Five Myths About Giftedness
Myths about giftedness are powerful forces that can alter perceptions about gifted students.
Myths about giftedness are powerful forces that can alter perceptions about gifted students. Such myths are difficult to discredit and can have lasting effects on the identification of gifted students and the provision of services. Although these myths may be true in a particular instance, they do not hold in every situation or for every person.
In 1982, Gifted Child Quarterly devoted a special issue focusing on 15 common myths about giftedness. Twenty-seven years later, in 2009, the myths were revisited. Researchers at that time agreed that all of the myths from the 1982 compilation still existed and, in fact, included four new ones! This brief review will examine five myths that continue to be significant for the field of gifted education. Confronting these myths may help flesh out the underlying issues that keep our most able students from reaching their potential.
MYTH 1: ALL GIFTED STUDENTS ARE EXACTLY THE SAME.
One of the most damaging myths to gifted education is the idea that all gifted students come from one homogeneous group (Reis & Renzulli, 2009). Gifted students can be found in every socioeconomic level, race, and ethnicity. Even within the gifted population, a wide range of diversity exists. Some may have intellectual potential whereas others are athletic, artistic, or musically inclined. Some show high emotional intensity, and others may be more introverted and sensitive. Researchers have identified common elements of giftedness, such as motivation, advanced interests and communication skills, inventiveness, and advanced problem-solving ability, but caution that gifted students do not exhibit all of the same characteristics and that ability levels can vary in a particular domain (Reis & Renzulli, 2009). Gifted students manifest a wide range of characteristics; thus, no standard of giftedness can be determined (Neihart, Reis, Robinson, & Moon, 2002). Giftedness is not a fixed way of being, but is developmental in nature; for some students with potential it can be nurtured with encouragement, time, and effort (Reis & Renzulli, 2009).
MYTH 2: GIFTED STUDENTS DO NOT HAVE UNIQUE SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL NEEDS.
Society often misperceives high-ability students based upon stereotypes of self-assured, well-adjusted students who perform at the highest levels and who are highly capable of dealing with social or emotional concerns (Peterson, 2009). Gifted children have vulnerabilities as well advantages (Andronaco, Shute, & McLachlan, 2014; Peterson, 2009). Gifted children share common characteristics that affect the way they experience the world and are often characterized by their intensity and intellectual, psychomotor, sensual, emotional, and imaginational overexcitabilities (Bailey, 2011). These overexcitabilities can vary in strength, but usually are more extreme in gifted children than their less able peers (Peterson, 2009). Overexcitabilities in gifted children are frequently misunderstood. The highly imaginative student who daydreams in class is viewed by the untrained eye as misbehaving and off-task. These overexcitabilities can lead to gifted students' intense reactions to daily life events, for which children may need extra support and reassurance.
In addition, uneven profiles of intellectual, physical, and social and emotional development can lead to particular problems for gifted students. A gifted child might not be socially and emotionally developed compared to his cognitive level. Asynchronous development can add to the feeling of isolation when a highly advanced child tries to interact with his same aged peers.
Each gifted child's needs stem from interaction between the child, talents, relationships, and his environment (Cross, 2011). By bringing attention to this fact, we may help loosen the hold this myth has on the lives of gifted children.
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TEMPO is the official peer-reviewed journal of TAGT. Its mission is to promote awareness of gifted education issues and to provide information on research and best practices in the field. Parent and professional members receive a mailed and digital copy of each new issue. Review archived issues or become a member to access the latest issues.