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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Three-Ring Concept

Traditionally~ the term gifted was considered a noun~ rather than a verb.

Being gifted was something you are~ not something you do.

That theory was rattled when Dr. Joseph Renzulli of the University of Connecticut questioned whether gifted was strictly determined by an individuals I.Q. or whether other factors were involved. Renzulli developed the Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness~ which basically stated that gifted behavior was displayed when three elements overlapped: above-average ability~ task commitment (or motivation)~ and creativity. When these three~ magical ingredients mixed~ the result was higher-than-average performance and accomplishment.

What I would like to explore in this blog is how to use this three-ring concept as a framework for developing effective lessons in the general education classroom. I believe this theory can be carried over into general education and not just reserved for the gifted and talented.

Before I provide an example~ let me briefly explain each of the three concepts.

Above-Average Ability
The first element involves a person being good at something. For instance~ a student may be proficient in math~ naturally absorbing mathematical concepts quicker and easier than peers. This quality will not change; If a student has a natural ability in math~ he or she will always have that ability~ though other circumstances can change. When exploring the three-ring concept in the general classroom~ we have to consider that some students may not possess above-average ability in a given subject or even average ability. This means that we cannot manipulate this element~ but rather we have to work with what we have.

That brings us to the second concept~ task commitment. This involves a person having motivation~ perseverance~ and the ability to focus on a task or goal until it is achieved. Renzullis research has found that task-commitment does not happen in a vacuum but rather occurs in the context of a problem~ one that is personal for the individual. Whats exciting about this concept is that we can experiment with different ways to increase task-commitment in students since its not fixed~ like ability level.

This quality involves not just creating and developing new ideas and products but looking at problems and situations in different ways. While some individuals may be more creative than others~ this concept can also be experimented with by changing the environment~ developing creative-thinking skills and increasing task-commitment.

Armed with an understanding of the three-ring concept~ lets use it as framework for developing an engaging lesson. For example~ imagine a teacher was instructing students in reading particular kinds of graphs. How could we utilize these elements to generate better performance?

Well~ as explained above~ you cannot change ability. While a student may improve in his or her overall math skills~ a lesson on graphing on a given day is not suddenly going to improve their natural mathematical ability. However~ we can develop task-commitment in students by placing the lesson in a context that becomes personal. Perhaps a few students in the class love baseball. The teacher~ after providing basic instruction~ could allow these students to graph baseball statistics for their favorite teams. Another group~ that loves pop music~ could graph top 40 pop hits.

The teacher could further increase task commitment among students by arranging for the graph to be displayed among a group of baseball or music fans~ thus providing the students product with an authentic audience. Personally~ I have seen unmotivated students become highly enthused when they know their work is going to see by an audience.

Finally~ the teacher can infuse creativity into the graphing lesson by providing students with choices that force them to think in different ways. The class could choose from a variety of products to display their graphing results~ ranging from using technology programs to project boards. Another approach might be to present the students with a problem~ such as what is the best way to display the information you have gathered~ and allow teams to choose the type of graph that best organizes their data.

From the above example~ its evident that the three-ring concept will require teachers to differentiate and personalize instruction for students as they strive to improve performance and increase learning. The concepts serve as a framework that gets educators to reconsider their idea of giftedness~ and after reading this blog~ I hope you see the possibilities in applying this theory to all students.