What is a ‘gifted’ student?
Gifted students, excel in, or are capable of excelling in one or more areas. These areas may be academic studies, visual and performing arts, physical abilities, creative thinking, interpersonal or intrapersonal skills, and general intelligence.
Generally speaking, gifted students test to be approximately two years above their grade level.
Struggles of a gifted student
Oftentimes, these students can fall under the radar in a classroom due to being ‘underachieving’. There are many reasons that a gifted student can underachieve. Among these are diagnosed and undiagnosed learning needs but quite often gifted students underachieve in class due to perfectionism or boredom.
Many people have perfectionist tendencies, some of these are even healthy and motivating as they encourage us to keep improving and achieving. Some people, however, have more debilitating perfectionism which prevents them from taking risks or taking on tasks that challenge them as they are afraid of failing. Students with extreme perfectionism can sometimes get emotional when feeling challenged. They may also refuse to do the work as they believe that not trying is better than trying and failing. It is important in these instances to acknowledge and empathise with any feelings of frustration or anxiety these students may be feeling. It is also important to role model making mistakes or even celebrate mistakes. For example, you could have a ‘mistake of the week’ award for the student who learnt or grew the most out of a mistake they made. This encourages failure as part of the learning process.
Often, gifted students are so far beyond their peers that they become disengaged and unmotivated. These students often become disruptive in a classroom setting and their behavior becomes difficult to manage. A way that teachers can combat this is to differentiate the curriculum and offer these students tasks that are at their level. This may mean giving students a completely different task that involves higher-order thinking skills, or it may involve extension tasks. It is a common misconception that asking students to peer tutor is beneficial to gifted students as it helps them consolidate their learning. The fact is, while this may help the students who are struggling, it has little to no positive impact on the gifted student.