You are on page 1of 5

Definitions of Giftedness By Judith Hewton To find a satisfactory definition of giftedness it is necessary to understand its origins in the history of humankind.

The 20th century saw the greatest developments in this field following the work of Terman and associates (1925, 1926, 1947, 1959) whose longitudinal studies provided information about highly gifted people. This program of research will continue until 2020 to encompass the entire lives of his original 1528 gifted youth with IQs above 140 (VanTassel-Baska, 1998). Termans studies have demonstrated that his gifted were not socially or emotionally bereft and have been largely very successful throughout their lives. Another significant early influence is seen in the work of Hollingworth (1926, 1942) who also worked with highly gifted children. These two landmark researchers pioneered the field but it is interesting to note that, while other factors such as age and achievement were considered, the designation of giftedness relied heavily on testing for high IQ levels. The broad field that giftedness has become had at its roots a narrow definition and middle to upper class aspirations (Cornell, 1984). As with Terman and Hollingworth, most of the key studies of giftedness have been accomplished in the United States of America, particularly after the Sputnik launch in 1959 when education was considered a failure and research efforts were multiplied. The next major impetus in the gifted field was provided in 1972 by the Marland Report to the Congress of the United States which presented a multifaceted definition of giftedness since used widely. Gifted and talented children are those...who by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance. These...children...require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realise their (potential) contribution to self and society. Children capable of high performance include those who have demonstrated any of the following abilities or aptitudes, singly or in combination: general intellectual ability specific academic aptitude creative or productive thinking leadership ability visual and performing arts aptitude psychomotor ability This report served the purpose of focusing on potential and delineating a variety of ability areas. In 1978 Renzulli proposed a definition which received worldwide recognition and was used substantially throughout the eighties.

Giftedness consists of an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits: above average general abilities high levels of task commitment high levels of creativity In stating that gifted children possess or are capable of developing these traits Renzulli had moved away from reliance on IQ testing although complex areas such as underachievement remained largely unaccounted for in his definition. Underachieving gifted children may tend not to display high levels of task commitment. VanTassel-Baska (1998) provides a succinct summary of the general movement towards a more liberal view of the field in her expanding lens for viewing conceptions of giftedness. She explains how the notion of genius has been extended to embrace creativity (Guilford, 1950; Torrance, 1967), talent development (Feldhusen, 1995; Renzulli, 1994; VanTassel-Baska, 1998), componential intelligence (Sternberg, 1986, 1991) and multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983, 1993). The work of Sternberg and Gardner in particular led to a focus on specific talents or aptitudes. Sternberg's theory proposed a number of components of intelligence in three broad categories: metacomponents (planning, monitoring, and evaluation), performance components (skills and abilities), and knowledge-acquisition components (processing and encoding). Gardner's (1983) theory of multiple intelligences, originally identified as linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical- rhythmic, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal, (since developed to include naturalistic intelligence with potential for more to come) also expanded the multidimensional view of ability. This expansion of ways of considering giftedness is echoed by Clark (1997). It builds on Renzulli and Purcells discussion of emerging paradigms which expanded on Feldmans (1991) proposal of a paradigm shift indicating new directions in identification, renewed research initiatives and financial support (Renzulli & Purcell, 1996). Another expansion of the concept of giftedness is seen in Gagne's (1985, 1995) theory of giftedness and talent where he proposes a set of aptitudes or gifts which the child develops into talents through interaction with a range of internal and external catalysts. Gagne proposes that giftedness should be considered as the translation of natural abilities (aptitude domains), with the help of intrapersonal and environmental catalysts, into high performance talent areas. Grosss categories of giftedness (2000) can be used to describe the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) assessments that form one part of the picture of a childs giftedness. She believes that intellectually gifted children can be classified as mildly, moderately, highly, exceptionally and profoundly gifted. Levels of intellectual giftedness, as defined by IQ ranges, and the level of prevalence of such children in the general population, appear as follows: Mildly (or basically) gifted 115-129 (1:6 - 1:40)

Moderately gifted Highly gifted Exceptionally gifted Profoundly gifted

130-144 145-159 160-179 180+

(1:40 - 1:1000) (1:1000 - 1:10,000) (1:10,000 - 1:1 million) (Fewer than 1:1 million)

The definition adopted by the 1993 Queensland Education Departmental policy is as follows. Gifted children are those who excel, or have the potential to excel, in any general or specific ability area. These criteria are outlined in the Resource Document: The education of gifted children in Queensland state schools, 1993, and should be considered along with other definitions available in the literature. The field of gifted education relates predominately to formal schooling and entertains two major questions. These are: Which students are gifted? (i.e., The Education of Gifted Students) What are their needs in terms of school organisation, curriculum content and pedagogy (i.e., Gifted Education) Bibliography Clark, B. (1997). Growing up gifted (ed. a V-a). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Cornell, D. G. (1984). Families of gifted children. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press. Department of Education. (1993). Policy statement: The education of gifted students in Queensland schools. Brisbane, Qld: Department of Education. Department of Education. (1993). Resource document: The education of gifted students. Brisbane, Qld: Department of Education. Feldhusen, J. F. (1989). Why the public schools will continue to neglect the gifted. Gifted Child Today, 12(2), 55-59. Feldhusen, J. F. (1995). Talent development during the high school years. Gifted Education International, 10, 60-64. Gagne, F. (1985). Giftedness and talent: Reexamining a reexamination of the definitions. Gifted Child Quarterly, 29, 103-112. Gagne, F. (1995). From giftedness to talent: A developmental model and its impact on the field. Roeper Review, 18(2), 103-111.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind. New York: Basic Books. Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice. New York: Basic Books. Gross, M. U. M. (1993). Exceptionally gifted children. London: Routledge. Gross, M. U. M. (2000). Issues in the cognitive development of exceptionally and profoundly gifted individuals (pp. 179-192). In K. A. Heller, Monks, F. J. & Passow, A. H. (Eds.), International handbook of research and development of giftedness and talent (2nd ed.). (pp. 179-192). Amsterdam: Elsevier. Guilford, J. P. (1950). Creativity. American Psychologist, 5, 444-454. Hollingworth, L. S. (1926). Gifted children: Their nature and nurture. New York: Macmillan. Hollingworth, L. S. (1942). Children above 180 IQ, Stanford Binet. New York: World Book Company. Maker, C. J. (1982). Teaching models in education of the gifted. Rochville, MD: Aspen. Marland, S. P. (1972). Education of the gifted and talented. (2 Vols.). Report to congress of the United States Commissioner of Education. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Passow, A. H., Monks, F. J., & Heller, K. A. (1993). Research and education of the gifted in the year 2000 and beyond. In K. A. Heller, Monks, F. J. & Passow, A. H. (Eds.), International handbook of research and development of giftedness and talent (pp. 883903). Headington Hill Hall, Oxford: Pergamon. Renzulli, J. S. (1994). Schools for talent development: A practical plan for total school improvement. Melbourne, Vic: Hawker Brownlow Education. Renzulli, J. S., & Purcell, J. H. (1996). Gifted education: A look around and a look ahead. Roeper Review, 18(3), 173-178. Rogers, K. B. (2002). Re-forming gifted education: Matching the program to the child. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press. Senate Employment Workplace Relations Small Business and Education References Committee. (2001). The education of gifted children. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth government.

Senate Select Committee. (1988). Report on the education of gifted and talented children. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government. Sloane, K. D. (1985). Home influences on talent development. In B. S. Bloom (Ed.), Developing talent in young people. (pp 439-476). Available: http://www.geniusdenied.com/articles/Record.aspx?NavID=13_0&rid=10589 [2002, 15 April]. Sternberg, R. S. (1986). A triarchic theory in intellectual giftedness. In R. S. Sternberg & Davidson R. E. (Eds.), Conceptions of giftedness. Cambridge: Cambridge University press. Terman, L. M., & Cox, C. M. (1926). Genetic studies of genius: The early mental traits of 300 geniuses, Vol. 2. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Terman, L. M., & Oden, M. H. (1925). Genetic studies of genius: Mental and physical traits of a thousand gifted children, Vol. 1. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Terman, L. M., & Oden, M. H. (1947). Genetic studies of genius: The gifted child grows up, Vol. 4. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Terman, L. M., & Oden, M. H. (1959). Genetic studies of genius: The gifted group at mid-life, Vol. 5. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Torrance, P. (1963). Education and the creative potential. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. VanTassel-Baska, J. (1998). Excellence in educating gifted and talented learners. Denver, CO: Love Publishing Company.