Clustering

sports-teamsHumans naturally cluster. We cluster to live together in family households, in towns and in cities. Those who choose to live in rural and remote areas generally regard themselves as part of a wider community. Clusters may be formed on the basis of interests, hobbies, activities. Associations, such as the Qld Association for Gifted and Talented Children (QAGTC), are based on shared interests, needs and goals. Sporting teams (soccer, netball) and clubs (swimming, surfing) provide access to others interested in similar hobbies and activities (chess, bird-watching, collecting) and are formed to provide for our natural tendency to cluster.

Groups based upon intellectual characteristics (Mensa), talents (orchestras, choirs), and strengths (science, maths, language, art) have individuals who cluster together to pursue interests by participating in certain activities, attending specific schools or choosing subjects at school and university that are aligned with their abilities, talents, interests and strengths. Individuals thinking togetherwith advanced intellectual abilities may search for opportunities to learn through participation in programs, competitions and academic environments where high-ability students are clustered together in order to provide them with increased stimulation and challenge. Universities provide academic contexts within which a large cluster of students with higher learning needs, interests and career aspirations come together with others to achieve personal learning goals.

Beyond formal academic learning centres, work environments also provide clusters where individuals work in teams, work places, businesses and companies to develop various products and provide a range of services for others. Throughout the world, there are clusters of skilled workers, forming hubs associated with certain industries and located in specific regions, such as: Zurich (banking), Silicon Valley (technology), London (finance), Hollywood and Bollywood (film), Champagne and Burgundy (viticulture) and Paris (fashion). Festivals, such as music, food, fashion, cultural and writers’ festivals, as well as conferences, cluster people temporarily to share common interests and celebrate achievements within a specific field. There are professional organisations, providing clustered members with opportunities to identify and implement shared professional aims within a collaborative environment.

connections-It is natural for our species to cluster, to connect through common abilities and interests. Shared ideas and goals prompt the establishment of networks that are now spread across the world, via technology. Social networks and relationships, forming a web of powerful connections, have been identified by Dean Simonton as critical to the development of scientists (including Isaac Newton) and artists (including Michelangelo).

The use of ability grouping, clustering gifted students in schools, extensively researched over decades via meta-analyses, by James and Chen-Lin Kulik from the University of Michigan, Karen Rogers from University of St Thomas and others, has identified that ability grouping has significant benefits for gifted and high-ability students. These students have specific learning needs; they learn at an accelerated pace and in a different manner. When clustered together in classes, in programs and in selective schools, these students have opportunities to be taught and learn in an appropriate manner while developing supportive learning and social networks.

© Michele Juratowitch      
michele@clearingskies.com.au