In Brief

More than 40 psychologists, other researchers and educators gathered at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in September to discuss new ways to identify students who are talented in science, technology, engineering and math; how to develop those talents; and how to convince those students to pursue science careers.

Several organizations sponsored the meeting, including APA, NAS, the National Institutes of Health, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future and the National Science Foundation.

The organizers intended the forum to serve as a springboard for a long-term national agenda to identify and develop science talent, according to Rena Subotnik, PhD, director of APA's Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education.

"The point of this meeting was not to come to a consensus, but to begin a journey," she said.

The meeting began with a discussion of how to define science talent.

"Talent is much more complex than people think, and much more elusive," said University of California, Davis, psychologist Dean Simonton, PhD, who studies intelligence and creativity.

The group also discussed the merits and flaws of existing science talent--development programs-such as after-school and summer programs, specialized high schools and science fairs--and considered the best ways to measure those programs' success.

Participants also raised concerns that many talented students from underrepresented groups--such as girls and ethnic-minority students--don't have access to the current programs because of funding, geography or other reasons.

At the end of the day, the group suggested several next steps to promote to policy-makers and funders. Subotnik said the organizers hope that members of the meeting's sponsoring groups will also begin to implement some of the recommendations. The suggestions included:

  • Review research on the effectiveness of various science talent-development programs, and identify the most promising programs.

  • Create a leadership network of science and math teachers who have nurtured talent--such as teachers of science fair award--winners-to work with and advise other teachers.

  • Explore whether teenagers consider science-oriented professions to be high-status careers, both in the United States and internationally.

  • Conduct more research on how to best measure science and math talent.

--L. Winerman

Further Reading

The conference proceedings are available on the National Research Council Center for Education's Web site at www7.nationalacademies.org/cfe.