So, what do we mean by Gifted & Talented – as posted in the Guardian this week

My daughters are both exceptional at Art; my son has always been a Mathematical genius. My girls have won prizes for Art; my boy has won an academic prize every year of his life, including university scholarships, the latest being a PhD scholarship to Oxford. Are my kids G&T?

What do we mean when by Gifted? Gagne (2003) says: Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability: intellectual, creative, social and physical.

Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance.

Gagne’s key word is potential. He believes in the power of environmental factors, that being natively smart isn’t enough; a child needs support and guidance to achieve his/her gifted potential. Supporting and encouraging gifted kiddies is exactly where home and school collide.


How do you know if a child is Gifted?

Teachers, but mostly parents, can identify gifted children through their own observation and instincts. Often we know if there’s something ‘extra’ about a child: their questions, their insights. For my son it was his instant grasp of patterns and numbers, such that his Kindergarten teacher had to stop him answering so other kiddies had a chance. For guidance Betts & Neihart(1988) list 6 types of gifted students (link below), with particular needs. This identification grid can be a useful starting place for conversations between parents and school.

If we fail to identify G&T students we risk damage to individuals who are so turned off by rigid education that they opt out, sitting well below the attainment radar, on their way to dropping out. We risk damage to society by not encouraging these students to fly and value add to society through their exceptional abilities.

Be clear – giftedness is not necessarily found in attainment or a steady march through the top of the grade/level bands, or in exam results. Attainment levels can mislead on many fronts, a clear example is EAL students. Top performance in your school may not match with top performance in another school and IQ scores do not automatically equate with achievement. As a parent you need to know what being on the G&T register actually means…

Sadly schools often ignore the needs of students with exceptional potential, or miss the under-achieving gifted child due to inadequate identification and pressure on resources (money, time & staff can only go so far). We can’t afford to assume G&T students will be all right, are easy to spot, just need more work, and don’t need the nourishment that other SEN students need.

I bet there are inner city kids who are G&T but, while they are identified primarily on attainment, won’t be accurately identified or supported and therefore will miss the much vaunted social mobility boat. To that end, the growth of Academies could spawn a growth in rigorous identification of students to better facilitate student’s achieving their true potential, which is what Academies claim to be about.


What can you do as a parent?

Encourage their interests; focus on reading. Play games such as Scrabble, Articulate, Boggle; lateral thinking games are excellent. Extra classes, personal tutors, clubs, travelling. Valuing, understanding and supporting your child is essential.

Fighting on their behalf may be necessary too.

A story is appropriate here.

Jo was a high achieving student with a particular flair for English. In year 11 she had a teacher who found her challenging questions to be under-mining and as a consequence humiliated her in class. Jo began failing English and started bunking school. Noticing this, her parents got in touch with the school, agreed to an independent English program tailored to her interests and needs. Jo returned to excellence in her work and was happy to return to school.


What can schools do?

Schools must show the G&T child they are valued, giving them appropriate academic challenge; and chances to be together, to feel less isolated. The following strategies do work!

Acceleration. Students can be accelerated across the year or within subjects.

Differentiation – an over-used term, it means creating something to extend the child in your class; richer or more challenging tasks

Teacher – student matching. Matching personalities as well as learning styles

Mentoring/cross age tutoring – Matching younger or older students with similar interests/abilities to enhance learning of both

Independent Negotiated Programs – Student interest and skills determine the scale and scope of the project, negotiated with staff regarding resources, etc

Competitions – individual, team internal external – there are heaps of them!

Gardner says: “I don’t care what intelligence people have. I care whether they can do things we value in our culture. What good is it to know if you have an IQ of 90 or 130… if, in the end you can’t do anything?” We must make sure G&T kiddies get the chance to do something fabulous.


Further reading:

Betts & Neihart (1988)

Practical Tools – Understanding Giftedness (the link to Gagne doesn’t work but the PDF files do and provide useful information and strategies

Gardner and Multiple Intelligences

Gagne and Differentiated Models of G&T


Levels of Giftedness

Mildly Gifted –                          IQ 115 – 129

Moderately Gifted –                         IQ 130 – 144

Highly Gifted –                         IQ 145 – 159

Exceptionally Gifted –            IQ 160 – 179

Profoundly Gifted –                         IQ 180+

 Some Gods in the G&T Pantheon

1905 Binet – Introduced the idea of ‘mental age’ & created the first structured intelligence test

1978 Renzulli – Developed the Three-ring Conception of Giftedness: the interaction between above average general intelligence; high levels of task commitment; and high levels of creativity.

1981 Gardner – Developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences; linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, the ability to notice and make distinctions; and access one’s own feelings about life

1983 Tannenbaum – Developed the Psychosocial Definition of Giftedness: giftedness = potential; talent = developed abilities. Five factors interact: general ability, special ability, non-intellectual factors, environmental and chance factors

1985 Gagne – Developed the Differentiated Model of Giftedness & Talent: the child progresses from giftedness (high potential) to talent (high performance) through the learning process, assisted by intra-personal and environmental factors

+ Bloom and that invidious taxonomy – ignore it at your peril!

This appeared in The Guardian on Monday 9 May 2012 –


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2 Responses to “So, what do we mean by Gifted & Talented – as posted in the Guardian this week”

  1. larascott Says:

    Hi Jackie
    I read this article on the Guardian site and was delighted to find someone who understood the model of giftedness that I am used to hearing about – not the weird one they use in the UK where schools can basically make up their own policy and provisions.
    Then the penny dropped – you are Australian. We have recently relocated to the UK and I have a 9 year old who has already been assessed and sits in the gifted spectrum. Having trouble getting the school to see her potential (crap speller/ slow writer, photographic memory and knowledge retention – always exclaims she is bored). Absolute square peg for the rigid learning structures. Any advice?

    • jactherat Says:

      Hi Lara
      I don’t think the schools here are that capable of supporting truly gifted kiddies – it’s all about competitions and excursions. My advice – based to some extend on my own experience via my son (now at Oxford on PhD scholarship from Oz – so advice is grounded in evidence!) is to take control yourself and broaden their experiences. Music is great, so is drama and public speaking and debating – so are things like martial arts. Look at areas that focus on skills building and enjoyment – enrichment so that your girl feels valued and smart because it’s not that likely that school will help her feel like that. If you can find some non-age specific ventures then your child could end up with some fabulously enriching experiences. The other thing is that here there are groups who can support you – just do a google search or Twitter. There may be some schools out there that deal better with G&T kiddies but you’d have to look hard. Again, I reckon there are groups who will know and can support you. All the best.

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