Having high abilities is not what it seems


There is a large research community in Europe, and particularly in the US and English-speaking countries, on the education of the most capable. There are scientific societies of enormous relevance and there are thousands of books and research articles published to date .

However, all this wealth of research and knowledge does not seem to have penetrated either the practice or the legislation on the educational system as would be expected. I will briefly refer to a crucial aspect in order to develop talent (consequent on the application of the ability to a given field): the concept .

The conceptual problem is very serious, not only in the popular imagination of many teachers, counselors or directors of educational centers, but also in the legislative framework, which has undesirable consequences for both identification and intervention – and let us remember the phrase of that “talent that is not cultivated is lost” -.

Terms such as gifted , which means “gifted”, should not be equated and equivalent to gifted (its correlate in English would be supergifted , which does not exist), because this usually involves a tagging process that is linked, very often, to obtaining an intellectual quotient (IQ) value, generally 130, as if that value were a kind of boiling point or sublimation through which one passes from “not being” to “being”, which implies considering giftedness as a trait or attribute.

The “gold chromosome”

The central problem here is that the label is made equivalent to a “state of being”, or a trait or “gold chromosome”, so that some people have it and others do not. In this way, being gifted becomes a dichotomous variable, whose categories are arbitrarily established from a cut-off point.

Nothing is further from reality and common sense. Anyone can understand that capacity is a variable, in a way, continuous, like height or weight (saving the complications of measuring one or the other). Anyone also understands that it is arbitrary to dichotomize people into highs and not highs based on a certain arbitrarily established measure. Even more so to equal a certain height to the fact of playing basketball well.

The term is not suitable

There are several reasons why talking about gifted (or gifted) is inappropriate, despite the fact that much legislation insists on it in an insistent way. It has already been said that it is not a natural attribute or condition that some have and others do not. For this reason, it cannot be reflected exclusively in an IQ score, and, although this may have some usefulness, it is of little or no value in organizing the educational intervention.

All current models emphasize the importance of development throughout a person’s life, establishing the impact of the environment on said development as essential. In this sense, it can be said that we are all in the process of being, we are not.

Seen in this way, ability becomes the raw material for talent. It indicates the eventual potential to be developed by the person, when these capacities are applied to any relevant field of human activity. Something that does not happen spontaneously.

Therefore, it seems sensible to understand that this conceptualization has to put in the foreground the need to identify the diverse potentials of people to help them turn them into talents or developed skills, into performance.

Furthermore, as Pfeiffer points out , the term gifted (and its noun, giftedness ) is a social construct, a name we use to refer to a heterogeneous group of people who are characterized by having a high capacity, high performance or potential surrender.

The most precise definition

But is it possible to define them? Yes, and several authors have offered definitions . Perhaps one of the most authoritative is that of the National Association for Gifted Children , which says:

“Gifted and talented students perform, or have the ability to perform, at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and background, in one or more domains. They require modifications in their educational experiences to learn and realize their potential. The gifted and talented student comes from all racial, ethnic, and cultural populations, as well as all economic strata. Requires sufficient access to appropriate learning opportunities to realize its potential. You may have learning and processing disorders that require specialized and appropriate intervention. You need support and guidance to develop socially and emotionally, as well as in your talent areas. It requires varied services based on its changing needs ”.

It is important to bear in mind that not only cognitive variables are relevant. In addition to general intellectual capacity, specific abilities and a number of non-intellectual factors are instrumental in shaping a successful trajectory for the most capable young people.

Thus, based on this or other similar definitions, it is possible to define them and even operationalize detection and evaluation processes that allow early identification of their educational needs and address them adequately in the classroom, an aspect that is far from happening in our educational system. .

We should not lose sight of the fact that all talent that is not cultivated is lost and this has serious consequences for personal and social development.

Author Bio: Javier Tourón is Vice-Rector for Innovation and Educational Development (expert in High capacities and talent development; educational technology) at UNIR – International University of La Rioja