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Intellectual giftedness

Intellectual giftedness is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average.

Gifted children often develop asynchronously; their minds are often ahead of their physical growth, and specific cognitive and emotional functions are often developed differently (or to differing extents) at different stages of development. One frequently cited example of asynchronicity in early cognitive development is Albert Einstein, who did not speak until the age of two, but whose later fluency and accomplishments belied this initial delay. In regards to this fact, psychologist Steven Pinker theorized that, rather than viewing Einstein's (and other famously gifted late-talking individuals) adult accomplishments as existing distinct from, or in spite of, his early language deficits, and rather than viewing Einstein's lingual delay itself as a "disorder", it may be that Einstein's genius and his delay in speaking were developmentally intrinsic to one another.

Developmental theory

It has been said that gifted children may advance more quickly through stages established by post-Freudian developmentalists such as Jean Piaget. Gifted individuals also experience the world differently, resulting in certain social and emotional issues. The work of Kazimierz Dabrowski suggests that gifted children have greater psychomotor, sensual, imaginative, intellectual, and emotional "overexcitabilities".

Francoy Cagne's (2000) Differential Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT) is a developmental theory that distinguishes giftedness from talent, offering explanation on how outstanding natural abilities (gifts) develop into specific expert skills (talents). According to DMGT theory,"one cannot become talented without first being gifted, or almost so"(Cagne,2000).There are six components that can interact in countless and unique ways that fosters the process of moving from having natural abilities (giftedness) to systematically developed skills (Cagne,2000). These components consist of the gift(G)itself, chance(C), environmental cataylist(EC), intrapersonal catalyst(IC),learning/practice(LP) and the outcome of talent(T)(Cagne,2000). It is important to know that (C),(IC), and (EC) can facilitate but, can also hinder the learning and training of becoming talented. The learning/practice is the moderator. It is through the interactions, both environmental and intrapersonal that influence the process of learning and practice along with/without chance that natural abilities are transformed into talents.

Giftedness from a multiple Intelligences Perspective

Multiple intelligences has been a focus of interest for decades. During the last decade, it has been associated to giftedness or overachievement of some developmental areas (Colangelo, 2003). Multiple intelligences has been described as an attitude towards learning, instead of techniques or strategies (Cason, 2001). There are eight Intelligences, or different areas in which people assimilate or learn about the world around them: Interpersonal,intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, naturalistic, and spatial-visual. If the Theory of Multiple Intelligences is applied to educational curriculum, by providing lesson plans, themes, and programs in a way that all students are encouraged to develop their stronger area, and at the same time educators provide opportunities to enhance the learning process in the less strong areas, academic success may be attainable for all children in our school system.

Gardner proposed in Frames of Mind (Gardner 1983/1994) that intellectual giftedness may present in areas other than the typical intellectual realm. The concept of multiple intelligences (MI) makes the field aware of additional potential strengths and proposes a variety of curricular methods.

Gardner suggest MI in the following areas: Linguistic, logico-mathematical, musical, spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic and existential.

Identification of gifted students with MI is a challenge since there is no simple test to give to determine giftedness of MI. Assessing by observation is potentially most accurate, but potentially highly subjective. MI theory can be applied to not only gifted students, but it can be a lens through which all students can be assessed. This more global perspective may lead to more child-centered instruction and meet the needs of a greater number of children(Colangelo, 2003).

Identifying giftedness

Overview

The formal identification of giftedness first emerged as an important issue for schools, as the instruction of gifted students often presents special challenges. During the 20th century, gifted children were often classified via IQ tests, however, recent developments in theories of intelligence have raised serious questions regarding the appropriate uses and limits of such testing. Many schools in North America and Europe have attempted to identify students who are not challenged by standard school curricula and offer additional or specialized education for them hoping of nurturing their talents.

Because of the key role that gifted education plays in the identification of gifted people (children or adults), it is worthwhile to examine how that discipline uses the term "gifted".

Definitions of giftedness

For many years, psychometricians and psychologists, following in the footsteps of Lewis Terman in 1916, equated giftedness with high IQ. This "legacy" survives to the present day, in that giftedness and high IQ continue to be equated in some conceptions of giftedness. Since that early time, however, other researchers (e.g., Cattell, Guilford, and Thurstone) have argued that intellect cannot be expressed in such a unitary manner, and have suggested more multifaceted approaches to intelligence. Research conducted in the 1980s and 1990s has provided data which support notions of multiple components to intelligence. This is particularly evident in the reexamination of "giftedness" by Sternberg and Davidson in their edited "Conceptions of Giftedness". The many different conceptions of giftedness presented, although distinct, are interrelated in several ways. Most of the investigators define giftedness in terms of multiple qualities, not all of which are intellectual. IQ scores are often viewed as inadequate measures of giftedness. Motivation, high self-concept, and creativity are key qualities in many of these broadened conceptions of giftedness.

Joseph Renzulli's (1978) "three ring" definition of giftedness is one well-researched conceptualization of giftedness. Renzulli’s definition, which defines gifted behaviors rather than gifted individuals, is composed of three components as follows: Gifted behavior consists of behaviors that reflect an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits—above average ability, high levels of task commitment, and high levels of creativity. Individuals capable of developing gifted behavior are those possessing or capable of developing this composite set of traits and applying them to any potentially valuable area of human performance. Persons who manifest or are capable of developing an interaction among the three clusters require a wide variety of educational opportunities and services that are not ordinarily provided through regular instructional programs.

In Identifying Gifted Children: A Practical Guide, Susan K. Johnsen explains that gifted children all exhibit the potential for high performance in the areas included in the United States' federal definition of gifted and talented students:

The term "gifted and talented" when used in respect to students, children, or youth means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities." (P.L. 103–382, Title XIV, p. 388)

This definition has been adopted partially or completely by the majority of the states in the United States. The majority of them have some definition similar to that used in the State of Texas, whose definition states

[The phrase] "gifted and talented student" means a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment, and who

  • exhibits high performance capability in an intellectual, creative, or artistic area;
  • possesses an unusual capacity for leadership; or
  • excels in a specific academic field." (74th legislature of the State of Texas, Chapter 29, Subchapter D, Section 29.121)

The major characteristics of these definitions are (a) the diversity of areas in which performance may be exhibited (e.g., intellectual, creativity, artistical, leadership, academically), (b) the comparison with other groups (e.g., those in general education classrooms or of the same age, experience, or environment), and (c) the use of terms that imply a need for development of the gift (e.g., capability and potential).

Identification methods

Many schools use a variety of measures of students' capability and potential when identifying gifted children. These may include portfolios of student work, classroom observations, achievement measures, and intelligence scores. Most educational professionals accept that no single measure can be used in isolation to accurately identify a gifted child.

One of the measures used in identification is the score derived from an intelligence measure. The general cutoff for many programs is often placed near the sigma 2 level on a standardized intelligence test, children above this level being labeled 'gifted'.

Some IQ testers use these classifications to describe differing levels of giftedness. The following bands apply with a standard deviation of σ = 15 on a standardized IQ test. Each band represents a difference of one standard deviation from the mean of a standard distribution.

  • Bright: 115+, or one in six (84th percentile)
  • Moderately gifted: 130+, or 1 in 50 (97.9th percentile)
  • Highly gifted: 145+, or 1 in 1000 (99.9th percentile)
  • Exceptionally gifted: 160+, or 1 in 30,000 (99.997th percentile)
  • Profoundly gifted: 175+, or 1 in 3 million (99.99997th percentile)

Most IQ tests do not have the capacity to discriminate accurately at higher IQ levels, and are perhaps only effective at determining whether a student is gifted rather than distinguishing among levels of giftedness. Although the Wechsler tests have a ceiling of about 160, their creator has admitted that they are intended to be used within the average range (between 70 and 130), and are not intended for use at the extreme ends of the population. The Stanford-Binet form L-M, currently outdated, was the only test that had a sufficient ceiling to identify the exceptionally and profoundly gifted. Because the instrument is outdated, some consider that current results derived from the instrument generate inflated and inaccurate scores. However, the Flynn Effect demonstrates that scores at the extremes of IQ are not subject to the effects of population changes over time in the same way as scores closer to the norm. Many working in the field of the profoundly gifted consider still the Stanford Binet L-M a meaningful test to identify these children. The Stanford-Binet form V and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Fourth Revision, both recently released, are currently being evaluated for this population. Mensa offers IQ testing but these are only suitable for persons over the age of ten and a half years. The IQ assessment of younger children remains debated. Also, those who are more gifted in areas such as the arts and literature tend to do poorly on IQ tests, which are generally verbal- and mathematical-skills related.

While many people believe giftedness is a strictly quantitative difference, measurable by IQ tests, a number of people have described giftedness as a fundamentally different way of perceiving the world, which in turn affects every experience had by the gifted individual. These differences do not disappear when gifted children become adults or leave school.

Gifted adults are seldom recognized as a special population, but they still have unique psychological, social, and emotional needs related to their high intelligence.

Savantism

Savants are people that perform exceptionally in one field of learning. Autistic savantism refers to the exceptional abilities exhibited by people with autism or other developmental disorders. The term was introduced in a 1978 article in Psychology Today that described this condition.

Characteristics of giftedness

Generally, gifted individuals learn more quickly, deeply, and broadly than their peers. Gifted children may learn to read early and operate at the same level as normal children who are significantly older. The gifted tend to demonstrate high reasoning ability, creativity, curiosity, a large vocabulary, and an excellent memory. They often can master concepts with few repetitions. They may also be physically and emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic, and may frequently question authority. Some have trouble relating to or communicating with their peers because of disparities in vocabulary size (especially in the early years), personality, interests and motivation. As children, they may prefer the company of older children or adults.

Giftedness is frequently not evenly distributed throughout all intellectual spheres: an individual may excel in solving logic problems and yet be a poor speller; another gifted individual may be able to read and write at a far above average level and yet have trouble with mathematics. It is possible there are different types of giftedness with their own unique features, just as there are different types of developmental delay.

Giftedness may become noticeable in individuals at different points of development. While early development (i.e. speaking or reading at a very young age) usually comes with giftedness, it is not a determinant of giftedness. The preschool years are when most gifted children begin to show the distinctive characteristics mentioned above. As the child becomes older, too-easy classes and emotional issues may slow or obstruct the rate of intellectual development.

Some gifted individuals experience heightened sensory awareness and may seem overly sensitive to sight, sound, smell and touch. For example, they may be extremely uncomfortable when they have a wrinkle in their sock, or unable to concentrate because of the sound of a clock ticking on the other side of the room. Hypersensitivity to external stimuli can be said to resemble a proneness to "sensory overload", which can cause persons to avoid chaotic and crowded environments. Others, however, are able to tune out any unwanted distractions as they focus on a task or on their own thoughts, and seem to seek and thrive on being in the midst of lots of activity and stimulation. In many cases, awareness may fluctuate between conditions of hyperstimulation and of withdrawal. These conditions may appear to be similar to symptoms of hyperactivity, bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism-spectrum conditions, and other psychological disorders, but are often explained by gifted education professionals by reference to Kazimierz Dabrowski's theory of Positive Disintegration. Some researchers focused on the study of overexcitabilities. Overexcitabilities refer to ways children or individuals understand and experience the world around them (Gross 2008). The more channels are open to receive the information or stimulus, the more intense or strong the experience is. According to Gross (2008), an individual response to a stimulus is determined by his/her dominant overexcitability. Overexcitabilities are expressed in five dimensions: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. These dominant channels of acquiring information differ by quantity in some individuals. Gross, C., Rinn, A., & Jamieson, K. (2008). Gifted Adolescents’ Overexcitabilities and Self-Concepts. Journal of Gifted Education. 29, 4.

Social and emotional issues

Isolation

Isolation is one of the main challenges faced by gifted individuals, especially those with no social network of gifted peers. In order to gain popularity, gifted children will often try to hide their abilities to win social approval. Strategies include underachievement (discussed below) and the use of less sophisticated vocabulary when among same-age peers than when among family members or other trusted individuals.

The isolation experienced by gifted individuals may not be caused by giftedness itself, but by society's response to giftedness. "In this culture, there appears to be a great pressure for people to be 'normal' with a considerable stigma associated with giftedness or talent. To counteract this problem, gifted education professionals recommend creating a peer group based on common interests and abilities. The earlier this occurs, the more effective it is likely to be in preventing isolation.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is another common emotional issue for gifted individuals. D. E. Hamachek identified six specific, overlapping behaviors associated with perfectionism. They include:

"When perfectionism refers to having high standards, a desire to achieve, conscientiousness, or high levels of responsibility, it is likely to be a virtue rather than a problem. Perfectionism becomes a problem as it frustrates and inhibits achievements. Perfectionism becomes desirable when it stimulates the healthy pursuit of excellence.

There are many theories that try to explain the correlation between perfectionism and giftedness. Gifted children may have difficulty with perfectionism because they set standards that would be appropriate to their mental age (the level at which they think), but then can't meet them because they are trapped in a younger body. Perfectionism is also encouraged by the fact that gifted individuals tend to be successful in much or all of what they do because their abilities have not been challenged, and consequently try to avoid failure.

Underachievement

There is often a stark gap between the abilities of the gifted individual and his or her actual accomplishments. Many gifted students will perform extremely well on standardized or reasoning tests, only to fail a class exam. This disparity can result from various factors, such as loss of interest in too-easy classes or negative social consequences of being perceived as smart. Underachievement can also result from emotional or psychological factors, including depression, anxiety, perfectionism, or self-sabotage. An often overlooked contributor to underachievement is undiagnosed learning differences. A gifted individual is less likely to be diagnosed with a learning disorder than a non gifted classmate, as the gifted child can more readily compensate for his/her paucities. This masking effect is dealt with by understanding that a difference of 1σ between scores constitutes a learning disability even if all of the scores are above average. One apparently effective way to attempt to reverse underachievement in gifted children includes educating teachers to provide enrichment projects based on students’ strengths and interests without attracting negative attention from peers.

Depression

It has been thought in the past that there is a correlation between giftedness and depression or suicide. This has generally not been proven. As Reis and Renzulli mention, "With the exception of creatively gifted adolescents who are talented in writing or the visual arts, studies do not confirm that gifted individuals manifest significantly higher or lower rates or severity of depression than those for the general population...Gifted children's advanced cognitive abilities, social isolation, sensitivity, and uneven development may cause them to face some challenging social and emotional issues, but their problem-solving abilities, advanced social skills, moral reasoning, out-of-school interests, and satisfaction in achievement may help them to be more resilient." Also, no research points to suicide rates being higher in gifted adolescents than other adolescents. However, a number of people have noted a higher incidence of existential depression, which is depression due to highly abstract concerns such as the finality of death, the ultimate unimportance of individual people, and the meaning (or lack thereof) of life. Gifted individuals are also more likely to feel existential anxiety.

However, numerous studies have shown that an active depressive state impairs cognition because it leads to less neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

Professional attitudes towards giftedness

Grobman discusses how some exceptionally and profoundly gifted individuals may unconsciously create deficits as a way of closing the asynchrony gap. Researchers, such as Stephanie Tolan, postulate that the attribution of controversial disorders such as "ADHD" — which other authors have argued has not been proven to exist by any means other than subjective behavioral analysis — to gifted individuals arises from a misguided tendency to pathologize that which we don't understand. Tolan also discusses that identifying as attention deficient has become fashionable in young adults.

Genetics and Intelligence Intelligence, which is a component of giftedness, is influenced through a complex interaction of combinations of many genes and many different environmental contexts (Colangelo & Davis, 2003). Intelligence is a general cognitive ability that supports the fact that most reliable measures of cognitive abilities intercorrelate in some way. It is generally agreed that giftedness may have a genetic component; research has shown that first-degree relatives of the intellectually gifted will often have IQs measuring within 10–15 points of each other.Research on families have typically shown a correlation of about .45 in scores of g for parents, children, and siblings. Adoption and twin studies have also provided many valuable insights into the genetic component of intelligence. Studies of first degree relatives adopted apart show a correlation of .22, which is about half that of relatives who live together. Adopted children who are not related but reared together show a correlation of about .23 to genetically unrelated parents and siblings. Heritability from adoption data is 44% for families, 52% for fraternal twins in a shared environment, and 72% for identical twins reared apart. The existing data for identical twins reared apart has been collected from studies conducted in adulthood and because heritibility studies show that adults have higher heritability results than children, this number may be inflated (Colangelo & Davis, 2003). The question of whether intelligence has a genetic component has been confirmed through numerous studies. More research is necessary to determine the exact processes by which genetic dispositions interact with the environment.

Some children are born with innately higher intelligence levels than others. These children are often labeled as gifted or talented. Many researchers have investigated the early characteristics of gifted children Hollingworth (1942)reported that 78 percent of the teachers agree that early detection of giftedness can be possible during early development. Children as young as preschool age tend to seek out highly stimulating environments. According to Raine, Reynolds, Venables, & Mednick (2002) increased stimulation seeking at age 3 years is associated with an increase in cognitive and scholastic test performance later in development. The advantages of identifying intellectual abilities of gifted children at an earlier age will allow educators to place them in the developmental classes that encourage and promote exploration in the domain of their giftedness Tannenbaum claims that the environment plays a major role in the nurturance of giftedness or higher intelligence. Giftedness and talent require a special environment just as special education would. The environment must be enriching and encouraging which will allow the child to mature through experience and exploration. The environment must facilitate creative activity in a developmentally appropriate manner which would call for classrooms to be designed for developmental levels as opposed to age or grade leveling This type of environment with differentiated learning could result from acceleration, lateral enrichment, and special grouping Also, a developmentally appropriate environment for the gifted child will reduce behavior problems among preschoolers due to an increased engagement and internal motivation for learning Furthermore, it is behavioral exploration of the environment that is indicative of the child’s intellectual ability later in life. The child’s innate motivation to engage in physical activity (hands-on learning) marks a curiosity which motivates task persistence. The increased physical exploration in a social play environment and goal-directed behavior in the stimulating environment facilitate superior cognitive functioning In addition, gifted children will become high achievers when their interests are piqued by doing what they are innately motivated to do, empowering them to continue trying new skills Furthermore, when gifted or talented children are supported by educational staff, their community, peers and families, they have higher possibilities to develop their cognitive abilities

References

Colangelo, N. & Davis G. (2003). Handbook of Gifted Education (3rd. ed.). Pearson Education. USA.

Raine, A., Reynolds, C. Venables, P., & Mednick, S. (2002).Stimulation seeking and intelligence: A prospective longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 663-674.

Sankar-DeLeeuw, N., (1999). Gifted preschoolers: Parent and teacher views on identification, early admission and programming. US: Roeper School Article Review, 21 (3) 174-179.

Talented Students at the Secondary Level

    What types of changes and support are needed to better enhance the development of talented adolescent students?  Feldhusen (2003) addresses two major shifts in thinking needed to further the advancement of adolescence. Feldhusen proposes abandoning the program concept and the labeling of students as gifted. Programs are usually limited in time and are pull-outs that offer non researched projects. The education of youth demands a wide diversity of experiences in accelerated courses plus extracurricular activities. Students are served better when labeled talented instead of gifted. The term talent shows potential and suggests a developing ability.
    Changes and support are embedded in Feldhusen’s Purdue Pyramid Model of Talented Development which facilitates learners in developing a personal strong foundation based on talented learners accepting themselves as legitimate human beings to the ultimate potential of realizing their commitment to the full development of one’s ability and talent. Parent support is also critical in the development throughout the teenage years. Feldhusen stresses the importance of parental support. Parents provide financial and emotional support, guidance and motivation, and are a sounding board. Secondary level students will be better served in the implementation and acknowledgement of Feldhusen’s vision.

Feldhusen, J. F. (2003). Talented youth at the secondary level. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis, (Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (3rd ed., pp. 229-237). Boston: Allyn & Bacon

See also

References

28. Plomin, R., & Price, T. S. (2003). The relationship between genetics and intelligence. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis (3rd Ed.) Handbook of Gifted Education (pp. 113-123). Pearson Education, Inc.

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