Many of us can concur that in a class there are those students who are exceptional performers. Some of us also belong to this bracket of intellectually gifted. What makes these differences between intellectually gifted learners and peers of the same standing in such a way that it’s like we do not belong to the peers who we are of the same age?
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What are some of the difficulties experienced by such students owing to the fact that they are just smart without putting a lot of effort in their class work? This paper therefore is an insight as to the difficulties experienced by intellectually gifted learners.
In the classroom setting, different students have different abilities. However, schools tend to group students on the basis of their chronological age on the assumption that the students being of the same age have many interests in common (Gross, 2004). Schools therefore do not consider that there exist differences within the groups of equal standing (David, 2004).
Most of the times, a teacher will tend to teach the whole class as a group but when assessment is done, some students excel more than others. It intrigues keen observers that there are students who do not seem to pay attention to classroom work yet they do well in the exams. Other students demonstrate abilities that are beyond their age. Then, do we have learners who can be termed as geniuses?
My point of argument comes in, in that the teacher may use learner centered method of learning, actively engaging all students in the classroom and giving them equal opportunities to participate in the classroom, but there are those students who always emerge the best in class.
These are the students who are regarded as intellectually gifted students. These are the students who are born gifted to the extent that they cannot fit in with their other peers (David, 2004).
Intellectually gifted students have higher levels of cognitive development in that they are able to think in a more logical way, solve problems that would pose a challenge to the students who are of the same age with them and are also able to make decisions on complex matters. To say that they are average students who have studied and acquired knowledge would be ignorance of the highest degree.
Many scholars agree that students vary in their abilities for they are those with astonishing intellectual giftedness and others with modest intellectual giftedness.
Other students are fairly gifted and others are said to poses highly intellectual giftedness while another minority group of intellectually gifted students exceeds the giftedness of all intellectual gifted learners and are said to be overwhelmingly intellectually gifted (Gross, 2004). The overwhelmingly intellectual gifted learners are rare in a normal population.
All in all, one cannot fail to identify the academically gifted students in the classroom. In such a scenario, students grouped together on the basis of their chronological age exhibit many affective and cognitive differences which work to the disadvantage of the intellectually gifted student.
Although there is no universally accepted definition of intellectually gifted students, many people will agree that these students have a high intellectual quotient (I. Q.), excel in their work be it talent, academics just but to mention a few and also have cognitive and affective abilities so high to the extent of being noticeable or standing out from their peers who are of the same age (Gross, 2004).
These students go beyond being average even in their characteristics for they tend to be perfectionists and have so many expectations on themselves not to mention the expectations of their teachers’ peers, parents and society once it comes to their realization that a certain student is intellectually gifted.
Cognitive and affective differences determine the way the learner learns in the classroom and in turn their overall performance in the classroom.
Reis & Renzulli (2004) propose that intellectually gifted students have advanced cognitive abilities and their ability to develop a better understanding of the abstract concepts such as death. With these understanding in abstract concepts such as death, lack of substance of life and irrelevance of living, the gifted student develops common problems with students who are of the same peer (Reis & Renzulli 2004).
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While the cognitive realm is the most widely used in identifying the intellectually gifted students, the affective domain also plays a major role. The intellectually gifted learners adjust well to the society (Jano, 1983) and are therefore said to be socially smart.
The intellectually gifted learner has the characteristic of dominating his/her peers of the same age who have profound confidence in him/her.
However, the intellectual sharpness of the gifted learner always lead the learner to experiencing social problems like being isolated from his/her peers and being too selective when choosing the people to associate with, with most studies done on the intellectual gifted students pointing that they prefer to be in the company of children older than them (Colangelo & Davis, 2003).
Researchers believe that by choosing the company of older peers that is where the intellectual gifted child feels that he/she can associate with peers of the same caliber in terms of their cognitive and affective development.
Intellectual giftedness is a unique gift in itself and a child who possesses such capabilities should be nurtured to allow him or her develop the gift in the areas he/she is gifted in.
However, the first challenge to this rare gift is that the school curriculum itself does not make any special programs that can accommodate these gifted children. More often than not (Colangelo & Davis, 2003), teachers themselves may not be willing to accept that there are students whose capabilities exceed that of their peers and therefore see no need to treat these gifted learners differently.
Teaching intellectually gifted students requires a school to have special program that differentiates the curriculum used by the gifted students from the one that is used by students who are of average performance. The task is even made harder when a student is gifted in only one subject.
For schools to effectively cater for the needs of the intellectually gifted; programs that allow gifted students to advance in their subjects and grades and be enrolled in two programs at the same time are needed and not many schools are willing to go to such heights (James, 1994).
For instance, in a case where a school may have an overly intellectual gifted learner, chances of meeting another learner who is overly intellectually gifted are rare if not close to zero.
Intellectually gifted students always feel isolated when they are with their peers because they do not fit in with their peers. They behave in a mature way and are able to solve problems and face challenges more than their peers. With these in mind, the gifted student seeks the company of other older students for him or her to fit in.
This characteristic makes people believe that the gifted student is antisocial with his/her peer and therefore branded a lonely person. Their affective abilities make them a bit critical of their friends and the feelings of their friends towards them. The intellectually gifted child will choose friends keenly than a child of average abilities and this makes them to have fewer friends (Ellen, 1996).
Intellectually gifted students are more intelligent than their other peers who are of the same status for their ability to process information is higher than that of their peers. Therefore, in a classroom setting, the gifted students will always feel dragged behind by others.
For instance, when a teacher is explaining a concept to students of average ability, the intellectually gifted student may feel bored because he or she has already grasped the concept and may find the teacher repeating her/himself. On the other hand, the intellectually gifted may also feel frustrated that the teacher is not going with the pace that he or she would want the teacher to go with (Colangelo & Davis, 2003).
For the teacher to effectively solve the problem in a classroom containing both gifted and average learners he or she needs to integrate learning styles that can also accommodate the intellectually gifted learners.
The teacher may also impact negatively on the gifted student in that he or she may assume that since the gifted student has already gotten the concepts that are being taught in the classroom, that they would be no need to focus attention on him/her. Here, the student’s intellectual giftedness works to his or her disadvantage (Vialle & Geake, 2002).
This further intrigues more questions in the intellectual gifted student’s mind of how weird he/she is not to deserve the attention of the teacher which leads to the student feeling neglected and not cared for by the teacher. This is very crucial especially to the development of a child.
A child needs to be loved and cared for and tendencies to focus more attention on other children leaving others out leads to children engaging in deviant behaviors just to seek the attention of the teacher. Not that the intellectual gifted students are mischievous, (Colangelo & Davis, 2003) they may engage in deviant behaviors so that they can also catch the attention of the teacher.
For the teacher who is a keen believer of disciplined students, the intellectually gifted may suffer the most at the hands of the teacher because the teacher will always be punishing the intellectually gifted child in the belief that he or she is instilling discipline in the intellectually gifted child (James, 1994).
When the gifted students are combined with students of average ability in the classroom, the intellectually gifted ones always feel that they have learnt everything there is to learn in the classroom for they are no more challenges for them.
This leads to underachievement of the student in the class in addition to being bored. Learning is made fun when a student discovers something new that he or she did not know and therefore is intrigued to find out more about that particular concept (Vialle & Geake, 2002).
On the same tone, the gifted child may not see the need to be in the classroom or pay attention when the teacher is explaining concepts for they are already familiar with them. This brings us to the point where these intellectually gifted students are seen as arrogant but this is not the case for they are simply bored.
The teacher can even punish the gifted student without knowing that he or she did not intend to be arrogant or not to pay attention. When these intellectually gifted students are not realized, they take a backseat in their academic achievements to the extent that they can even fail to complete classroom assignments. Some intellectually gifted students may become rebellious to their teachers and peers.
The students also face discrimination and stigmatization from their other peers in that their exemplary performance is regarded as weird (Benbow & Stanley, 1997). In most cases, other students will find their character abnormal and they would not understand why their character deviates from their own. The intellectually gifted are not taken as normal and students always view them as weird.
Some students of the same peer will even go to the extent of believing that the gifted students have some supernatural influence whereas we know that the gifted only possess innate intellectual capabilities which is not a basis to be discriminated against.
When a learner with intellectual gift, it also contributes to the learner asking him/her self many questions about his/her intellectual gifts. Some learners may even go to the extent of blaming themselves and develop shy characters.
Gifted students when discriminated by their peers will try to fit in, in all ways. One of the ways in which gifted students can try to fit in is through hiding their giftedness for they do not want to be regarded as weird and feel out of place.
When this happens, the gifted student regardless of his or her intellectual abilities will not let out his or her true self which becomes a hindrance to finding out who he or she really is. They do not discover their true identity and they hide in their cocoon by pretending to be like other students of average ability.
Other than being resented by his/her peers, the intellectually gifted also faces teacher’s resentment. As illustrated earlier on that the intellectually gifted student will most of the time ask silly questions and challenge the teacher in topics which are not in his/her caliber and show no interest in class work, a teacher who cannot identify the intellectual gifted child will probably resent such a child’s character (Ellen, 1996).
To counter the resentment from both teacher and peers, intellectually gifted children always tend to hide their abilities so as to be at par with the norm as that of the peers. When these children hide their giftedness just to appear normal to their peers and teachers, researchers proclaim that the drive in exploring educational fields disappears in addition to loosing the meaning of achieving (Painter, 1976).
The intellectual gifted learner will therefore attend school for the sake of attending school not for the desire to learn. Their exceptional abilities are therefore shunned from surfacing and being beneficial to the society and to the student. They do this trying to seek approval from their peers and teachers and they therefore have a hard time in seeking social approval if doing so means pretending to be who they are not.
The gifted learner struggles to be understood by the teacher and the learners and in a worse scenario where the teacher has no background information about the existence of intellectually gifted students.
The gifted students lack pride in themselves for they are seen to do things that are not normal. Their self esteem is greatly affected by their intellectual sharpness (Vialle & Geake, 2002). The problem becomes worse especially during adolescent when the student is trying to identify his or herself.
Many are the times that a gifted child on reaching adolescent develops identity crisis the reason being that the student cannot fully find out who he or she is.
Coupled with doubts about his or her true identity from his peers who they are of the same age, the intellectually gifted student develops self doubt of him/herself leading him/her to have a low self esteem. The teacher on the other hand should try as much as possible to help the gifted student in revealing his/her true identity (Benbow & Stanley, 1997).
Having intellectually gifted children in a classroom is a challenge itself to the teacher, the basis of my point being that these intellectually gifted children will often challenge the tutor while he or she is teaching (Painter, 1976). When this happens, the teacher may feel intimidated by the gifted child.
This causes misunderstanding between the child and the teacher for the gifted child interests in challenging the teacher may be solely contributing to the classroom discussion while the teacher may regard the student as a know it all type. For effective learning to take place, the teacher and the student have to be in good terms.
On the other end, students of the same peer may feel that an intellectually gifted student is disturbing their lesson by interrupting the teacher during content delivery. The teacher experiences two extreme ends where they are those who are eager to learn and others who are intellectually gifted and know it all thereby creating confusion in the classroom.
When a teacher discovers that a particular student is intellectually gifted, he or she may employ strict marking procedures when marking the intellectually gifted learner’s paper (Janos, 1983). Where a teacher has given marks to an average student, the intellectually gifted may fail on the same as a result of the high expectations that the teacher may have on the gifted learner (Reis & Renzulli, 2004).
Teachers also may ask hard questions to the intellectually gifted so as to prove to the other students that the intellectually gifted does not know everything that there is to know. In such cases, the resentment of the intellectually gifted learner to the teacher keeps on increasing and the more he or she becomes disinterested in school.
A teacher may also not feel compelled to answer a question asked by the intellectually gifted child and may ignore the question on the assumption (Janos, 1983) that the student both knows the answer and just wants to test the teacher or can research for him/herself and get the correct answer to the question. This further creates frustrations to the intellectually gifted child in his/her endeavors of learning.
While it is normal for the intellectually gifted student to want to discuss concepts to the very minor details, the teacher may only be interested in giving students the contents that will help them answer questions in the exam (Vialle & Geake, 2002).
The advanced cognitive abilities of the intellectually gifted again works to his/her disadvantage in that the teacher may not have the time to discuss concepts in the classroom in a detailed manner and this makes the learner who is gifted academically feel that he/she has been wasted or that the content discussed by the teacher is shallow.
Intellectually gifted children may find it hard to repeat exercises given by the teacher in the classroom. One of the distinctive characteristic of the intellectually gifted is that, the student will master the content after repeating it only twice in most cases.
When the teacher therefore make the intellectually gifted child to repeat a task for more than two times, the child loses focus and creates a negative attitude towards schools. Eventually, the IGC (Intellectually Gifted Child) may end up hating school altogether (Reis & Renzulli, 2004).
The gifted student has no contact with his/her peers. He/she does not enjoy the company of his/her peers and will most of the time prefer to be in the company of other older students who he/she can identify with. Therefore, the methods used by schools where these intellectual gifted students are grouped with students of average ability create a restrictive milieu for them (Ellen, 1996).
The school only assumes that the intellectually gifted students have the same abilities as that of their peers and shuns off the doors of exploration for the intellectually gifted learner. In addition, the content taught in the classroom where this intellectually gifted child is in on the basis of chronological age is also restrictive enough and does not offer room for exploration of the gifted mind of the learner.
The intellectually gifted learner may lack competition in the classroom (Ellen, 1996). Other than the teacher who the intellectually gifted would seem to engage in discussion in complex issues, his/her peers do not conform to his level.
The intellectually gifted child does not have the challenge and therefore being in the classroom with people who he/she cannot identify with and going through a curriculum that poses no challenge to him/her seems unbearable.
The schools assumptions that by mixing the intellectually gifted with the average ability learners, more positive outcomes of learning would be realized because of interactive learning is somehow questioning when it comes to dealing with intellectually gifted learners.
The extant literature shows that the intellectually gifted learners need a more challenging environment and an environment that does not put restrictive measures on the achievement of the learners.
To drive my point closer home, the intellectually gifted learner in the first place sees no similarities between him/herself with peers of same age. Then, how would we expect the learner to have the zeal in learning if there is none of the peers who can challenge him/her?
In conclusion, we must acknowledge that the intellectually gifted learner has abilities that need to be encouraged and that this can only be achieved if schools are willing to come of their cocoon of comfort of grading the students on the assumption that since the students are of the same age, then they must have many similar things in common. Schools ought to develop programs that accommodate the needs of the intellectually gifted learners.
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