Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Self-Perceptions of Gifted Students

Academic potential, creativity and specific areas of strength generally characterize gifted abilities. However, those areas of excelling outside of the academic arena are also part of gifted traits. A paper by Lister and Roberts (2011), discusses the self-concept of giftedness and how this often lacks a proper perspective of physical abilities and attractiveness. Their meta-analysis includes 40 studies  conducted between 1978 and 2004 to come to their conclusions on how gifted individuals view themselves.

Self-concepts are an important aspect of performance. Self-conception can be defined as “the image we hold of ourselves (Hoge and Renzulli, 1993) while self-conception refers to, “our attitudes, feelings and knowledge about our abilities, skills, appearance, and social acceptability” (Byrne, 1984, p. 429). Self-concept and self-conception develop over a person’s lifetime based upon the cues from the environment, others, and themselves.  It is a process of comparing oneself to others and coming to conclusions.

Most research on giftedness has focused exclusively on intelligence. One of the reasons is that having giftedness if often defined as the top 1% of intellectual ability measured on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (Terman, 1926).  Despite this narrow definition, the general definition that has gained popularity which includes IQ, artistic abilities, athletic skill, or leadership. Defining it as intellectual ability, creativity and task commitment incorporates more traits than intelligence alone (Renzulli, 1978).

Having high ability changes one’s perception of self. Being more intelligent or having skill in certain areas does not always bring benefits. At times, it can bring difficulties dealing with others who lack the same level of understanding or those who desire to show their own worth at the expense of others. As comparison is a natural occurrence, the gifted often get the bulk of the comparison comments or actions.

The researchers found that gifted students perceive their abilities as higher than non-gifted peers do. This growth in perception rises throughout one’s life as they learn about themselves and others. They also rated higher in intelligence, behavioral, and global perceptions. They ranked themselves lower on physical appearance and athletic abilities. The authors contend that the ratings are based within those activities the gifted student engages and how they compared their abilities to others. As they master certain fields, their rating and self-concept go up but believe they suffer in physical prowess even though this is also a gifted trait not often recognized by others.

Byrne, B. M. (1984) ‘The general/academic self-concept nomological network: a review of construct validation research.’ Review of Educational Research, 54, pp. 427–56.

Hoge, R. D. & Renzulli, J. S. (1993) ‘Exploring the link between giftedness and self-concept.’ Review of Educational Research, 63, pp. 449–65.

Lister, K. & Roberts. J. (2011) The self-concepts and perceived competencies of gifted and non-gifted students: a meta-analysis. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs , 11 (2).  

Renzulli, J. S. (1978) ‘What makes giftedness? Reexamining a definition.’  Phi Delta Kappan, 60, pp. 180–4.

Terman, L. (1926) Genius Studies of Genius: Mental and Physical Traits of a Thousand Gifted Children. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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