Pyryt’s P’s

michael Michael Pyryt was an Associate Professor of Applied Psychology and the Director of the Center for Gifted Education at the University of Calgary from 2000, until his passing in January 2008.

He specialized in gifted education in the United States at both the Masters (Johns Hopkins University) and Doctoral level (University of Kansas). He made over 150 presentations at national and international conferences and has over 60 publications related to giftedness.

He explored a wide range of research interests in gifted education including:

  • identification approaches
  • creativity
  • instructional planning
  • aspects of social-emotional development, including self concept, perfectionism, personality development, and career planning
His work appears in both editions of the International Handbook on Giftedness and Talent and the Handbook of Gifted Education.
He was the co-editor of AGATE: Journal of the Gifted and Talented Education Council of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, and was on the editorial advisory boards of the Journal for the Education of the Gifted, Gifted Child Quarterly, High Ability Studies, The Journal of Advanced Academics, and PsycCritiques-Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books.

In addition to his academic contributions to the field of gifted education, Dr. Pyryt was a tremendous advisor to, and educator and supporter of parents of gifted children.

Quality Programming for the Gifted Using Pyryt’s Enrichment Matrix

In Alberta, educational programming for intellectually gifted students is mandated by the School Act, and outlined in the Standards for Special Needs Education (2004). There are no specifications, however, regarding the nature of programs and services that must be provided for gifted students.

Dr. Michael Pyryt devised an approach to developing quality programming for gifted students which can be used to plan, deliver and evaluate differentiated curriculum. His approach is called “Pyryt’s P’s”, and his model, the Pyryt Enrichment Matrix.

Dr. Pyryt’s model is useful for parents in a number of ways. It can be used as a basis to:

  • discuss strategies for meeting the needs of a gifted learner
  • assess suitability of a gifted program in a particular school
  • aid in preparing the Individual Program Plan for a gifted child.

In terms of Individual Program Planning (IPPs), Pyryt’s P’s approach to gifted education provides a framework for differentiated curriculum, developmental concerns, metacognition, and career planning for the gifted learner.

Dr. Pyryt’s model is described in:

 “Accommodating Gifted Learners in Regular Classrooms:  Promises and Pitfalls”

Pace    Process    Passion    Product    Peers

When discussing IPPs, Dr. Pyryt added another P – Power.

The following is a brief summary of each element of the model:

  • Allowing the gifted learner to learn at an accelerated pace suitable to their rapid rate of learning
  • Pretesting allows for identification of an appropriate starting point in the program of studies
  • Moving students to an appropriate starting point, compacting or streamlining the grade-level program of studies to eliminate repetition of previously learned materials is accomplished through pretesting
  • Adjusting the pace to meet the student’s needs allows the student to do a deeper exploration of specific learning outcomes that are especially meaningful to them
  • Appropriate Pace may mean allowing students to pursue studies at a higher grade level in one or more subject areas.
  • Helping the gifted learner develop higher level thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, critical thinking, divergent thinking, and creative problem-solving to address their capacity for complex thought
  • Gifted students, who have mastered subject matter at the knowledge, comprehension and application level, can be further challenged by tapping their ability to make connections through analysis, transforming their knowledge through synthesis activities to generate creative products, and judging the value of what has been created through evaluation activities.
  • Allowing the learner the opportunity to pursue independent inquiry in areas of interest to them
  • Using real life problems of interest to the gifted learner helps to engage them in learning, while developing independence and self-directed learning skills

Ways in which the students explore and demonstrate their understanding of content and process: differentiating products means providing opportunities for students to demonstrate their thinking and learning in different ways including:

  • Written
  • Discussion
  • Dramatization
  • Display
  • Oral
  • Graphic representation
  • Manipulative
  • Artistic
  • Service learning

Conventional writing assignments may not be the best way for some students to show their learning.  Some students may think more quickly than their hands can write.  An action product, such as a PowerPoint slide show, videoconferencing or a performance, could be a better type of learning experience for these students.

Students who are gifted often need to produce what Dr. Joseph Renzulli calls “real-life products” for real audiences.  These products go beyond the typical research paper or report to alternatives that develop an individual student’s talents and curiosities, and can be shared and used by others.

The main purpose for designing alternate products is to:

  • Broaden the range of a student’s experiences with the material
  • Expand the student’s ways of learning and of expressing themselves
  • Challenge students in their areas of strength
  • Create opportunities for students to explore hidden talents and use gifts they might not otherwise use
  • Allow students to learn in a deeper and more advanced way through their preferred learning style
  • Create opportunities for students to develop or gain understanding of self and others
  • Explore their learning strengths and needs
  • Learn and practice coping skills
  • Participate in interdisciplinary studies, special interest groups or other projects

Students benefit, in terms of social and emotional development, from having like minded peers and they also benefit, in terms of cognitive challenge and interests, from having peers of a similar ability level.

Positive peer relationships are very important to the development of gifted learners.

Dr. Pyryt stressed that often, peers of the gifted are not of the same chronological age, but rather of the same mental age.

Positive peer relationships can be encouraged by:

  • congregating gifted learners
  • enrichment cohorts
  • electronic communications

Mentorships are another way to help the social and emotional development of gifted learners: students work on a project with a resource teacher, specialist, parent volunteer or community member to develop skills in a specific field, and build career awareness.

  • Giving the learner the power to create opportunities for choice, collaboration and meaningful research

Students benefit from opportunities to make choices, set goals, engage in self-reflection and participate in self-assessment. 

Many students who are gifted will benefit from processes that develop:

  • Effective study habits
  • Organizational skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Mastery of these skills allows students to complete some outcomes more quickly and spend additional time on more challenging activities or areas of passion.

The Pyryt Enrichment Matrix can be an effective tool for parents and educators in planning appropriate curriculum for gifted learners.

Dr. Michael Pyryt Parent Lecture Series

The GATE Parent Association has pledged to honour Dr Michael Pyryt by continuing the work of the lecture series named for him, under the former Centre for Gifted Education.

Parent Education Sessions provide an opportunity to learn more about gifted education/gifted learners, and they also provide the chance to meet with other parents of children who are gifted. 

Sessions are generally offered during the school year and they typically feature a guest speaker, and discussion on a topic related to giftedness/gifted education. The sessions are not just open to parents, but they are open to anyone with an interest in giftedness or gifted education, such as other family (grand-parents), teachers and administrative staff. 

Details about upcoming sessions or other informational opportunities can be found in our Announcements & Events section.

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