As mentioned, objective tests should not be the only method of assessment used in identifying gifted and talented students. A more subjective approach can often be just as beneficial, if not more so, in recognizing giftedness. Such a subjective assessment can be formally conducted by a school psychologist or otherwise appointed individual. However, as a teacher, you may be the first one to informally recognize the traits or characteristics of a gifted and talented student. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how giftedness may manifest.

There are three ways giftedness may be expressed:

  1. Talent
  2. Performance
  3. Comparative (Loveless, 2020).


Gifted and talented students may possess a range of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive characteristics which differ from their same-aged peers. They may also show differences in their learning abilities and language development. Below you can find lists of the characteristics and abilities which can be helpful in identifying gifted and talented students in your own classroom. These lists were formed as a summary of characteristics and abilities from various sources (e.g. Australian State Government of Victoria, 2018; Cicerchia & Freeman, 2020; Loveless, 2020, Palmer, 2011).

Emotions and Behaviours you may observe

  • Strong feelings and opinions
  • Understanding of their own learning process, preferred ways of learning
  • Strong sense of justice
  • Perfectionistic
  • Independent with a need for autonomy and alone time
  • Over-excitable, sensitive, and emotionally tense
  • High activity level
  • May be a leader or find it difficult to interact socially

Learning  behaviours you may observe:

  • Innately curious; asks detailed questions, often beyond the scope of a lesson
  • Deep and wide interests and knowledge
  • Takes their own approach to assignments
  • May have a desire to focus on only one aspect of the topic or perceived lack of challenge in the task
  • Prefer to work alone and can easily get lost in their thoughts
  • Generates original ideas and brings together ideas from different areas
  • Strong imagination
  • Cognitively advanced, good memory and able to self-teach new skills
  • Quick in understanding and may need less instruction in new activities.
  • Acute concentration skills (can become hyper-focused on a task).
  • May appear unfocused when doing something they perceive as not challenging or boring.
  • Early development of motor skills involving balance, coordination, and movement

Language Development

  • Early development of language
  • May teach themselves to read and write before school
  • Early use of longer, complex sentences with appropriate grammar
  • Large vocabulary (including abstract and figurative language) and prefer adult conversation.
  • Heightened sensitivity to syntax and ability to guess at meaning of new words in context
  • Tendency to speak quickly, often due to quick levels of thinking
  • Always asking questions about the world around them with a desire to receive thorough responses and explanations
  • Ability to understand and carry out multi-step directions at an early age
  • Ability to change the language they use when speaking to different audiences (formal, informal)

Traits with a Possible Negative Impact

Unfortunately, not all traits of giftedness are exhibited positively. Several of the following traits may also cause difficulty for a child:

  • Tension, anxiety
  • Emotional extremes and over-excitability
  • Being too hard on themselves and feeling inadequate
  • Insistence on doing things in theirr own way
  • poor organizational skills(Shenfield, 2019).

When using these lists to identify gifted and talented students in your classroom, it is important to remember that not all gifted students exhibit all of the traits listed above or are gifted in all areas. Some gifted students may only show a few of the traits or may even show the opposite (Palmer, 2011). Gifted children can also be gifted in one area and average in others (Palmer, 2011). They may also stand out because of poor academic achievement caused by a learning disability that may overshadow giftedness such as ADD, ADHD, or Dyslexia (Cicerchia & Freeman, 2020). Some gifted students may show many of the traits, but not appear gifted from the test results due to test anxiety or another disability (Palmer, 2011). Perfectionists may respond slower than others due to working carefully and methodically (Palmer, 2011). High energy gifted students may have a hard time focusing attention of highly structured tasks such as the IQ tests, and therefore may be at a disadvantage (Palmer, 2011). As an educator, it is essential to keep these points in mind when assessing students for giftedness and to use multiple forms (objective and subjective) of assessment to ensure a fair evaluation.




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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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