sbkaufman Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice (book – Amazon) by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman 

Few Black & Latino Students Were Admitted to NYC’s Specialized Schools This Year

Integrating Multicultural and Gifted Education: A Curricular Framework” (pdf) from Dr. Donna Y. Ford et al

Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners (Amazon – book) by Dr. Joy Lawson Davis

Welcome Dr. Donna Y. Ford to SENG’s Professional Advisory Committee

I, Too, Am Harvard

Cybraryman’s Culture Page

Cybraryman’s You Matter Page

From Evaluation to Inspiration: Scott Barry Kaufman at TEDx Manhattan Beach (video)

From Evaluation to Inspiration” at Scientific American Beautiful Minds Blog from Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program

Measuring Child Poverty: New League Tables of Child Poverty in the World’s Rich Countries from Unicef

Map the Meal Gap, Food Insecurity in Your County (U.S.)

The Need for Belonging in Math and Science” by Scott Barry Kaufman

Letter Grades Deserve an ‘F’” from Jessica Lahey

De Bono’s 6 Action Shoes: One Size Shoe Cover System” from Jo Freitag

The Future Project

Revealing New Truths About Our Nation’s Schools” (pdf) from the Office for Civil Rights

Status Quo at Elite New York Schools: Few Blacks and Hispanics

Con Cariño: Teacher Caring, Math Self-Efficacy, and Math Achievement Among Hispanic English Learners

Learning to Attend to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners Through Teacher Inquiry in Teacher Education

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate 2013 – 2014 Program

Intensive Small-Group Tutoring and Counseling Helps Struggling Students

Rebecca McMillan Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online Spring 2014 Instructor

Rebecca McMillan Sui Generis at The Creativity Post

Rebecca McMillan Senior Editor at The Creativity Post

Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming” by Rebecca McMillan et al

Special Guest: Rebecca McMillan, Director of Online Education at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

On Friday, September 14th, #gtchat was pleased to host Mrs. Rebecca McMillan as our special guest. Rebecca answered questions from the moderator about GHF’s new online courses being offered for the first time this fall. Rebecca, Scott Myers and Heather Blonsky will be the instructors. Classes are aimed at gifted and 2e homeschoolers,

Participants from 15 states and 6 countries contributed to the chat. The consensus by the end of chat was two-fold: everyone wanted to take the classes and that this was just the beginning for GHF. Executive Director of GHF, Corin Barsily Goodwin, revealed future plans including additional courses to be made available for a wider range of age groups. Rebecca suggested webinars for parents on such topics as electronic portfolios, finding mentors and building a transcript. Other plans included the possibility of offering classes to non-homeschoolers; trainings and supports for parents & professionals; and summer camps.

Tweet of the Day came from Krissy Venosdale, “I lurk to learn!” The idea was further tweaked by Jo Freitag, to “Lurk ‘N Learn.” It’s well known that #gtchat loves lurkers – newcomers who monitor the chat, but don’t actively participate.

Rebecca also shared with us her personal reasons for homeschooling as well as the many other projects with which she is currently involved. You can read her comments in the transcript that is posted at the TAGT website each Monday morning following the chat.


Links from chat:

The Creativity Post (Facebook Page)

The Creativity Post (website)

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (Facebook Page)

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (website)

GHF Online

The Brain Café (Facebook Group)

Scott Myers blog, “Go Into the Story”

From Scott Myers: Screenwriting Master Class

Cybraryman’s  Twice Exceptional 2E page

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