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Conceptions of Giftedness and Gifted Students  

Tracy L. Cross and Jennifer Riedl Cross

Giftedness, the ability or potential to achieve at an exceptional (i.e., superior) level, is a social construction. The concept has undergone many shifts over the years, in response to societal values and trends. Educational researchers should know about the varied conceptions of giftedness, the definitions that have been used to identify students, and the implications of these for providing an appropriate and equitable education. The predominant conceptualization of giftedness has long been through an IQ-based model, initiated by the early work of Terman and Hollingworth, whose research focused on students who achieved the highest scores on standardized IQ tests. As more comprehensive models that include more relevant factors, in particular, intrapersonal and environment variables, have emerged, educational practice has been slow to respond. The problem of underrepresentation of students from diverse populations (e.g., African American, low-income, etc.) in gifted education services stems from the adoption of conceptions of giftedness that identify well-resourced and demographically advantaged students. Newer conceptions of giftedness acknowledge the developmental nature of giftedness. The talent development paradigm assumes that giftedness manifests as potential in young students and achievement in older students. Taking this approach requires schools to offer ample opportunity for exploration to students, who can show their potential and interest when exposed to various talent domains. Opportunities to practice and hone the skills of a domain are necessary for achievement to be expressed. One talent development model proposes that the objective of gifted education should be to produce eminence among those who participate. The challenge to schools is to create a versatile and effective conception of giftedness that can provide the services and opportunities that make it possible for all students to reach their potential, including those who can achieve at the highest level. The conception of giftedness that is adopted will determine how effectively they will meet this challenge.

Article

Gifted Girls and Women  

Barbara A. Kerr and Robyn N. Malmsten

There are many special characteristics and needs of gifted girls and women throughout the lifespan. As young girls, gifted girls can often be identified by early language development and precocious reading, and often need early admission to schooling, the opportunity for alone time, and encouragement and specialized training in the domains of their greatest interest. Adolescent gifted girls are often bored in school, conflicted about relationships and achievement, and eager for mentoring; they may need to advance through high school and early entry to college course-taking as well as strong relationships with master teachers and mentors. Gifted teens also need clear information about sexuality and sexual identity, particularly about the association of early sexual activity with lower achievement. Gifted women struggle throughout the world with gender relations, that is, the requirements by most societies that they bear an unequal share of the work of marriage and family life. How gifted women negotiate the dual demands of their societies often determines whether or not they will achieve eminence in their fields. Long-standing controversies concerning sex differences, women’s education, and definitions of eminence continue to have an impact on the educational and career development of gifted girls and women. Moderate sex differences favoring boys and men in sub-factors of cognitive abilities, like spatial-rotation abilities, continue to be highly publicized and are often interpreted to mean that gifted girls and women are less able than men to achieve in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Differences in adult gifted women’s and men’s STEM achievement are also attributed to preferences, when research shows that the most important variable associated with highest achievements are responsibilities in marriage and child-rearing, or gender relations. Controversies over single-sex education continue, with research both supporting and disputing the superiority of single-sex education for women; it may be that gifted women benefit more that average women from this kind of higher education. Whether single-sex or co-educational, the presence of a mentor may be most important to gifted women’s academic and career development. Finally, the concepts of eminence and genius are increasingly under scrutiny by scholars who claim they are highly gendered, with genius nearly always being associated with male dominated professions. Each of these controversies can affect gifted girls’ self-confidence, engagement, and persistence.

Article

Students with Special Needs Who Are Gifted and Talented (Twice Exceptional)  

Nina Yssel, Kristie Speirs Neumeister, and Virginia Burney

Twice-exceptional (2e) students demonstrate both high ability and a disability. With their unique combination of advanced abilities and academic challenges, 2e learners do not fit neatly into a single category and often tend to get lost in the system. In spite of the fact that 2e students have been estimated to make up 2–9% of students with disabilities, they often remain unidentified due to the masking effect, in which one exceptionality masks the other, as well as their remarkable ability to compensate for areas of weakness. Once identified, programming presents challenges; for example, remediation may become the focus and the learner’s strengths ignored. In addition to providing enrichment and remediation, teachers have to consider the social-emotional needs of 2e students and how they learn. Problems with time management, organizational, and study skills not only result in frustration for students, parents, and teachers but also have a direct effect on 2e students’ academic performance. These students are characterized by a pattern of strengths and weaknesses, and programming should include support in their areas of need and validation of their strengths. When both exceptionalities are addressed successfully, 2e learners can reach their full potential.

Article

Differentiated Instruction and Inclusive Schooling  

Diana Lawrence-Brown

Differentiated instruction encompasses a wide range of responsive pedagogies, including individualized types and levels of curricula, teaching methods, materials, and assessment strategies. It has at its roots the impetus for effective inclusive schooling, providing supports directly within general education classrooms for students with the full range of exceptionalities (both significant disabilities and giftedness) and other diverse educational characteristics such as cultural and linguistic background and socioeconomic status. To effectively include students with higher levels of need, comparable levels of supports follow the student from the special education setting to the general education classroom. This enriched level of support in the general education classroom benefits not only students with disabilities, but the class as a whole. The legal and ethical bases for inclusive schooling are connected with various civil rights movements (including race, disability, culture and language, gender); it can be viewed as a response to segregated schooling (and denial of schooling altogether). Schools frequently remove students when traditional educational programs fail, adding on separate programs rather than rectifying the existing system. Such special programs have been routinely promulgated without substantial evidence of their effectiveness over supportive general education classrooms (either for segregated students or for their unlabeled general education peers). Important aspects of differentiated instruction and inclusive schooling include multilevel instruction; authentic and culturally responsive curricula, methods, and assessment; universal design for learning; assistive and instructional technologies; positive behavioral supports; and a collaborative team approach to instructional decision-making and delivery. Differentiated instruction and effective inclusive schooling are vital for equitable access to educational opportunities, bringing more responsive curricula, methods, and perspectives to increasingly diverse classrooms and schools.