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What is giftedness?

Updated: Feb 17

There is no universally agreed upon definition of giftedness. Giftedness can be identified in all genders, ethnic and language groups, environments, and socioeconomic levels. Identification of giftedness can involve assessments to evaluate a child's strengths, learning style and educational needs. This typically includes evaluating IQ to determine if a child demonstrates a high degree of intellectual ability. There are degrees or levels of giftedness if using IQ as part of the identification process. The mean, or average, IQ is 100. A child who is mildly gifted will exhibit an IQ of 115-129 where as a moderately gifted child has an IQ between 130-144.

a boy with a book in his head

Other definitions of giftedness consider more than just intelligence. Françoys Gagné’s Differentiating Model of Giftedness and Talent is used to explain giftedness in the education sectors of many Australian states and territories.

Gagné distinguishes between giftedness and talents. Giftedness is the possession and use of outstanding natural abilities or aptitudes, in at least one ability domain to a degree that places an individual at least among the top 10% of age peers. These domains can be intellectual, creative, social, perceptual or physical. Talent is the outstanding performance or competency in one or more fields of activity that places an individual in the top 10% of peers in that field. Talents can be academic such as outstanding mastery of languages or mathematics. Talents can also be present in other fields such as technology, arts, business, science and sports.

Gagné proposes that talents are developed from natural abilities through learning influenced by inner and outer catalysts. He created a visual model which outlines that a child who is recognised and given positive influences to achieve is more able to enhance their giftedness and talent. Gagne’s model highlights the importance of environmental influences and intrapersonal characteristics of the child in helping them each their highest potential. Children may be born with natural abilities, but may not have the intrapersonal characteristics, such as motivation, or the opportunities to develop their natural abilities into talents. Gagne's model shows that a gifted child needs to be supported and stimulated within the school environment in order to reach their highest potential. It also shows where the child’s family in addition to other catalysts can be influential in the development of giftedness and talent.

Butterfly Psychology for Kids conducts assessments to identify giftedness in children and adolescents. The identification process involves gathering information from parents and the school to evaluate aspects such as developmental and educational history. It also involves an intellectual assessment with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V). An assessment of the child’s academic skills is conducted with the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III) to determine age level and grade level achievement. Aptitude is also evaluated which examines a child’s academic functioning above grade level. Click here for more information.

Information adapted from: Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented

References: Gross, M. Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Students: An Underserved Population

Gagné, F. Differentiating Model of Giftedness and Talent

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