Definitions of "Giftedness"

"All individuals have strengths relative to their other capabilities; some individuals have exceptional abilities relative to most other people..." Working Party Report, Nov 2001

A gifted or talented student stands out from everyone else in the above definition ... perhaps in one area, sometimes in many.

Gifted children have been defined as those "who by nature of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance". The term "outstanding abilities" refers to general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, leadership ability, ability in the visual or performing arts, creative thinking, or athletic ability.

How do others define being "gifted"?

IQ tests:

Academic performance:

Some groups link giftedness with IQ - a measure of intelligence. Those people with a high IQ are "gifted", everyone else is not. But there a different types of IQ tests and the "magic number" to reach to be called "gifted" depends on the test used.

In general, since IQ tests assume that the inteligence quotient values for any given population is based on a normal distribution (bell-shaped curve), a person operating at 2 or 3 standard deviations above the mean can be considered gifted.

Some schools consider the top 15%, 10% or 5% of their students to be gifted or talented.

See NOTE below.

BUT IQ tests are not appropriate for very young children and can fail intelligent children who have limited experiences of the world.

BUT this definition does not pick up those under-achieving students who are bored by a subject or do not see it as important and can pass with very little effort.

Modern norms for IQ tests are biased against gifted children. Because of their low ceilings, none of the current tests provides valid IQ scores for highly gifted children.

Gifted children's IQ scores become depressed at approximately 9 years of age due to ceiling effects of the test. The ideal age for testing is between 4 and 8.

There has been a trend away from defining the gifted and talented in terms of a single category (for example, high IQ) towards a multicategory approach, which acknowledges a diverse range of special abilities.


There is plenty of evidence that gifted children should be differentially treated, either by acceleration, enrichment, or ability grouping. But how you decide to define giftedness will influence how you later identify gifted children. So far we have not differentiated between being "talented" and being truly "gifted". Does research support the lumping together of these groups?

Children in the top 3 percent of the population have atypical developmental patterns and require differentiated instruction. Children in the top 10 percent of the population are not statistically or developmentally different from children in the top 15 percent, and it is not justifiable to single them out for special treatment.

It is similar to the situation where the moderately intellectually impaired, highly intellectually impaired and profoundly intellectually impaired all have quite different challenges and associated needs. So it is with the moderately gifted, highly gifted and profoundly gifted. They should not be lumped together.

Where to next?

So you think you finally know what the term "gifted" or "talented" might stick to the narrow definitions above or have a wider view that includes artistic, creative or leadership abilities.

How many of your children or students fit that definition? And it is no good simply priding yourself on your detective skills...what are you going to do about helping these individuals?

New Zealand's history of neglecting gifted children... Working Party report summary

What does it mean to be called "gifted"... definitions of "Giftedness"

How to identify gifted children... some common features to look for

Consequences for parents and teacher... practical suggestions

What can Primary and Secondary teacher do? Giftedness in school

Real examples for Primary schools and Secondary schools. Acceleration, dual enrolment, and the conflicting needs of the school versus the student. Case studies

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