Able, gifted and talented children – what are they?
Before I go on I just want to get my thoughts down on what I class as able, gifted and talented students and why. I feel that once I’ve established what sort of gifts and talents I am looking for under this umbrella term then the process of identifying children’s gifts and talents and knowing what to do next to move them on will be a lot easier.
There are many hundreds of different ways to decide who are the able, gifted and talented children within a class or school. Your view may be narrow, i.e. only those children who score very highly on summative tests are AG&T; or your view may be much broader, including children with gifts and talents in different areas, academic or otherwise. Obviously, the view one has of what and who classes as AG&T will contributes to how one provides for the children within a setting.
I know that at my school we, as for everything else, have a policy for able, gifted and talented provision. I can’t say that I’ve read it recently (ever) or that I imagine anyone else who works in my school has either. I know I am developing my own philosophy about the teaching and learning of AG&T children. I believe that some children find learning easier than others across the board, and some children find just one specific area of learning easier than others. Children can be gifted/talented in different ways; if they all had the same gift or talent we wouldn’t class it as such. And this leads me on to thinking about intelligence and whether the commonly held view of it is entirely accurate or helpful when thinking about these children. So:
Intelligence – what is it?
The Oxford English Dictionary states intelligence to be (for the meaning required here):
1 the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/intelligence?view=uk
It does not have a context of the knowledge and skills that are acquired or applied. It is quite a broad statement really, perhaps too broad to be much help. However, such a definition is usually interpreted and applied in an academic sense, i.e. you are intelligent if you are good acquiring and applying knowledge and skills in subjects such as maths and science, or the more knowledge you have, the more intelligent you are. This is the view that most of us most commonly come across when thinking about intelligence and is perhaps a view we hold ourselves. I admit that up until I started teaching a couple of years ago that I had views along those lines. But teaching has led me to the question:
Is there a more helpful view to intelligence than that?
We’ve most probably all heard of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences* (Gardner, Howard. (1983) “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.”) which states that there are eight (originally seven) different types of intelligence:
Taking this view of intelligence we have increased the scope to encompass many more areas and subjects and suggest that people can be intelligent at things like sport and music, without necessarily being so strong in other areas. Indeed, I have some children in my class who, in the traditional sense of the word intelligence, or the logical and linguistic view put forward by Gardner, are not classed as intelligent (they struggle with basic maths and English) but in the kinaesthetic line of intelligence they greatly outstrip everyone else as they are absolute whizzes at, say, football.
Reading a book the other day has allowed me to take these multiple intelligences one stage further. Mike Fleetham, in his book ‘Including Gifted, Able and Talented children in the Primary Classroom’ (2008), breaks things down into twenty-five gifts and talents:
· Sports Person
· All round learner
· Problem solver
· Team Player
· Risk taker
I’ve no doubt that if I tried these will probably fit quite easily into Gardner’s eight themes of intelligence and we could imagine some sort of pyramid-type web forming. Also, with twenty five different types of gift and talent we now have quite a lot to look out for! This definitely gives more clearly focussed methods of identifying gifts and talents although it seems like a lot if we are trying to provide for all these different types of children too.
Is intelligence fixed?
There is, and always will be, much debate about the origins of intelligence and whether it is fixed or malleable. I believe some of it is genetic, but much is also down to environment, events that happen to you and the attitudes you experience from those around you towards intelligence. My opinion is that intelligence is not fixed, everyone can increase their intelligence in whatever area they choose with hard work and determination; whether they decide that they want to is often another matter!
And to finish, something to ponder:
As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists.
Albert Einstein 1879-1955: letter to Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, 19 September 1932
* I’m not saying this is the only view of intelligence but it’s one that makes it easier to think about the context for learning and the way we teach, and also leads nicely on to the section on Mike Fleetham’s ideas. If you want to find out about lots of other theories there’s loads more on intelligence here: