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Factors in the Development of Gifted Students

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn about the factors that affect the development of gifted students, as well as how stakeholders can support gifted learners.

Gifted Students

Gifted children are as unique and diverse as the proverbial snowflake. While two gifted children may have similar abilities, the development of those abilities may vary widely due to the variety of factors that shape each child. Some factors may have a positive impact, while others may stifle a student from reaching his or her full potential. Because these factors are beyond a student's control, it's important that you, as a gifted educator, support your students' growth.

Let's look at the factors that may be at play with your gifted students.

Social and Personal Factors

Social factors stem from a student's society, while personal factors are directly related to the student. However, these components may overlap.

Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic status, the level of household income, can have a distinct effect on student development. Students from homes with a higher income level are much more likely to be identified as gifted than children who live beneath the poverty level. Children whose parents have more disposable income are also more likely to be exposed to enrichment experiences. Stakeholders can counteract this discrepancy by striving to make sure that economically disadvantaged children are not overlooked in the identification process and by working to expose them to a wide array of enrichment experiences.

Race and Ethnicity

A student's race or ethnicity, which includes biological ancestry or area of origin, likewise has a significant impact. Unfortunately, minority students have a greater chance of being overlooked during the identification process, thus missing out on instruction helpful to the development of their abilities. With increased awareness of this disparity, some states have implemented programs that focus specifically on disadvantaged or minority students. As a stakeholder, you should be aware of the deficit in identification, so that when you're involved in the identification process, you can recommend students without bias.

Gender

Gender, the social or cultural concept of identifying as male or female, also plays a role in a gifted student's development. Girls, who are influenced to conform from an early age, are at risk of underachieving even if they're identified as gifted. In particular, gifted girls may be discouraged from excelling in math or the sciences, while gifted boys are often directed to these academic areas. As current research highlights this issue, many schools have worked to counter it by promoting early identification of math talent in girls and encouraging them through immersive activities in math and science.

Peer Relationships

Peer relationships, the interactions gifted students have with other students, can both negatively and positively impact their development. When students are placed in classes with those of similar academic ability, they're motivated by the environment to learn at a pace equal to their abilities and find peers with similar interests. In these homogeneous classes, gifted students demonstrate greater learning. A negative impact arises when these classrooms have an element of competition, which is threatening and decreases motivation. Outside of the classroom, if students have friends or peers who discourage ''looking smart,'' gifted students may not develop to their full potential.

Coexisting Condition

Finally, a coexisting condition or exceptionality, a health or learning issue that exists along with giftedness, affects development. Perhaps a student diagnosed with nonverbal autism also shows signs of giftedness. Because of the effects of the severe autism, the giftedness may not be adequately nurtured. In another instance, a gifted student may have a specific learning disability. Again, the disability can interfere with the child learning at his or her level of potential. Teachers and parents are encouraged to advocate for twice-exceptional gifted students, so their academic potential is nurtured.

Home Factors

Home factors are circumstances related to a student's living environment. A family's physical address may enhance or limit a child's access to gifted services or appropriate instruction as school attendance is often tied to a neighborhood. Students residing in lower-income areas often attend schools with a higher percentage of at-risk students, and too often, gifted services are limited, especially if the state is one that doesn't mandate funding for gifted education.

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