What Defines Giftedness and Talent

What Defines Giftedness and Talent

Julie D. Swanson (College of Charleston, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5879-8.ch001
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The author explores the definition of gifted and talented through a theoretical lens, an operational lens, with international perspectives, and through research and practice examples. This chapter opens the discussion of what gifted and talented is, with a review of prominent models of intelligence, giftedness, and talent. After a theoretical examination of the question, a discussion of operational definitions of who are gifted and talented follows. This section of the chapter will highlight traditional and non-traditional views and the processes used to identify gifted and talented students for services in the United States, Australia, Ireland, and China. The chapter will conclude with a synthesis of what is known about gifted and talented adults, addressing a review of research studies on eminence, discussion of longitudinal studies on talent search programs, and description of specific programs for gifted and talented adults, such as Mensa International.
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Models Defining Giftedness And Talent

A number of theoretical models construct a conceptual understanding of gifted and talented. Discussion of some prominent models offers insight into the varied perspectives of “what is gifted and talented.” Historically, more traditional conceptions of giftedness were based on heredity and IQ. For example, Galton’s book, Hereditary Genius (1869), applied Darwin’s theories to intelligence and purported that wealthy families and individuals were more intelligent, as evidenced by their place in the social order. Binet and Simon’s work (1905) along with Terman’s (1925) focused on using a measure of intelligence as the indicators of high intelligence and giftedness. Modern thinking has moved beyond single factor influences on development of giftedness and talent to broader, more comprehensive conceptions (e.g. Gardner, 1993; Sternberg, 1997), that take into account factors related to both nature and nurture.

Tannenbaum (1983; 1986; 2003) believes that the factors that comprise giftedness are “superior general intellect, strong special aptitudes, supportive non-intellective traits, a challenging and supportive environment, and chance” (as cited in Davis, Rimm, & Siegle, 2011, p. 21). Tannenbaum (2003) defines giftedness and talent by asking who are the gifted, what is it they do, and how do they do it. He groups gifted persons into eight production/performance categories: producers of thoughts creatively (e.g., a novelist), producers of thoughts proficiently (e.g., a computer programmer), producers of tangibles creatively (e.g., an architect), producers of tangibles proficiently (e.g., an art forger), performers of staged artistry creatively (e.g., an actor who interprets other’s work), performers of staged artistry proficiently (e.g., a musician who reproduces other’s work), performers of human services creatively (e.g., innovative teachers), and performers of human services proficiently (e.g., successful teachers) (as cited in Davis, Rimm, & Siegle, 2011, p. 22). Tannenbaum’s construct illustrates the view that giftedness can be seen in producers of thoughts, producers of tangibles, performers of art, or performers of human services. In his thinking, students may show promise, but giftedness and talent as high-level production, performance, and creativity is primarily evident in adults (Tannenbaum, 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Marland Report: Authored by Sidney P. Marland, Jr., and published in 1972, the Marland Report was the first national report to Congress on gifted education. This report, one of the most referenced in gifted education, includes a widely known definition of giftedness.

MENSA International: A society of high IQ people, MENSA International is an organization of persons in the top 2% of IQ from all races, religions, ethnicities, and walks of life. The organization provides a variety of social and cultural activities for its members.

SENG: Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted, SENG, is a professional organization founded in 1981 that offers support and guidance to the gifted community, through education, research, and connection.

Gifted and Talented Adults: These are individuals who are older than 18 who exhibit extraordinary ability and performance in one or more areas.

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