This assignment is a discussion on the topic of giftedness and talent development. The discussion explores the topic by defining giftedness and how it’s related to talent. It archives this through looking at the socio- affective characteristics and personalogical development of the gifted child, and how they interact to assist or hinder the development of talents by the gifted children.
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In the assignment therefore, the argument is that both socio- affective characteristics and personalogical development of the gifted child may have positive or negative effects on the gifted child, depending on how the parents, teachers and guardians respond to his or her needs.
Those children, whose giftedness is properly nurtured, are able to develop the relevant skills and vice versa. The discussion is based on Francoys Gange’s model of giftedness as well as on various other readings.
Discussion. The Gifted Child
Many scholars have for some time been grappling with the question of who really is a gifted child. Giftedness has usually been confused with talent, with some scholars like Joseph S. Renzulli, and Robert Sternberg using both giftedness and talent as synonyms (Rensuli, Smith, White, Callahan, & Hartman, 1976).
Some of the pioneers of the field of giftedness in education include Terman and Hollingworth. These two are believed to have been the first to notice the remarkable differences between the gifted individuals and the general population (Hollingworth, 1926).
After the pioneer work by the above scholars in mid 1920s, other scholars like Tannenbaum Witty, Benbow and Stanely took the discussion on the topic a notch higher by establishing the differences between the gifted individuals and the general population in terms of aptitudes, temperament, family backgrounds and ability levels (Witty, 1930) and (Benbow &Stanley, 1983).
In recent years after the works of these scholars, psychologists developed some scales to measure and rate these characteristics in an attempt to quantify the most prominent behavioural indicators of giftedness.
As recent as 2000, Francoys Gange developed what was referred to as Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT) which is also referred to as the developmental theory.
In the theory, Francoys Gange argues that giftedness is a pre-requisite of talent development and therefore a person may not become talented without being gifted in the first place. However, according to him, a person may just retain his or her giftedness without developing a talent but the reverse is not true (Gange, n.d).
In DMGT, giftedness is simply defined as a natural ability which is not necessarily innate, but has some genetic linkages. However, scholars are yet to unravel the mystery of the linkage of giftedness to genetics. Giftedness may also refer to an above average intellectual ability among the peers as well as a high cognitive ability than that of the peers.
Talent on the other hand is defined as skills, competencies and expertise acquired through the process of learning. Talent may or may not emanate from giftedness; with talent emanating from giftedness being more versatile than the one emanating from normal learning.
Talent may also refer to various forms of excellence like in technology, sports or arts. In the words of Francoys Gange giftedness and talent may be differentiated as follows;
‘GIFTEDNESS designates the possession and use of outstanding natural abilities, called aptitudes, in at least one ability domain, to a degree that places an individual at least among the top 10% of age peers’ (Gange, 2005. pp. 98-119).
‘TALENT designates the outstanding mastery of systematically developed abilities, called competencies(knowledge and skills), in at least one field of human activity to a degree that places an individual at least among the top 10% of age peers who are or have been active in that field’ (Gange, 2005. pp. 98-119).
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Francoys Gange goes ahead to conclude that as, I quote, ‘talent development corresponds to the progressive transformation of gifts into talents. According to the DMGT theory, talent development constitutes of five components namely gift, talent, talent development, intrapersonal and the environment catalysts designated as G, T, D,I and E respectively.
The interaction of these five components may either assist or hinder the transformation of giftedness into talent(s). In the following section, I will discuss in brief these five components of talent development (Gange, 1998. pp.87–95).
Components of Talent Development
The gift (G) component
This component constitutes of other six sub components namely the creative (GC), intellectual (GI), social (GS), perceptual (GP), motor control reflexes (GR) and muscular (GM) abilities.
According to Francoys Gange, these natural abilities may be observed in children as they perform various tasks like understanding mathematical concepts, reading and learning a foreign language, speaking, composing a song or a poem, writing a story, social abilities in interactions as well as physical and perceptual abilities like dancing, doing crafts and sculpture work (Gange, 2003.pp.60-74).
Francoys Gange argues that these gifts manifest themselves in young children mainly because at that age, systematic learning is usually absent. It therefore follows that the more the children are exposed to systematic learning, the more these gifts are transformed into various talents during adulthood (Van Tassel- Baska, 1983. pp.139-144).
The Talents (T) Component
The World-of-Work classification of occupations classifies talents into nine sub-components, six of which are based on John Holland’s well-known Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional (RIASEC) classification of personality, with the other three namely games, academic (K-12) subjects, and sports serving as complements of the other six in RIASEC.
In DMGT, most of these talents are easily measured using various scales like exams, standardized achievements as well as various assessments in various occupations and fields of excellence. In the DMGT model, there is no room for elitism, which attributes talent development on learning, education and qualifications, but rather, a presence of giftedness and talents in many individuals in the general population (Sternberg, 2004. pp.79-95).
The Talent Development Process (D) Component
This process is believed to begin as soon as an individual, either a child, an adult or an adolescent enters a systematic talent oriented development program mostly through the process of identification. This component is composed of other the sub- components namely progress (DP), activities (DA), and investment (DI). The main components of talent development activities include the curriculum offered in a specific format (DAF) and specific content (DAC).
The learning environment or format may either be structured, for example in school or unstructured, also known as autodidactic learning. In the DMGT model, the development of a talent takes place in a gradual and progressive manner, moving from novice, advanced, proficient and expert (Colangelo & Davis, 2003).
During this process, which is mostly a longitudinal one, the teacher or coach is able to note the peak of the talentee during various activities or occasions like death of a loved one, manifestation of love and excellent performance in various fields by the talentee which becomes outstanding and unique.
Talentees may also be unique in the manner in which they spend their money, time and psychological energies, with most of them recording outstanding and unique approaches to these issues (Gange, 1999.pp.109-136).
Intrapersonal (I) component
This component is also referred to as the intrapersonal catalyst and constitutes of two other sub-components namely the physical and mental traits and the goal oriented process. The physical traits include things like race, ethnicity and chronic illness while the mental traits include things like personality and temperament.
These traits, both physical and mental may positively or negatively impact on the individual’s ability to develop talents from natural giftedness (Heller & Kurt, 2000.pp.67-79).
The goal oriented process constitutes of three other sub-components namely motivation (IM), awareness (IW), and volition (IV). Awareness of their personal strengths and weaknesses enables the talentees to adequately plan the development of goal identification activities.
The talentees are also motivated by the achievement of some goals, which makes them specialize on such areas thus developing specific talents. Failure in some areas leads to less interest and lowered motivation in those fields, thus a low probability in developing talents in those areas (Gross, 2004).
The Environmental (E) component
This component is also referred to as environmental catalyst and constitutes of three other sub-components namely the individuals (EI), milieu (EM), and provisions (EP).
EI sub-component constitutes the talentees’ social environment, and more so, the influence of the significant others like siblings, parents, teachers, public figures, mentors, and trainers as well as peers on the taletees. The actions of these significant others may influence the talent development by the gifted individuals either positively or negatively (Gange, 2003.pp.60-74).
The EM constitutes of physical, social and economic environments in which the gifted individual find himself or herself in. Physical environment may include things like climate and the nature of the neighbourhood which may be either a rural or an urban setting.
The social environment may involve things like the social and cultural environment of the general population in the place where the gifted child grows in while the economic aspect may include things like the financial status of the parents and family of the gifted child (Gange, 2003.pp.60-74).
EP sub-component constitutes the talent development programs and services and is sub-divided into two sub-categories namely administration and enrichment , with enrichment referring to some specific talent development curriculum while administrative provision referring to the part time or full time grouping, grade skipping, early enrolment in schools as well as the advanced placement programs (Gange, 2003.pp.60-74).
Apart from these five components of the development process, psychologists have identified another component referred to as chance and the role it plays in the development process. According to Francoys Gange, chance ‘represents the degree of control that talentees have over environmental influences’.
According to John William Atkinson, chance becomes relevant in the DMGT model in that we are not able to control the backgrounds in which we are born as well as our genetic make-up, yet, these two greatly influence the G and I components in the DMGT model.
Chance therefore plays an important role in talent development because giftedness is influenced by genetic makeup, as well as the social, cultural, physical and economic backgrounds in which we find ourselves in (Gange, 2003.pp.60-74).
After discussing the talent development process, I will now turn to the socio- affective characteristics and personalogical development of the gifted children and how they influence their talent development. I would like to mention at the outset that giftedness is a natural ability, which may positively or negatively affect the gifted individual depending on the environment in which he or she grows in (Gange, 2003.pp.60-74).
Many scholars in gifted education have argued that gifted children have special needs, which must be addressed so as to enable their natural abilities to be transformed into useful talents, as well as mitigate any negative effects of their giftedness.
Many countries, led by the United States seem to have recognized the needs of the gifted children, and have thus established specialized schools and training for the gifted children with a view of nurturing their natural abilities so as to transform them into very useful talents.
These countries also believe that there are many gifted children and if well nurtured, their natural abilities may be transformed into excellent talents which may put them well ahead of other countries in various fields like technology, commerce, sports and the fight against crime (Mills & Jackson, 1990. pp. 410-422).
Before discussing the characteristics, I would like to point out some of the issues which must be born in mind when discussing these characteristics. One of them is that it is not all gifted children who will portray these characteristics, meaning that some will exhibit specific characteristics but not others.
It is also important to bear in mind that these characteristics are developmental, meaning that some children may show them as early as during childhood while others may show them during later stages of development. Also important to note is that some of these characteristics only appear when the gifted children are engaged in an aptitude or some areas of interest (McMillen, Eckert & Little, n.d).
The Characteristics of Gifted Children and How They Assist or Hinder Talent Development
Preference of independent work
Many gifted children prefer working alone in many activities, even those which require partnership with other children. This may be attributed to their ability to manage their issues properly without any assistance.
It shows their exceptional ability to come up with appropriate solutions to problems or challenges as well as their ability to think abstractly, so as to come up with solutions to many challenges which may need group efforts to solve (Neither,Reis,Robinson & Moon, 2002).
This characteristic may affect the child in a positive manner in that if the child is assisted and guided by a mentor or instructor, he or she becomes motivated to come up with solutions to his or her personal problems, thus becoming an independent minded person.
Such nurturance may also lead to enhanced creativity, which is a pre-requisite of innovation. When they are left to work in groups, this may inhibit their ability to think independently and come up with new and independent ideas. It may also inhibit their reasoning by the fear of appearing too exceptional among their peers (Silverman, 1993).
If gifted children are not properly nurtured, they may develop antisocial behaviour, which may lead to their isolation by their peers. This is because their ability to develop and carry on with the unique behaviour of working alone may lower their self-esteem through perceiving themselves as abnormal instead of exceptional to others.
There is therefore the need for care givers to motivate the gifted children to be more independent by informing them that they are not being deviant, but rather, are doing very constructive and important work for themselves and the society at large (Cox, Daniel & Boston, 1985).
Gifted children are unique in that they are able to have multiple interests at the same time unlike the other children who usually have their interests in a prioritized manner. This is attributed to their high cognitive abilities, which enables them to have the energy to pursue and concentrate in several areas of interest at the same time.
In situations where the gifted children are given the opportunity to explore various aspects of life, they are able to develop and master multiple talents. On the other hand, the lack of enabling environment for exploration may lead to frustration of the children, which may in turn lead to slowed development in their various aspects of life.
Usually, children are not supposed to have emotions like love, grieve or embarrassment. In contrast, gifted children portray emotional intensity at very early ages in life. They are able to have emotional feelings triggered by death or the absence of something which they adore. Their emotional sensitivity makes them suitable for theatre activities which is itself a talent.
However, if other children realize that they are overly sensitive to various emotions, this may become a problem because the other children, out of ignorance would often disturb the gifted children by evoking such emotions in them, which may hinder the development of the respective talents in them due to lack of the enabling environment to do so.
Many gifted children are overly concerned about being perfect in everything instead of being excellent. They like to be perfect in academics, social life as well as in their decision making. They feel very angry when they make a mistake no matter how slight it might be.
This tendency may be a resource especially because it makes the child work hard so as to be perfect. This may result in his or her excellence in various fields which in turn develops into various skills and talents.
However, perfectionism may lead to anxiety and fear of failing to accomplish what they want in the way they want it. This may in turn lead to developmental challenges among the gifted children in that it leads to a feeling of guilt, which interferes with their maximum development.
The gifted children therefore need to be nurtured and made to understand that while it is a virtue to work hard, it is good to understand that it is unrealistic for them to be perfect in everything they do, and therefore, the goal of being perfect should be replaced with the goal of achieving excellence. This can go to great lengths in transforming their hard work into useful talents in their areas of interests.
Altruism and idealism
Gifted children have strong passion in helping and working for others at early ages in life. They are very interested in helping their parents and friends as well as peers. They also like doing volunteer work in hospitals or in various humanitarian organizations or initiatives. This rather puzzling passion forms a basis for a career in various humanitarian fields like advocacy, charity work, philanthropy and diplomacy.
However, if the goals of the parents and significant others are not compatible with those of the gifted child; they may not be collaborative and supportive to the child. Similarly, in social cultural environments which do not embrace altruism and idealism, the child may inhibit such a talent and may as well develop the opposite, thus becoming rebellious, cruel and in extreme cases, a sadist.
Good sense of humour
Many gifted children are able to play around with their social environment, using words, gestures or actions which transform a painful or tense situation to a friendly and humorous one, thus defusing any tension either within themselves or in others.
This ability comes from their natural ability to understand various situations and their opposites, thus able to construct jokes, talks and actions which echo the painful or harmful situation, but in an opposite or less painful or harmful version.
This ability, if well nurtured, especially in environment which encourages theatre and comic satires may help the gifted children excel in theatre work. However, if the socio cultural environment does not embrace humour, the child may not develop this particular talent.
The other negative side of a good sense of humour is that it can sometimes lead to more developmental problems, especially if the child uses it to cover up his or her developmental challenges or weird personality traits. This is because the weird personality traits or developmental challenges are camouflaged, and continues to build up without being discovered as early as possible, so that the necessary steps are taken to deal with it.
Strong attachments and commitments
Many gifted children usually form more intense friendships and attachments to people who are order than them than with their peers. This may be attributed mainly to their natural ability to emulate others and excel in various fields or areas of interest.
They are also overly committed to their work, more so during adulthood. This characteristic is useful for them, especially if they grow in environments which value mentorship of young children by their older counter parts.
If assisted to attach themselves to people who are respectable and who have excelled in career or in some talents, the gifted children may develop good talents at their adulthood.
However, in environments where there are few or no good role models to emulate, gifted children may end up emulating or attaching themselves to people with poor and undesirable characteristics, thus acquiring and perfecting bad behaviours, morals and values.
The power of concentration
Many gifted children display an exceptional ability to concentrate and an ability to deal with a specific problem for a long time than their peers. If they are given an ample time to concentrate without inference, they are able to excel in that specific field(s), be it science, mathematics or technology, which may form a strong foundation for their future career in those areas of interest.
However, if disrupted or denied the time to learn how to concentrate at early age, this may hinder their later excellence in these areas of interests.
Ability to generate original ideas
The gifted child is able to come up with original ideas, which are free from any external influence either alone or in partnership with others. The ideas may be in one field, like in technology or in multiple areas, like in technology, mathematics or social studies. This ability is useful in that it may lead to the specialization of the child in a single or multiple fields.
However, there is the need for the parents, teachers and siblings to support the child psychologically so as to reinforce the ability to generate these ideas. If the gifted child grows in an environment where nobody seems to recognize his or her ability, this may compromise his or her abilities to excel in these areas of interests in future life.
In conclusion, this discussion has explored the topic of giftedness and talent. It has emerged that giftedness leads to the development of various talents. The talent development process has also been discussed whereby it has emerged that it is composed of five main components namely giftedness, talent, talent development process, intrapersonal and environmental catalysts.
Various characteristics of giftedness have also been discussed and how they interact with the socio cultural environment to either assist or hinder the development of talents by gifted children.
What has emerged in all the characteristics is that giftedness is not a guarantee of talent development, but rather, it can lead to the acquisition of good or bad talents depending on the manner in which the gifted child is brought up and whether giftedness is nurtured so as to develop into the respective talent(s).
If gifted children are left alone without guidance and nurturance, their natural abilities may be reduced to burdens to themselves or to the society, but if they are properly nurtured, such natural abilities may be tapped and transformed into useful skills and talents, which can help many countries in their development.
It is for these reasons that many countries have established specialized schools and trainings for gifted children, so as to identify various natural abilities at the very early ages, and nurture them into useful talents through giving the gifted children the necessary motivation and setting the necessary learning environment for them to fully develop such talents.
However, research is still going on in order to identify relationship between genetics and giftedness so as to adequately understand the needs of the gifted children in order to reap the maximum talents from them (Terman,1925).
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