One key way classroom teachers can broaden their understanding of gifted students is through understanding the cognitive and affective characteristics intellectually gifted children exhibit. These characteristics most commonly appear in general classroom behavior and, therefore, are observable traits. To begin with, Steiner & Carr (2003) discuss six distinct ways gifted learners differ from their average-ability peers.
1. Gifted learners have a broader knowledge base and apply their knowledge.
2. Gifted learners prefer to be challenged.
3. Gifted learners possess faster problem solving skills.
4. Gifted learners efficiently categorize and represent problems compared to average ability learners.
5. They have intricately mastered procedural knowledge, that is knowing how to do something such as knowing the procedure to solve a lengthy algebra problem.
6. Gifted learners possess flexibility in their ability to strategize a solution to a problem.
7. They have superior metacognition and self-regulation skills.
Interestingly, gifted students often possess an intense desire to learn about their own interests. Their ability to think at abstract levels earlier than average-ability peers and form their own ways of thinking about problems and ideas indicates that intellectually gifted students need advanced content and choice in learning activities. That said, gifted students require a wide range of independent projects for differentiating instruction.
This is why an awareness of the social and emotional characteristics of gifted students can further help teachers understand many of the classroom behaviors they observe in gifted children. For example, the student’s desire to share knowledge may be seen by others as an attempt to show off and may lead to peer rejection. Gifted students’ high expectations of themselves and others can lead to perfectionism, personal dissatisfaction, or feelings of hopelessness. Additionally, gifted students routinely exhibit academic and emotional traits that may be described as intense or even extreme, in some cases. They tend to be more curious, demanding, and sensitive than average-ability peers.
In closing, gifted children are supremely unique and require parents and educators to modify home and school environments to meet their strong desire to “know more”. Modifications and accommodations are imperative if gifted students are to reach their full potential.
Steiner, H. H., & Carr, M. (2003). Cognitive development in gifted children: Toward a more precise understanding of emerging differences in intelligence. Educational Psychology Review, 15(3), 215-246.