Gifted Students: Who Are They and What Does It Mean?

It’s the beginning of the school year. Soon, many parents might be told that their child is “gifted.” Some may know what that means, others may think they know, and a few might have no idea at all.

Educator and author Joseph Renzulli considers three factors important for the development of gifted behavior: a student has an above average ability, possesses creativity, and is committed to working through and completing tasks.

CharacteristicsWithin the above average abilities, Renzulli makes a distinction between general abilities (like processing information, integrating experiences, and abstract thinking) and specific abilities (like the capacity to acquire knowledge or perform an activity).

By creativity, Renzulli understands the fluency, flexibility, and originality of thought, as well as an openness to experience, sensitivity to stimulations, and a willingness to take risks.

He understands task commitment as motivation turned into action (like perseverance, endurance, and hard work, but also self-confidence, perceptiveness, and a special fascination with a specific subject). Renzulli argues that without task commitment, high achievement is simply not possible.

Only when characteristics from all three rings work together can high achievement or gifted behavior be possible.

Students who are enrichable might exhibit intense interest in just one topic or subject for a period of time. As those interests expand, students may be considered advanced learners who have more of the above characteristics and may have more than one area of strength.

Students may also move back and forth between these categories, and care must be taken not to miss students who come in bored with conventional academics (and therefore having unimpressive achievement metrics), but are still enrichable or advanced learners.

No single method of screening should be used to identify advanced learners, and identification is a repeating process, not a lifetime passport. And, as one mom points out, there are many misconceptions about the gifted learner, including:

  • being labeled as gifted is desirable, an honour, prestigious;
  • gifted means special;
  • gifted learners are all high achievers/performers;
  • learning is easy for these kids;
  • gifted learners are smart in every way, good at everything;
  • the worst that happens to gifted learners is that they’re bored in school;
  • all that gifted learners need is more (of the same kind of work);
  • gifted learners will be “fine” even with no supports.

Many of these misconceptions are why some parents have found obtaining a quality education that meets their gifted students needs very challenging. But many have also found online school offers the challenge and support they need to address the various characteristics of a gifted child. Online learning provider K12 employs an individualized approach that allows programs tailored to each student and offers specific programs for gifted students. For more information about K12 and its online learning programs, please visit

Image Credit – John Morgan / CC by 2.0


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