Voices of Gifted Children-II

In continuation of part I, published in the last edition, this article discusses four more myths that can impact gifted children’s development, understanding and education. It also explains well-intentioned solutions with unintended consequences and includes research results from other studies designed to counteract these myths and maximize children’s achievement and engagement.

 Creativity is an original, valued, and implemented idea or product inseparable from context. It is the application of knowledge and skills in new ways to achieve a valued goal (Goodhew 2009). A clear association can be seen in the definitions above with Renzuli’s three-ring conception of Giftedness (Renzulli, 2012). Szabo sees giftedness as achieving advanced mastery within a domain, creativity as an extending mastery to find new meaning in the domain and genius as remaking that domain (Szabo, 2018). 

Myth: Creativity is something you either have or you do not have. (De Mythology:  Creativity is something you either have or you can have it)

A supportive environment plays an important role in the successful development of creativity. Creative children tend to be found in less authoritarian homes, stress openness, and enthusiasm for life (Clark, 2008). Parents value the expression of feelings and individual divergence. Amado et al., (2017) found three elements essential for creativity: intrinsic motivation, domain-relevant skills, and creativity-relevant skills. These establish an environment more conducive to creativity than would the use of any reward system of external pressure. Schools and teachers play major roles in developing creativity. Creative students execute somewhat better with creative teachers. Torrance (2003, p. 8) described creativity as “taking place in the process of sensing difficulties, problem, gaps in information, missing elements; making guesses or formulating hypotheses about these deficiencies; testing these guesses and possibly revising and retesting them, and finally communicating the results.”

 Sometimes schools do not provide opportunities for pupils to illustrate and shine their creative skills. If creative moments in one’s life will not be given importance, students will start considering their ideas less important (Yannou, et al, 2017). However, teachers can use creative strategies to build students’ skills and improve their creativity. Sternberg’s (1985) conceptualization of creative giftedness highlights the cognitive aspect by 

including insight, planning, and research. Gardner (1993) theorizes creativity is a part of all of his original seven (linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal) now eight bits of intelligence (naturalistic intelligence) and is expressed by problem-solving and devising products that may at first be novel but must be socially accepted before they can be considered creative. A positive environment and acceptance assist creativity. Children whose interests are given importance develop confidence and motivation to work hard in the fields of their interest.  Ability and motivation with guidance assurances the success; however, training is the key to destination.

Myth: Gifted Children are a Homogenous group. (De Myth: Gifted Children are a Heterogonous Group)

Gifted children are also a group of students, but they are treated and expected against human nature. Variability and individual differences among gifted students are natural like other students (Callahan & Hertberg - Davis, 2013). Different ability groups recognized in DMGT of Gagne are useful to look for a diverse range of abilities among gifted students. Gifted can have different aptitude, attitudes, interests, personal preferences, social, emotional, moral, and psychological needs. This divergence further affects their willingness to participate, engagement in the task, and ability to achieve their full potential (Clark, 2008). A range of aspects contributes to the difference in preference among gifted students. 

Some people assert that gifted students come from families who can meet their children’s needs. Others argue that the expense of providing gifted programs cannot be justified. Gagne (2013) revealed that any child could shine in any field without division of ethnicity, culture, and gender, provided with the opportunity and help enhance that ability and perform better. This stimulates students towards active learning and improves their self-esteem as competent and proficient individuals in life. However, whatever its direction, ethnic under/over-representation appears almost everywhere in general and specialized education. Geography, race, and ethnicity have a role in preference among gifted students (Callahan & Hertberg-Davis, 2013). A student from a culture where music and dance are not considered a preferred area may not easily accept it as a field of talent and may not excel/groom in the area besides having the capability in it. These dissimilarities have different preferences and support mechanisms inseparable from a child’s life as the child is brought up in the family and society. And not essential all gifted students in that group/class can have the same preferences (Clark, 2008). Moreover, distinctive cultural values, beliefs, and norms are dear to its followers. 

Gender discrimination is also critical in heterogeneity among gifted and talented. Biological and physiological differences between boys and girls also create heterogeneous for their preferences in certain situations (Reis, 2013). According to Hebert (2013), children learn messages about masculine and feminine talent from society/culture and bring them to their talent development later in life. Hence these must be considered in developing gifted education programs; children with a high level of cognitive potential seem socially and emotionally different from more typical children. Gifted appears to be more independent, intrinsically motivated, flexible, self-accepting and psychologically well-adjusted than non-gifted (Olzewski-Kubilius, Kulieke & Krasney, 1988). Self-confidence, independence, sensitivity, perfectionism intensity and introversion are common personality traits of gifted students (Pollet, & Schnell, 2016). In many education circles, giftedness is defined in terms of additional resources students need. Reis and Renzulli (2004) identified gifted as more curious to learn, passionate to read, want mastery of complex ideas, question ideas are able to succeed in life but require more time of parents and teachers to gratify their personal, social, and emotional needs. Gifted is an individual identified by qualified professionals as capable of high performance and who needs educational programs and services beyond those normally provided in regular education programs (Pollet, & Schnell, 2016). Hence gifted need special assistance to balance their social and mental abilities. 

Myth: Gifted children do not have unique social and emotional needs (De Myth: Gifted Children do have unique social and emotional needs)

A high level of cognitive ability does not guarantee high levels of emotional development. The gifted have an internal locus of control and an intense sense of justice and idealism. Other effective characteristics often observed in gifted learners are healthy and unhealthy perfectionism and dealing with over-expectations (Clark, 2009). High ambitions have a positive effect, but the negative impact of perfectionism is worst, which gives unhealthy feelings that they are not living and fulfilling up to the expectations of others nor their own (Pollet, & Schnell, 2016). Negative feelings can lead to anxiety, frustration, and depression. Many gifted students grouped by chronological age in classrooms find it difficult to meet their intellectual or social-emotional needs, resulting in loneliness. They easily get bored as being capable of learning simply and do not want too much repetition leads to underachievement (Robinson, 2013). Some gifted children are over-sensitive and want things to be in their way and get easily disturbed in an unlikely situation compared to their age mates. Hence gifted need support in social adjustment. 

The assumption is that gifted students will succeed regardless of the fostered and quality of the education they receive. This is just not true. Researchers found a positive correlation between support and achievement (Renzulli, 2012). Gifted students require special services and programs to ensure growth rather than the loss of their outstanding abilities. Although gifted have abilities/potentials to perform significantly above average, their high ability for learning can go to waste if not supported correctly (Lazzelle. 2015). The distinction in gifted students' cognitive, intellectual, social and emotional needs requires a suitable environment and support for their effective development. But lack of guidance and a supportive environment influence gifted students’ academic achievement and social, emotional, cognitive, and psychological well-being (Reis & Renzulli, 2004). 

Giftedness results from inborn abilities in interaction with a favourable environment. Potential creativity is enhanced by intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Mönks & Mason 2000). Giftedness should be seen as a manifestation of human potential that can be developed in certain people at certain times and under specific conditions (Renzuli 1990). Gagné (2004) conceives talent development as the progressive transformation of outstanding natural gifts into outstanding talents in a specific occupational field. 

Data do exist about gifted students performing remarkably well in unfavorable circumstances. However, their performance could have been enhanced and more brilliant if they could have got a supportive environment. A challenging but supportive environment plays an important role in developing the creativity and talent of gifted children (Renzulli, 2012). Gifted, like all students, require challenges presented to them by educational experience at the level matching with their ability and development. But the problem is that schools often do not offer curricula aimed at higher levels of thought. High intellectually gifted students studying in regular classrooms do not get challenging assignments according to their potential, resulting in boredom and underachievement (Cross, 2009). 

The article reflected the philosophy of myths in a specific context and articulated a defensible rationale for giftedness. I believe in the provision of quality education for children according to their abilities and disabilities. However, educating all in one classroom with the same curriculum for high academic standards may not accelerate the gifted's different abilities. We should develop gifted if we believe in different abilities, including academic, physical and social/emotional growth and provision of a challenging and supportive environment. Society grows from the greatest advancement of all the abilities and from the highest of all the talents of all its persons whatever their areas of strength. 


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