Gifted and Talented Children
Identification Of Gifted Children
Contrary to the myth that "every parent thinks her child is gifted," (whether he or she is gifted, or not) parents are highly effective identifiers of high ability in their children (Robinson and Robinson 1992); indeed, they are significantly more accurate than teachers, who are rarely trained in how to identify and respond to gifted students and who may not notice high academic ability if they present the gifted child only with work set at the level and pace of the average child in the class (Jacobs 1971). The majority of parents of intellectually gifted children become aware, in the early years, that their child is very bright (Louis and Lewis 1992).
Intellectual and physical characteristics of young gifted children that parents are likely to notice include unusually early and fluent speech; early mobility (the child crawls, walks or runs earlier than age-peers); early reading (the child spontaneously "picks up" reading from television, street signs, or advertisements); unusually retentive memory; intense curiosity; unusually long attention span; eager desire to learn; unusually mature sense of humor; and less need for sleep than agepeers of average ability (Gross 1993). Of course, not all gifted children display all these characteristics, but the possession of a cluster of the characteristics described above could suggest that the child may indeed be unusually bright.
Furthermore, intellectually gifted children differ from their age-peers in many aspects of their social and emotional development (Silverman 1993). They are often more socially and emotionally mature than other children of their age, their play interests are more like those of children some years older, and they tend to seek out, for companionship, children who are older but of average ability, or age-peers who are also intellectually able. They may be unusually perceptive and sensitive to the feelings of other children or adults and because of this capacity to empathize they may become concerned, much earlier than their age-peers, with ethical or moral issues (Webb, Meckstroth, and Tolan 1983). However, this sensitivity may also make them aware, even in the early years of school, of other students' wariness towards, or even resentment of, their high abilities, and many gifted students deliberately underachieve for peer acceptance (Gross 1989; Colangelo and Assouline 2000).
Standardized testing of ability and achievement can assist in identifying high academic ability in children and adolescents. Used appropriately by qualified professionals (for example, it is important that culturally appropriate tests are used) IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests can provide a wealth of information about a student's intellectual profile, and can assist educators to develop an appropriate educational response to his or her learning needs.
However, a problem that frequently arises in testing academically gifted students is the ceiling effect. This occurs when a gifted student is assessed using a teacher-developed or standardized test designed for average ability students of his or her age. Gifted students may score at the uppermost limits of the test and, although in one sense this affirms their high ability, it also means that there is no way of knowing how much higher these children would have scored if they had been assessed on a test with a higher "ceiling." It is rather like measuring the height of the Harlem Globetrotters on a pole that only goes up to six feet. The Globetrotters all come out at the same height—"six foot plus"—and, unless a longer pole is used, there is no way of measuring their relative heights beyond that point!
To combat the problem of ceiling effect, psychologists working with gifted children recommend above-level testing—assessing their achievements using tests designed for students some years older (Assouline and Lupkowski-Shoplik 1997). For example, a third grade students who has "ceilinged out" (made a score at or near the maximum) on a third grade math test may then be assessed on a fifth grade test. Finding that this student scores at the 70th percentile on a test designed for students two years older is much more meaningful, in terms of curriculum planning, than affirming that she tests at the 99th percentile of her age-peers.
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