Hidden talents in harsh conditions
Children living in adverse conditions are more likely to struggle in school. But what if these children have abilities that are enhanced through adversity, “hidden talents” that educators can harness to promote their learning?
Children who grow up in difficult environments, such as unstable families or violent neighborhoods, are more likely to experience chronic stress, which can have a negative impact on their learning. We need to make every effort to reduce the adversities these children experience. At the same time, we need to optimize their learning experiences to improve their chances of success later in life.
Research is starting to show that children growing up in adverse conditions may develop “hidden talents” as a way of adapting to harsh and unpredictable environments. These may include the ability to switch easily between tasks, keep track of changing information, understand other people, and find creative solutions to problems.
How can we design learning environments that enable children to make the best use of their “hidden talents”? These students might benefit when teachers encourage them to learn by doing, when they are allowed to move around the classroom, when concepts are related to their daily lives, and when they are able to work collaboratively with others.
In the coming years, we hope to learn more about the hidden talents of children living in difficult circumstances, and how to harness these abilities to improve their educational outcomes.