An Interview with Joseph Renzulli, a Leader and Legend in Gifted Education

Renzulli2.pngRenzulli Discovery Programs empower middle school students to become the world’s next generation of problem solvers and leaders. The programs aim to develop gifted and talented potential through innovative learning. The pioneer of this program, Dr. Joseph Renzulli, is a well-known and respected leader in gifted education and teaching strategies.

Summer Discovery sat down with Joe and asked him some personal questions about his esteemed career and innovative program.

SD:  How did you first develop a passion for gifted and talented education?

JR:  When I began teaching I quickly realized that there were many students who could learn at a faster pace than others and that simply giving them more regular assignments would not promote interest and enthusiasm, so I began looking for material that would be more interesting and engaging.

SD:  Outside of teaching and education psychology, what is a career that always interested you?

JR:  As a child, I was always interested in writing and I had a few of my stories published when I was in high school. I would have liked to pursue some kind of writing as a career; however, the only college I could afford and to which I received a scholarship was a teacher’s college.  It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me because writing about education has given me the opportunity to influence many people.

SD:  Which enrichment cluster would you fall under?

JR:  Journalism or creative writing – (Literature, Language Arts, and the Humanities)

SD:  How did you develop the “Renzulli Profiler” for identifying gifted and talented potential?

JR:  It started by simply asking students questions about their interests and then became a research study that resulted in an instrument for middle grade students.  Later, primary and secondary editions were prepared and I subsequently developed versions for entering graduate students and for teachers exploring which enrichment clusters they might facilitate.

SD:  What are your thoughts on the UCONN women’s basketball team currently holding a 106-game winning streak?

JR:  The Lady Huskies are the pride of our university and I even have a bumper sticker that says “I Love Huskie Women!”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Lady Huskies record 111-game winning streak ended with a loss to Mississippi State in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.]

SD:  What is your favorite place in the world?

JR:  There are many – India, Chile, Hong Kong, but If I had to pick one place it would be Italy. I love the food, historical sites, warmth of the people I met and worked with, and the more relaxed way of life.

SD:  What is a talent or interest that few people know you have?

JR:  Artisan bread baking.

SD:  Do you feel that students prefer online learning or face-to-face classroom experiences?

JR:  Although opinions vary, I have found that the majority of students with whom I have spoken like face-to-face interactions, even when it is coupled with online learning.  Enjoyable learning is a social experience as well as an academic endeavor.

SD:  In one sentence, what is the biggest reason to participate in a Renzulli Discovery Program?

JR:  Many young people can benefit from a “brand” of learning that is more interesting, engaging, and exciting than the ways in which most school subjects are taught. 

SD:  Anything else you want to tell us?

JR:  Learning is much more fun when someone is working on a topic that they have chosen and when they pursue the topic the same ways that practicing professionals function.  They may be working at a more junior level than adult scientists, writers, filmmakers, etc., but they are applying thinking skills and both received knowledge and just-in-time knowledge in the same ways that creative and investigative people go about their work.  Enjoyment, engagement, and enthusiasm for learning are the major goals of the type of learning that I advocate.


Do you know a middle school student interested in joining a Renzulli Discovery Program? These programs are offered at Yale, Georgetown, and UCLA.  Gifted children will experience a great learning opportunity, meet new friends, and enjoy fun activities as well. Click here to start an application or call 516.621.3939/email Summer Discovery, to get more information.  

This post is by Summer Discovery, an NAGC sponsor. The views expressed here are not neceessarily those of NAGC.