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Definition and Characteristics of Giftedness

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Definition

Gifted students are defined in Section 162.675, RSMO, as those students who exhibit precocious development of mental capacity and learning potential as determined by competent professional evaluation to the extent that continued educational growth and stimulation could best be served by an academic environment beyond that offered through a standard grade level curriculum.

Giftedness is a “cultural” definition. Each society defines “giftedness” to suit their own needs. In early cultures, the talents of the hunter, the warior, or the healer were important to the survival and progress of early civilizations. In ancient Greece, the orator and artist were honored. In the ancient Roman cultures, characteristics shown in the most talented soldier or leader were considered gifts.

How is “giftedness” defined in the 21st century? Why should society care about the future of gifted children? The answer to these questions have far reaching implications. How these children manage in our society and in our educational system will strongly influence the quality of our future as a society.


Characteristics of Giftedness

Today’s society has a more complex view of gifts and talent. Those who demonstrate strengths in intellectual ability, academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability, psychomotor skills or artistic talent are viewed as “gifted”. These key leaders, creators, and problem solvers of our time earn recognition through the productive use of their “gifts” toward the good of our society. We must nurture those talents.

Gifted behavior consists of behaviors that reflect an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits above average ability, high levels of task commitment, and high levels of creativity. Students demonstrating gifted behaviors are those possessing or capable of developing this composite set of traits and applying them to any potentially valuable area of human performance.                – Adapted from Joseph Renzulli’s definition.

The following list of characteristics is the result of both experience and research in the area of gifted education.

Gifted children may exhibit many, but not necessarily all, of these characteristics:
  • Has outstanding memory; possesses a broader base of knowledge than peers
  • May be an early reader
  • Has advance vocabulary for chronological age
  • Learns rapidly, easily and efficiently
  • Enjoys learning
  • Thrives on complexity
  • Has the ability to concentrate for long periods of time
  • May be impatient and intolerant
  • Self-initiates learning
  • Asks thoughtful or penetrating questions
  • Is curious about about many and different things
  • Has diverse interests
  • Is intense; gets totally absorbed in activities and thoughts
  • Is comfortable with abstract thinking
  • Is an analytical thinker; perceives subtle cause-effect relationships
  • May be able to attend to two or more things simultaneously
  • Is able to elaborate on ideas
  • Has strong feelings and opinions; advance sense of justice and fairplay
  • Cares about ethical or humanitarian issues at an early age
  • Set high standards for him/herself as well as others
  • Is persistent and highly motivated
  • Has a sophisticated sense of humor; loves to play with words
  • Transfers concepts and learning to new situations
  • Sees connections between apparently unconnected activities and ideas
  • May prefer the company of older children or adults
  • Works well independently
  • Exhibits leadership ability in peer group
  • Displays original ideas; flexibility in problem solving situations
  • Sees endless possibilities for various situations or uses for objects
  • Is passionately interested in some topic of field of endeavor