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Schools generally define giftedness as high ability, but there are other ways to define giftedness. Learn more about the definitions, characteristics and conceptions of giftedness in children and test your knowledge with quiz questions.

Definitions of Giftedness

What does it mean to be a gifted child? There is no broadly accepted definition. It is based on the situation. Schools generally look at ability and intelligence tests, but do not all use the same standard. For example, one school might consider students at the top 10% gifted and another school might only consider the top 2.

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5%. Other professionals define giftedness as intelligence test scores above 130. For children that move, that might mean they are gifted according to one school and not in another, which can be confusing for students and parents.

No Child Left Behind legislation defines giftedness as achievement-based. A group of professionals in the field of giftedness, known as the Columbus Group, came up with the following definition in 1991, taken from the Identification of Gifted Children, Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page:’Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.

Characteristics of Giftedness

Although a precise definition cannot be agreed upon, there are characteristics that indicate testing be considered. Gifted children come from all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses and exhibit different behavior than that of their peers. There are many characteristics and not all children will have all the characteristics. In addition, a child may have some of the characteristics and not be gifted.Some of the behavior characteristics include having boundless energy, being an early and avid reader with advanced comprehension of language, talking early and exhibiting large vocabulary and being a problem solver who is not always satisfied with an answer.

Additionally, gifted children might question everything, become easily bored with repetitive tasks and learn things quickly and at an advanced level, as well as exhibit perfectionist standards and become critical of themselves. They might also be more comfortable around adults than same age peers and be interested in adult problems, such as social issues at a young age, as well as work independently. Additionally, gifted children might have advanced humor, be persistent and have internal motivation and intense focus. They might also be bullied by other children.

Highly gifted children are generally identified easily because of highly unusual behavior, such as reading at age two, writing Sonatas by age four or mastering calculus by age six. Children with characteristics of giftedness can be tested by school or private psychologists.It is important to be aware that gifted children may have learning disabilities that are easily missed in the early years because they can easily compensate. With time, it gets harder for them to compensate, which can lead to frustration. ADHD and spelling disabilities are more common in the gifted population than in a normal population.

Conceptions of Giftedness

Understanding giftedness can be challenging because there are many different opinions, but each adds to our understanding.

Joseph Renzulli’s well-known work on giftedness included three aspects known as the Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness. Gifted behavior occurs where the three rings intersect. The three rings include: above-average ability, creativity and task commitment. Under Renzulli’s conception, a child with above-average abilities would not be gifted unless creativity and task commitment were also present.

Renzulli’s more recent work concentrates on personality and environment.Robert Sternberg suggests giftedness comprises insight skills especially in three areas: cognitive, experiential and practical. Sternberg did not view giftedness as an isolated, well-defined concept, but rather one that comes in different forms.

Lesson Summary

Since psychologists do not all agree on the concept intelligence, it is no surprise that there are numerous views regarding giftedness.

What can be agreed upon is that gifted children have different educational and social needs than their same-age classmates. Also, there are characteristics that are common among gifted children, including boundless energy, advanced problem solving, advanced language comprehension, intense focus and advanced humor.

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