Gifted or Smart?

by Kim A. Howe, M.S.
Published: 1/14/2013

Is your child gifted?

This is a trick question, or at the very least, it is the wrong way to ask this question. A better question might be:

Is your child exhibiting gifted behavior?

The difference might seem subtle, but the way you approach this question can affect how well your child is able to overcome obstacles in life. If we define giftedness as a trait that people either possess or don't possess, many children may grow up either overconfident or discouraged. Neither of these is good. If we define giftedness as a behavior, however, we can teach children to improve their giftedness — no matter where they fall on the IQ spectrum.

Studies have shown that children who are told they are smart are less willing to take risks. Children want to be seen as smart, so they don't want to risk failure and put their status at risk. Children praised for hard work or risk taking, on the other hand, are more willing to take risks. Praising kids for being gifted can actually decrease a child's gifted behavior.

What Is Gifted Behavior?

Traditionally giftedness has been measured with an IQ score. If your score was over 130, then you were considered gifted; if you were 129, you were considered average. There are some obvious shortcomings with this definition. If we want to look at giftedness more broadly than a simple measure of IQ, we still need a model for doing so. My favorite model of giftedness was developed by Joseph Renzulli — a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut. Renzulli's model looks at three different factors that are important for the development of gifted behavior: above-average ability, creativity, and task commitment. Gifted behavior occurs when two or three of these factors are used together.

Moving Beyond the Page is a research-based curriculum, and Renzulli's theory of giftedness is thoroughly integrated into the program. If you have used Moving Beyond the Page in the past, then you are probably well aware that the curriculum encourages these three areas of development. We offer a rigorous academic challenge for those with above-average ability. Our long-term projects and writing assignments require significant task commitment on the part of the student, and throughout the curriculum you will find many activities that encourage and promote various creative thinking skills.

Renzulli's Theory of Giftedness

  • Above Average Ability
    Ability includes intelligence, but it also includes much more. It can include general abilities (like processing information, integrating experiences, and employing abstract thinking) and specific abilities (like the capacity to acquire knowledge and perform an activity).

  • Creativity
    The three main areas of creativity include fluency (lots of ideas), flexibility (different types of ideas), and originality (unique ideas). Creative people are divergent thinkers, are open to new experiences, and show a willingness to take risks.

  • Task Commitment
    Without task commitment, high achievement is simply not possible. Task commitment is motivation turned into action. Perseverance, endurance, and hard work are all elements of task commitment. Self-confidence, perceptiveness and a special fascination with a subject are often evidence of task commitment as well.


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