Spotlight On: Gifted Education

24 May 2024


This article first appeared in the Queenwood Connect Portal on Friday 24 May 2024.

The field of gifted education is plagued by myths and misconceptions, the persistence of which can lead to gifted students’ educational and social-emotional neglect. These myths and misconceptions have their roots in erroneous beliefs such as gifted students don’t need help; they’ll succeed on their own.  These beliefs imply that some individuals are born with superior ability, and experience high performance throughout their lives regardless of other contributing factors. The cost of these beliefs is far-reaching; a lack of appropriate interventions for gifted students can result in lost academic growth, lost creative potential, lost social and emotional wellbeing, lost professional achievement, and ultimately the loss of substantial contributions to society.   

At Queenwood, we recognise and embrace the needs of our gifted students via adaptive teaching strategies within our classrooms and through the K-12 Catalyst program.  In line with Gifted Awareness Week, I hope to dispel two of the myths that I commonly face in my role, and in doing so, I hope to raise awareness of the complex needs of our gifted students.

Myth One:  All children are gifted.

At Queenwood, we acknowledge that every student possesses strengths and positive qualities. However, not all children are considered gifted in the educational context. In schools, the term gifted is used to describe students who exhibit an outstanding level of aptitude in comparison to others of the same age.  This advanced ability necessitates adjustments to the standard curriculum to ensure these students are appropriately challenged and can continue to grow in their learning. It is crucial to note that being gifted does not equate with being good or better; rather, it is a term that allows students to be identified for specialised services that are tailored to their individual learning needs.  The purpose of the Catalyst program is to help meet gifted students’ needs that may not be met in the regular classroom. Therefore, it is not suitable for all students. 

Myth Two:  She’s gifted; she doesn’t need additional support.

A common misunderstanding is the assumption that gifted students will automatically excel. In fact, gifted is not synonymous with talented. While gifted students may have an extraordinary level of potential and ability, their high aptitude for learning can easily go to waste if it is not fostered properly.  Indeed, recent research shows that up to 50% of gifted students are underachieving.  This underachievement has a significant impact on the individual and society.  Many factors can lead to gifted underachievement, including a prolonged lack of challenging curriculum, learning disabilities (twice exceptionality), and social or psychological pressures.  Furthermore, there is a danger of overlooking gifted underachievers if we solely use high achievement as an indicator of giftedness.

At Queenwood we adopt Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent, a framework that outlines the vital distinction between gifts and talents.  According to Gagné, gifts (general aptitudes) are untrained natural abilities, whereas talents (specific skills) are learned capabilities. In Gagné’s model, to reach an exceptional level of talent, the raw materials of potential and ability require development through a series of supportive and timely influences, or catalysts. These catalysts fall into two key areas: environmental (e.g., teachers, academic adjustments) and intrapersonal (e.g., self-awareness, motivation).  In the absence of these catalysts, gifted students may stagnate, disengage, and potentially disrupt both the classroom environment and the learning outcomes of other students.

The Catalyst program at Queenwood provides appropriate interventions for our gifted students to value their learning and maintain the motivation required to demonstrate academic achievement commensurate with their ability. These interventions include a modified curriculum, participation in challenging academic competitions, accelerated pace, in-depth explorations, mentoring, small group projects and independent study. To find out more about the Catalyst Program please reach out to me at any time.