“A brilliant mind does not have gender or colour” – Taraji P Henson
When you look inside today’s classroom, you will see incredibly diverse groups of students, and amongst them some very gifted individuals. There are some students that cannot stop talking and others who barely say a word, some who are very tall for their age whilst others have not had their growth spurt yet, and even though some may have great difficulties speaking the language, others are fluent in many. Does this sound familiar?
These differences are to be found in all students and are to be celebrated. However these differences present a unique challenge to schools who have to cater for all the needs of students showing giftedness in many ways. When we consider that ‘Giftedness’ is multifaceted and includes a student’s personality, academic, creative capabilities and their cultural, social backgrounds and more, it can seem awfully overwhelming. So, how do we identify ‘Giftedness’ and help students develop holistically?
Theories of Giftedness
Before answering the question of how to help students, it is necessary to understand that early theories on giftedness in children presented the rather narrow view of intelligence as fixed and inherited or simply put, giftedness was defined as the ability to make a high score on a national or international IQ test. When we consider the possible changes and uncertain demands placed on tomorrow’s workforce, it follows that schooling has now had to be adapted to provide an expanded skills set. A skills set required to enable students to succeed in a modern context.
Overall high academic achievement is one indicator of giftedness and whilst the use of standardized testing does provide information on a student’s ability to perform mental tasks, research has indicated that “Giftedness” is inherent in all students, appears in multiple categories and that there are catalysts (including chance) that when applied over time increase the likelihood of a student transforming their natural gifts into high performance.
French scholar Francoys Gagné (1985) developed a framework which explained why some people with great potential achieve and others do not. Gagne’s model considers environmental factors that surround a student , such as their physical and mental capabilities, goal management, and key indicators of the domain specific (i.e. Visual and Performing Arts) developmental processes. The model further examines investment, choice of activities and the rate of progress a child is making in their studies. Parents and teachers can use this holistic education model as a reference point when planning effective instruction and activities for their children.
Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent
No conversation about ‘gifted’ education is complete without the mention of the ‘Founder of Gifted Education’ Joseph Renzulli (1978) who asserted in his ‘Three-Ring Model’ that ‘above-average ability’ is only one part of gifted behaviour and that a student’s hard-work, motivation and ability to produce ideas outweighed natural gifts.
Renzulli’s Three-Ring Model
Identifying and Nurturing Giftedness
A practical method of identifying giftedness should begin as early as possible, utilize a variety of tools and be continuous. One of the most widely used methods of evaluation is the application of specific domains of gifted ability by Karen Rogers (1985) which identifies five profiles of ‘gifted learners’. The diagram below shows an example of the distinguishing features that include the child’s characteristics, as well as the educational and affective needs of the learner.
Excerpt highlighting the relationship between the characteristics of identification and the education and social needs of the Gifted Learner from Vialle W. and Rogers K. (2009). Educating the Gifted Learner. David Barlow Publishing (p.20)
Parental identification can be as effective as teacher or peer nomination in identifying ‘giftedness’, and can be the catalyst for consultation with school representatives about taking appropriate measures to meet the child’s ‘gifted’ needs such as subject acceleration, grade-skipping, compacting of the curriculum, mentorships, enrichment activities, competitions, and independent investigations. The school may opt to use further investigative tools such as observational checklists, above-level testing, teacher referrals and interest-based profiling to ensure that the evaluation of giftedness is accurate. The combination of parental involvement and advocacy with the considerable expertise of teachers can result in the provision of an Independent Education Plan (IEP) if services are available.
We need to consider that the concept of ‘Giftedness’ varies substantially depending on who you are and the background you come from. Many of the tools derived from the research mentioned above are traditional tools of measurement based on political and social agendas of their time and alternative tools of measure are available such as Situation Judgment Problem-Solving Tools (SJPT) which focus on adaptive responses to real-world situations that have been empirically tested but are less well known in Western countries.
I have only scratched the surface of a huge area of a fascinating topic but do hope that the consideration of these frameworks and ideas has dispelled some myths surrounding giftedness and encouraged you to recognize and support the individual gifts of your child .
Renzulli, Joseph. S: The Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness at Renzulli Learning: Total Talent Development
Gagné, Francoys: Gagne’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent at https://gagnefrancoys.wixsite.com/dmgt-mddt
Vialle W. and Rogers K. (2009). Educating the Gifted Learner. David Barlow Publishing
Renzulli, Joseph S. and Reis, Sally (1997). The Schoolwide Enrichment Model – Second Edition; Creative Learning Press (p. 5-14)
Vialle W. and Rogers K. (2009). Educating the Gifted Learner. David Barlow Publishing (p 2-25)
Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT). (1999). Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 22(2), 230–234. https://doi.org/10.1177/016235329902200209