Introduction

Gifted and talented students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning opportunities drawn from the Australian Curriculum and aligned with their individual learning needs, strengths, interests and goals. ACARA acknowledges that there are numerous models of curriculum adjustment relating to gifted and talented students, although these are not referenced in detail in this advice. The purpose of this advice is to focus on how teachers use the flexible design of the Australian Curriculum to meet the individual learning needs of gifted and talented students and make necessary adjustments to meet their individual learning needs. This section builds on the general Student diversity advice.

Gifted and talented students vary in terms of the nature and level of their abilities; there is no single homogeneous group of gifted and talented students. Gifted and talented students:

  • vary in abilities and aptitudes — they may demonstrate gifts and talents in a single area or across a variety of domains; they may also have a disability
  • vary in their level of giftedness — this means that two students who have gifts in the same field will not necessarily have the same abilities in that field
  • vary in achievement — while having gifts is often associated with high achievement, achievement can and does vary across high-potential students and over time, and some gifted students underachieve and experience difficulty translating their gifts into talents
  • are not always visible and easy to identify, and their visibility can be impacted by cultural and linguistic background, gender, language and learning difficulties, socio-economic circumstance, location, and lack of engagement in curriculum that is not matched to their abilities
  • exhibit an almost unlimited range of personal characteristics in temperament, personality, motivation and behaviour — no standard pattern of talent exists among gifted individuals
  • come from diverse backgrounds and are found in all cultures, socio-economic levels and geographic locations.

Gagné’s model

Although a number of different definitions have been proposed over the years, there is no universally accepted definition of students who would be identified as having particular gifts or talents. However, a shared understanding of giftedness is important in order to address their needs. In Australia today, Gagné’s model provides the most generally accepted definition of both giftedness and talent.

Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (2008) provides research-based definitions of giftedness and talent that are directly and logically connected to teaching and learning. According to Gagné, gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability:

  • intellectual
  • creative
  • social
  • physical.

Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance. Talent emerges from giftedness through a complex developmental process and via a number of influences, including the teaching and learning opportunities. Gagné’s model recognises that giftedness is a broad concept that encompasses a range of abilities; it also recognises that giftedness is only potential and that it must go through a transformative process in order to become a talent. As such, Gagné makes it clear that adequate school support is necessary if students are to develop their gifts or high abilities into talents or high achievements.

Other models of giftedness

There are a number of other models of giftedness, one of which is the Sea Star Model developed by Dr Abraham Tannenbaum. According to Tannenbaum (2003), giftedness in a child is their potential to become an adult with a developed talent. Tannenbaum asserts that there are two types of gifted people: producers, who produce either things or ideas; and performers, who interpret or re-create these things or ideas. According to Tannenbaum, these two kinds of gifted people demonstrate their talent either creatively by adding something new or original, or proficiently by having high levels of skill. Like Gagné’s model, Tannenbaum’s model attempts to explore the process by which ability becomes actual achievement. He identifies five factors that influence this conversion:

  • superior general intellect
  • distinctive special aptitudes
  • a supportive array of non-intellective traits such as personality, self-concept or motivation
  • a challenging and facilitative environment
  • chance.

Tannenbaum argues that all need to be present for gifted potential to be reflected in talent.

According to Renzulli’s Three-Ring Model (1978), giftedness results from a dynamic interaction between three basic clusters of human traits:

  • above-average general ability
  • high levels of creativity
  • high levels of task commitment.

His model goes on to argue that the ‘gifted’ are those who possess or are capable of developing this composite set of traits and applying them to any potentially valuable area of human performance. Renzulli’s model draws attention to the developmental nature of behaviours such as creativity and task commitment, and like Gagné’s and Tannenbaum’s models it recognises that a range of factors must be in place in order for students with natural abilities to develop their gifts into talents.

As can be seen, while each approach has its own distinct definitions of giftedness and/or talent, they all recognise that giftedness is a broad concept that covers a range of abilities. They also recognise that ability or giftedness needs to undergo some transformational process if it is to be reflected in high levels of achievement or talent, and that while there are a number of factors that influence the conversion of gifts into talents, the school plays a critical role in giving students appropriate opportunity, stimulation and experiences in order to develop their potential and translate their gifts into talents.