How to Identify Gifted Students

Gifted students can struggle with boredom and a lack of motivation when placed in a normal classroom. Sometimes the typical lesson plans and worksheets are not enough of a challenge for them. They often need more challenges than other students to thrive as students. How can teachers identify those students who are gifted? There are three main characteristics that often separate gifted students from the average student - time taken to complete tasks, understanding of subject matter, and personal interests.

The first characteristic of gifted students, how quickly they complete work, is usually the most readily noticeable quality, although simply completing work more quickly does not qualify a student as being gifted. If the work is poor, it may simply be that the student is not concerned about his or her grades and chooses to turn something in quickly in order to be finished. However, if the student finishes work more quickly than other students in the class while still producing high-quality results, this is a telltale sign that this student is farther advanced than his or her peers.

The second characteristic of gifted students, their understanding of the subject, can be a bit more difficult to identify. While teachers may often have a "feel" for these students or think they know who they are, a few methods can help make their identification process more scientific. One way is to begin keeping notes when students exhibit a deeper knowledge of a subject, either through answers on a worksheet or test or through answering questions in class. Another way is to give students an assignment that requires them to use higher-order thinking about a subject. Students who are able to do so could be gifted.

The final characteristic of gifted students is their level and types of interests. Gifted students will often exhibit a higher level of interest about a subject and are willing to ask more and better questions. They are also typically more interested in educational matters than their peers. This can be measured at least partially by noting the number of times a student asks questions in class. While simply asking questions may not be enough to identify a student as gifted, this can add to the body of evidence.

There are plenty of teacher resources that can help determine if a student is gifted. Often, schools will have some type of "gifted and talented" department that has tests that can be taken to help determine giftedness. These are no substitute, however, for teacher observation, as some students may be gifted but weak in the area of standardized testing. It is often a good idea to have gathered the other evidence of a student's giftedness before having them take any kind of tests, because failing such a test can harm a student's self-concept.

All of these pieces of evidence - speed of work completion, understanding of subject matter, types of interests, and standardized scores - can help determine if a student is gifted. Teachers should be aware of these factors and try to observe them, as identifying a gifted student can help that student find the resources they need to grow at a level equal to their aptitude.

More Information on Gifted Youth Identification

  1. The gifted and the extraordinary
  2. Howard Gardner's Seven Types of Intelligence
  3. Misdiagnosis of the Gifted