Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
Modern studies of giftedness have their origin in the work of Lewis Terman at Stanford University, who in the 1920’s used intelligence test scores to identify intellectually gifted children. His minimal standard for giftedness was an intelligence quotient (IQ) of 140 on the Stanford-Binet test, a number at or above which only 1 percent of children are expected to score. (The average IQ score is 100.) Terman and his associates identified more than fifteen hundred children in California as gifted, and follow-up studies on the Terman gifted group were conducted throughout their adult lives. Although individuals in the gifted group tended to achieve highly in school and in their careers, they were not greatly different from average scorers in other ways. Terman’s research dispelled the myths that high scorers on IQ tests were, as a group, socially maladjusted or “burned out” in adulthood. They were high achievers and yet normal in the sense that their social relationships were similar to those of the general population.
By the time the Terman gifted group reached retirement age, it was clear that the study had not realized the hope of identifying eminence. None of the children selected had, as adults, won the Nobel Prize, although two children who were rejected for the study later did so (physicist Luis Alvarez and engineer William Shockley). Nor did high IQ scores seem to be characteristic of artistic ability. Apparently,...
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Identification of Giftedness (Psychology and Mental Health)
Different percentages of the general population have been identified as gifted, depending on the definition of giftedness. Terman’s use of IQ scores of 140 or above identified 1 percent of scorers as gifted. The common, contemporary indicator of intellectual giftedness is a score of 130 or above on a standardized, individually administered intelligence test, which is achieved by the top 2.5 percent of scorers. By the broader Marland definition, some form of which has been enacted through legislation by most states that have mandated gifted education programs, a minimum of 3 to 5 percent of school children are estimated to be gifted. Other definitions would identify as many as 10 to 15 percent of schoolchildren as gifted, or as many as 15 to 25 percent in a talent pool. Gifted and talented students receiving services in schools in the United States constitute about 6 percent of all children who are enrolled.
By almost any definition, giftedness is very difficult to identify during infancy. Most researchers would agree that giftedness has a biological foundation, but whether this foundation exists as a general or a specific capability is unknown. One of the earliest indicators of many forms of giftedness is precociousness, or unusually early development or maturity. During preschool years, precociousness can generalize across several domains, such as the use of logic with an extensive vocabulary, or it can be...
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Instruction of Gifted Children and Adolescents (Psychology and Mental Health)
Eligibility for a gifted education program may be decided as a result of the process of identification, but the design of a program of instruction for each child is often a separate set of decisions, sometimes requiring further assessments. It must be decided whether a child who is nearing the end of first grade but who has performed at the seventh-grade level on a standardized achievement test should be promoted to a much higher grade level the next year. An adolescent who is writing commercial music and who is successfully performing it on weekends might be allowed to leave school during the day to make a recording. The programming decisions to be made are as diverse as the talents of the children themselves.
It is not surprising, then, that no single strategy for teaching gifted children has been found to be the best. Rather, broad strategies of intervention can be classified as modifications in curriculum content or skills and modifications in school environment. Modifications in curriculum content for gifted students might include content acceleration (such as early admission, grade skipping or telescoping two years into one), content enrichment (materials to elaborate on basic concepts in standard programs), content sophistication (more abstract or fundamental considerations of basic concepts), and content novelty (such as units on highly specialized topics). Modifications in skills...
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Legal Aspects (Psychology and Mental Health)
No federally accepted definition of giftedness exists within the United States and Canada. In the United States, definitions of giftedness are left up to individual states, and most gifted programming is left to individual school districts. This has created wide variance in services. Although the No Child Left Behind legislation has mandated support to help struggling students, there is no mandate to support gifted children. Even more disappointing, the extra support for struggling students often comes at the expense of gifted students. Although children who are labeled as learning disabled or developmentally delayed are entitled to extra resources, gifted students are often neglected. Most states require that children identified as gifted, just like those identified as delayed, have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in place. This plan outlines how the gifted child is to be educated during the following year and is typically constructed and agreed on by teachers in conjunction with the parents of the gifted student and sometimes also with the gifted student.
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Counseling Gifted Learners (Psychology and Mental Health)
Beginning in the 1920’s, Leta Hollingworth at Columbia University investigated characteristics of children who scored over 180 on the Stanford-Binet test. Her study of twelve children (eight boys and four girls) suggested that despite their overall adjustment, children who were highly intellectually gifted tended to encounter three challenges not encountered by most other children. The first was a failure to develop work habits at school because of a curriculum paced for much less capable learners. The second was difficulty in finding satisfying companionship because of their advanced interests and abilities in relation to their age-mates. The third was vulnerability to frustration and depression because of a capacity to understand information on an adult level without sufficient experience to know how to respond to it.
Hollingworth suggested that the problem of work habits could be addressed by a combination of acceleration and enrichment. The problem of loneliness could be solved by training gifted children in social games—such as checkers or chess—that could be played by people of any age, and the problems of frustration and depression by careful adult supervision and patience. Research has tended to confirm that the problems Hollingworth identified often need to be addressed, not only in cases of extreme precociousness but also, to a lesser extent, in the lives of many people identified as gifted....
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Colangelo, Nicholas, and Gary A. Davis, eds. Handbook of Gifted Education. 3d ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2002. A valuable collection of chapters for readers with some background knowledge of gifted education.
Gallagher, James, and Shelagh Gallagher. Teaching the Gifted Child. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1994. A general overview of strategies for teaching gifted learners.
MacKinnon, Donald W. In Search of Human Effectiveness. Buffalo, N.Y.: Creative Education Foundation, 1978. A technical but readable account of an intensive effort to assess adult creativity.
Marland, Sidney P. Education of the Gifted and Talented. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1971. Many contemporary definitions of giftedness have their origin in this report, which is accessible in the Educational Resource Information Center (ERIC) collection.
Mendaglio, Sal, and Jean Sunde Peterson. Models of Counseling Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Waco, Tex.: Prufrock Press, 2006. Written primarily for counselors or students of counseling, this book looks at social-emotional and clinical issues faced by gifted young people.
Pfeiffer, S. “Professional Psychology and the Gifted: Emerging Practice Opportunities.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 32, no. 2 (April, 2001): 175-180. Provides insight into what psychologists...
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Giftedness (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Above-average intellectual or creative ability, or talent in a particular area, such as music, art, or athletics.
Intellectual giftedness is generally indicated by an IQ of least 125 or 130. People who are extremely creative are also considered gifted, although their giftedness can be hard to identify by academic performance or standardized tests. Giftedness has been defined not only in terms of specific talents and academic abilities, but also by general intellectual characteristics (including curiosity, motivation, ability to see relationships, and long attention span) and personality traits such as leadership ability, independence, and intuitiveness. In general, gifted people are creative, innovative thinkers who are able to envision multiple approaches to a problem and devise innovative and unusual solutions to it.
In the early days of intelligence testing it was widely thought that a person's mental abilities were genetically determined and varied little throughout the life span, but it is now believed that nurture plays a significant role in giftedness. Researchers comparing the behavior of parents of gifted and average children have found significant differences in childrearing practices. The parents of gifted children spend more time reading to them and encouraging creative types of...
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