Highly Gifted Students: Annotated Bibliography

Cole Shanholtz


This article reports the study of 65 matched pairs of moderately gifted students and highly gifted students. Specifically, the highly gifted students in this study had an I.Q. of 148 and above, and the moderately gifted students had an I.Q. ranging from 120-134. Standardized tests, personality testing, school records, socioeconomic levels, and home information were obtained as evidence. In addition to this evidence, structured interviewed and creativity testing were used to better understand the children’s self-concept. The study focuses on analyzing differences in development, adjustment, physical development, and family background. The research concluded that the highly gifted group did come from more affluent backgrounds, had more highly educated parents, and rated higher on creativity measures. Both were well adjusted, and no significant differences in physical development were noted. Only 20% of the 130 parents listed behavior irregularities, and consisted of slightly more parents of highly gifted children. Parents of boys listed more issues with behavior than parents of girls. In the self-concept study in this research, children were asked what their three wishes were. One difference in response was that the moderately gifted group answered more “outer-directed” than the highly gifted group, who exhibited more “self aggrandizement.”. Twice as many of the highly gifted parents stated that their children preferred adult companions than parents of moderately gifted students. Barbe makes it clear that little is known about highly gifted students because of the lack of testing that exist to quantify their intelligence. Three recommendations are made at the end of the study: 1. Establish a State Registry of Highly Gifted Children 2. Promotion of summer workshops for teachers to educate them on how to identify highly gifted students and meet their needs 3. Extra funds must be allocated to providing opportunities for highly gifted students.

Berlin, J. (2009). It's All a Matter of Perspective: Student Perceptions on the Impact of Being Labeled Gifted and Talented. Roeper Review, 31(4), 217-223.

The purpose of this study is to document the attitudes of gifted adolescents towards being gifted and how they perceive other’s view of their giftedness. In addition, differences between moderately gifted and highly gifted students were noted. “For the survey, participants were given two separate lists of attributes, one containing 14 positive attributes and one containing 14 negative attributes. Students were asked to rank the items in each list from 1 to14, assigning 1 to the least positive/negative and 14 to the most positive/negative. Results for each item were separated by subject group, totaled, and averaged. The five highest ranked averages for each group were identified”. The positive perceptions were greater opportunities, enjoying class, better teachers, exposure to different curriculums, and special experiences. One major difference between highly gifted students and moderately gifted students was that the moderate group included parent perception. They valued parent approval as where highly gifted students did not list it as a positive attribute. Some negative attributes were more schoolwork, pressure from parents, internal pressure, teacher assumptions of giftedness, and higher expectation of people other than parents and family. The conclusions of the study stated that teachers need more training/staff development to avoid stereotyping and making assumptions about gifted students. Gifted students are very aware of the stereotyping that occurs in the classroom and the majority stated that it affects their educational experience.

Christopher, M. (2010). The relationship of perfectionism to affective variables in gifted and highly able children, Gifted Child Today, 33 (3), 20-30.

Much research states that gifted students are very well adjusted. This article discusses how perfectionism can cause much frustration in gifted students. “Research relating the constructs of perfectionism to gifted individuals supports three conclusions: (a) perfectionism may result in pathological problems; (b) perfectionism in gifted individuals may contribute to high achievement; and (c) attributions of perfectionism fall along a range of continuums”. Even though there are some positive attributes of being a perfectionist, when one is overly critical of oneself this can cause depressive disorders. One aspect of perfectionism that is negative is when one obsesses over other’s perception of their achievements. Many believe that it takes a healthy amount of perfectionism to drive someone to make great achievements, but there is an excessive limit that can have negative effects. One of the suggestions made in this article was that parents and educators provide gifted students with realistic expectations while simultaneously offering consistent challenges in the classroom.

Garland, A. F., & Zigler, E. (1999). Emotional and Behavioral Problems among Highly Intellectually Gifted Youth. Roeper Review, 22(1), 41-44.

This article deals with the popular and controversial topic in gifted education: psychosocial adjustment. 191 gifted students between the ages of 13-15 years were examined using a standardized scale for emotional and behavioral problems. A Child Behavior Checklist was used to assess emotional and behavioral problems, and was reported by parents. Some things included on the checklist were: anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, aggression, and delinquency. This study actually found that many of the children were “normal”, and the highly gifted students actually exhibited fewer problems than moderately gifted children. Therefore, this study’s results are contrary to much of the research that concludes that highly gifted students have a difficult time socially. There was also no significant difference between males and females. The only factor that could have influenced the results is that these children were attending a camp that required substantial financial resources. Therefore, children may have had supportive families and most likely came from middle to upper middle class families. Some scholarships were given to families who could not afford tuition, but not enough to affects the results.

Hansen, J., The Ideal Teacher for Highly Gifted Students, A. X. (2000). Intelligence and Talent. Mensa Research Journal.

Hansen begins by discussing the complexity of special education in respect to how highly trained the teachers are and how special needs students are categorized based on their degree of cognitive and physical impairments. In contrast, gifted students are not recognized using different degrees or types of giftedness in schools. Their degree of giftedness is not considered in procedures and curricula. What works for moderately gifted students often does not work for highly gifted students. In reality, most teachers remain unfamiliar with the vast range of ability in gifted education. Hansen compiles in a chart qualities of a teacher of gifted students. Some traits include: high intelligence, understanding of subject matter, broad cultural background, confidence, enthusiasm, mentally flexible, higher level thinking, expectation of responsibility, speeds up instruction, individualizes instruction, link academic/nonacademic applications, meets personal needs, and takes responsibility for influence on students. The noblest of all traits are competence, deep caring, and distinctive character. These three according to Hansen, have the most power to foster social wellness, moral depth, and intellectual growth. Even though it is difficult to suggest, Hansen believes that teachers should be at least as intelligence as the students they work with. Teachers of the gifted must also exhibit flexibility and the ability to use teachable moments to enrich the understanding of complex concepts. Teachers must also be deeply caring. It sounds simple, but many teachers unfortunately have the attitude that gifted students will succeed with little effort from the teacher. This deep caring must reflect a deep curiosity and drive to learn and understand gifted students. Lastly, distinctive character must be shown through honesty, humility, courage, and morality. Hansen states that many argue it is difficult to find teachers who possess all these qualities, however, highly gifted students are rare themselves and deserve to have the best educators.

Hoge, R. D., Renzulli, J. S., & National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, S. T. (1991). Self-Concept and the Gifted Child. Research-Based Decision Making Series, Number 9104.

“Three issues are addressed in this research review. First, do gifted and average children differ in their self-concepts? Second, what, if any, are the effects on self-concept of labeling a child as gifted or exceptional? Third, does placing the child in a separate enriched or accelerated classroom have any impact on self-concept? In the study, no major deficits were found in gifted students’ self esteem. In fact, the highly gifted students indicated higher than average levels of self-esteem. Labeling students gifted does have a positive effect on self-esteem, but much of the research showed indirect evidence. Hoge and Renzulli worry that this concept has been ignored in research literature, and should be a consideration when researching gifted students’ self-concept. The third conclusion supported that moving a gifted student from a regular classroom to a homogeneous class will have a negative impact on self-concept. This is most likely due to the emphasis on the differences of gifted students, and comparing themselves to others. The study makes strong suggestions for researchers to pay close attention to the labeling of gifted students, program design, and longitudinal studies on gifted students at different age levels.

Jackson, S., & Peterson, J. (2003). Depressive disorder in highly gifted adolescents. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education,14(3), 175-186.

“Lists of common traits of highly gifted children include a capacity and predilection for complex reasoning, need for precision, facility with abstract material and awareness of underlying patterns, ease with use of metaphors and symbols, and early grasp of the essential element of an issue. Exceptional speed of processing and a capacity for intuitive knowing mark an exceptional mind, as well”. In addition highly gifted students are predisposed to being introverted, which is characterized as having heightened emotions, sensations, and conceptualization. There is much clinical evidence to support the fact that highly gifted students do suffer from depression more so than same-age peers. The level may be even higher when children do not have access to like-minded peers. Many schools do not successfully differentiate instruction, or provide opportunities for gifted students to interact. This could be detrimental to their emotional health. The article provides first hand accounts from children who have suffered from isolation. Many of their experiences relate to not having like-minded peers at their schools, or in their social circles. In addition to snapshots of children’s experience with depression, the article also includes two case studies. The first case study discusses Jared who is highly aware of his depression and suffers from self-deprecation because he cannot control his mental state. His anger is all reflected on himself because of his inability to control his emotions. He lives two very different lives. To others he seems very well adjusted, but internally he is full of hopelessness and incapacity. The second boy is David, who was isolated himself by spending all of his time in his room, oversleeping, and only interacting on his computer. In contract with Jared, David was violent, unpredictable and scholastically unsuccessful. He felt as if the school system was unable to provide a conduit for learning, and therefore all of his energy was put towards computer studies on his own.

Kathi, K. (1996). Highly gifted children in full inclusion classrooms. Highly Gifted Children, 12(Sum-Fall), 2-11.

This paper discusses how to establish inclusionary educational environments for highly gifted students. The definition of highly gifted as proposed in this paper is a student who scores above the third of fourth standard deviation on IQ tests or who are prodigies in a particular domain. The article begins with the frustration a mother feels when a principal discourages her to enroll her son because of his giftedness. Many schools are able to accommodate disabled children, but many do not know how to meet the needs of the highly gifted. Therefore, many parents decide to home school their children so that they can excel at a faster rate. One of the biggest concerns in the article in respect to full inclusion is how much time highly gifted students waste. This waste of time causes bad work habits and boredom. For decades teachers have been using highly gifted students to tutor others and run errands. This trend is unfair and exploits the gifts of the students. In respect to the highly gifted, this article does not support inclusion because of the increased rate at which they learn and lack of resources available to provide a curriculum that meets their needs.

Kennedy, D. M. (2002). Glimpses of a Highly Gifted Child in a Heterogeneous Classroom. Roeper Review, 24(3), 120-24.

This study focuses on a highly gifted 9-year-old boy in fifth grade who shows great difficulty functioning in a heterogeneous school setting. Even school modifications provided limited success for the child even though the staff put forth considerable efforts. Some efforts included a private math tutor, but unfortunately Joshua did not get along with the tutor. Additional effort was put forth to provide a middle school math tutor, but the teacher was frequently unavailable. Therefore, help was infrequent. Issues with teachers understanding his giftedness was an epidemic. For example, Joshua memorized the periodic table and how to use each element in one day. His teacher was only slightly impressed. Because of his acceleration Joshua did not have one single friend in class, and had several enemies. Even a teacher who has worked hard to provide a better education for Joshua reflected negatively on his behavior in class. He often puts students down and makes them feel inferior. Teachers even referred to him as “condescending” and “manipulative”. This carried over into his pullout classes as well. Joshua sought the companionship of his teachers instead of his classmates, and was incapable of developing close friendships with children his age. The conclusions of the study suggest that clear plans for instruction must be laid out to meet the needs of highly gifted students. Teachers, gifted specialists, the student, parents, and guidance counselors must all be involved in the process. Cooperation between all those involved in a successful gifted program is becoming more important as inclusion spreads throughout education.

Lewis, G. (2002). Alternatives to acceleration for the highly gifted child. Roeper Review, 24(3), 130-133.

This case study presents information on both a male and female preschooler that score roughly the same on the Binet Intelligence scale (IQ: 159 and 158 +). The article proves that acceleration is not enough to meet the needs of highly gifted children. The school must provide other support in the form of adapted assessments, flexible scheduling, and counseling. Instead of pushing a child through advanced material, it is suggested that parents look for better teachers. This may be very difficult, and may require educational decision to be made on a year-by-year basis. One interesting point of discussion in the article was assessment. Many teachers struggle with assessment even with normal developing children. Highly gifted children need to be assessed differently and in multiple ways so that their intelligence, achievement, creativity, and personality can be challenged.

Lovecky, D. V. (1995). High gifted children and peer relationships.Counseling and Guidance Newsletter, 5(3), 2,6,7.

This article reflects on issues that highly gifted children have with peer relationships and provides strategies for developing successful peer relationships. Even though highly gifted students appear to be more mature, they tend to internalize their problems more than children their own age. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, and difficulty with peer relationships are all challenges they may face. According to Lovecky, children of ages 4-9 have the most difficulty with these problems because of their social development compared to age peers. The biggest challenge is the different expectations children have in respect to friendship at different ages. A highly gifted student has developed faster mentally and therefore feels as if friendship is defined by mutuality and reciprocity. This is conflicting when their peer is still associating friendship with inclusion and sharing toys. The other issue is that many highly gifted students will seek adults as mentors. These relationships can be difficult because their behavior is still age appropriate, but their mental development is advanced.

Lundy, R. A., Palo Alto Unified School District, C. A., & And, O. (1978). Dimensions of Learning for the Highly Gifted Student.

This study took place in an elementary school with a high number of gifted and highly gifted students. The purpose of the study was to gather subjective information provided by the students regarding teacher’s instructional methods. The data was collected using voice recordings and interviews. Most students stated that they would rather discover things than have someone tell them about it. They valued problem solving, and respected teachers who allowed students to work independently and only helped when absolutely necessary. The students also enjoyed different types of assessments and stated that they were bored when activities were repeated. Teachers who were creative, made learning fun, and maintained a kind of lightness in respect to approach, were most appreciated by the students. There were significant differences between the responses of highly gifted students and moderately gifted students. The highly gifted students often wanted to move ahead more quickly, and they felt slowed down by others in the class. The highly gifted students also felt more confident that they could go ahead on their own, and they were more concerned with learning material more in-depth. The highly gifted highly criticized repetitive work, and similar problems. They got upset when they felt like exercises were unproductive because of redundancy. Even though the moderately gifted shared similar concerns, the highly gifted students had a clearer sense of urgency and were better capable of articulating their frustrations.

Meckstroth, E. A. (1990). Parents' Role in Encouraging Highly Gifted Children. Roeper Review, 12(3), 208-10.

This article begins by addressing the issue of schools inability to recognize gifted or highly gifted students. When a school principal was asked to participate in the research, the response was “‘we don’t have any!’” Highly gifted students are often camouflaged in the classroom and never discovered. Meckstroth suggests that the differences observed in highly gifted students should be acknowledged, understood, and celebrated. The complexity of their personalities, ability to exhibit extraordinary sensitivity, and their tendency to live multiple lives/ages at one time is fascinating. Their complexity can result in cynicism, but parents should encourage students to use humor as an acceptable outlet for their cynicism. Meckstroth identifies that many parents of gifted children are gifted themselves. Therefore, gifted adults must come to terms with their differences so that they are better able to help their children cope. Success in school is often attributed to the children’s trust in certain teachers. It is often only a few teachers that highly gifted students identify as one with whom they could trust to share their extraordinary visions and sensitivities. Parents, teachers, counselors, and gifted specialist should meet regularly to make sure that highly gifted students feel safe and comfortable enough in their learning environment.

Miraca, U.M. (2000). Highly Gifted Children in the Early Years of School. Intelligence and Talent. Mensa Research Journal.

The article begins with a first hand account Miraca has in a grocery store in Australia. She witnesses the interaction between a highly intelligence child and his mother. The child was reading the labels on the cereal boxes with perfection diction, but hesitated when he got to the word “nutritious”. He quietly asked his Mom how to pronounce the word and what it meant. She did so, and the child continued reading labels. A nearby adult quickly responded to the mother, “Let him be a child. Don’t rush him”. Miraca reflects on societies reaction to physically talented children and mentally talented children. Unfortunately, gifted children are often not celebrated nearly as much as the young child who excels at sports at a young age. Miraca, like other gifted researchers, brings up the point that many educators do not acknowledge and respond to different levels of giftedness. This is due to lack of training, and lack of importance in many school systems. Highly gifted children development patterns are accelerated much faster than many normal children. Speech often develops two months earlier than the average child, and by 12 months man are able to link words and phrases. Some children in this study uttered their first words at 5 months, and two months later were using 3-4 word sentences. Mobility is also generally accelerated. Emma, a highly gifted Australian child, was riding horses and competing at 17 months. Gifted children typically learn to stand, run, and generally show a great desire to move about. Early development of reading is also typical of highly gifted children. 90% of gifted children are reading well before the age of 5. Often their passion for reading is so intense that gifted children become obsessed and refuse to do anything else. A major concern of Miraca’s is that underachievement is happening at a very young age. She states that Leta Hollingsworth notes, children of IQ 140 waste half of their time in class, while children of IQ 170 waste all of their time. From a very early age highly gifted students learn that they will likely be introduced to material in class that they already know. It is impossible for these children to develop respect for lessons and activities if they consistently learn material they have already mastered.

Morse, K. (2001). When Schools Fail: Is homeschooling right for you and your highly gifted child?.IAGC Journal.

This article explores whether or not homeschooling is the right choice for the highly gifted student. Since the highly gifted are about 1-2% of the population, funding is scarce in respect to the success of homeschooling highly gifted students. Morse states, “Most of our nation’s schools, in the way that they now function, can’t begin to address the breadth of needs of the highly gifted individual. For these children who are 3-5 standard deviations above the norm, a traditional school setting is almost always an uncomfortable and inappropriate place. Not only do highly gifted children see differently, but also they see the detail of the world that others don’t see at all”. Morse’s frustration lies with the fact that the highly gifted are the only group of exceptional children that do not have federally mandated laws for a free and appropriate education. Full inclusion classrooms are failing to meet the needs of highly gifted students because of the gap in achievement and learning. Even the most skilled teachers are not capable of differentiated for so many different levels of student intelligence and achievement. The most important recommendation Morse makes is for parents to fully research what the school district offers in the area. They may have resources parents are unaware of, and many teachers may be willing to work with the personal goals of particular students. Although home schooling is not always the best option, it can be beneficial for the highly gifted if parents actively seek out children that have similar intellectual chronology.

Norman, A, Ramsay, S, Roberts, J, & Martray, C 2000, 'Effect of Social Setting, Self-Concept, and Relative Age on the Social Status of Moderately and Highly Gifted Students', Roeper Review, 23, 1, pp. 34-39, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 November 2011.

This study’s purpose was to quantify whether or not social setting, self-concept, and age have an effect on the social status of moderately and highly gifted students. Social status was determined by a peer ratings and peer nominations list from each students’ classmates. Of 154 students, 49 were popular, 33 were rejected, 38 were average, 8 were neglected, 1 was controversial, and 25 were unclassifiable. In respect to demographics, social status was not affected by parent education, occupation, participants race, or gender. (Although, researchers were warned about gender bias before conducting the research) No differences were found between moderately gifted and highly gifted students in respect to social status. Norman believes that this reinforces the studies that state highly gifted students as a whole are no less adjusted than other students. The issues with this study are that the students participating were all gifted students. Gifted students may not be as accepted by more average students as other research has suggested. This particular study concludes that social reputation and self-concept have more to do with social status than giftedness.

Roedell, W. Vulnerabilities of Highly Gifted Children. Roeper Review. 1984, 6, No. 3, 127-130.

Even though many highly gifted students show emotional maturity and superior self-concepts, this group of students is also vulnerable to a wide array of adjustment issues. “Problems of uneven development, perfectionism, adult expectation, intense sensitivity, self-definition, alienation, inappropriate environments and role conflict are explored”. Terman’s research concludes that gifted students are better adjusted emotionally than average students, but many disagree and find fault in his study based on the choice of students for actual research. To better understand who is highly gifted, one must realize that the IQ range is typically 165-180. Some also believe that an IQ over 145 can reflect exceptional ability. Regardless of IQ, Roedell states that highly gifted students are more prone to development difficulties in comparison with moderately gifted and average children. Roedell states, “The gap between a child’s advanced intellectual capability and more age-appropriate social and physical skills can lead to unrealistic expectations of performance”. Perfectionism can also have a negative affect and can be exaggerated by adults who put too much pressure on their children to perform at the level of their potential. Heightened sensitivity can cause issues in respect to perceiving social rejection that is in fact not intended. Typically moderately gifted students adjust well socially with their peers, but highly gifted students have a much more difficult time relating to children their own age. Often times their adult-like manner can cause other children to perceive them as “bossy”, which can cause alienation for the highly gifted. Because of this alienation, highly gifted students are susceptible to withdrawing from social interaction and lacking necessary social skills for their future. Roedell makes it clear that not all highly gifted students are going to suffer from these types of vulnerabilities, but that awareness of these possibilities is important to develop strong support systems for highly gifted students to develop appropriately.

Sheehan, B. (2000, May 1). A Study of Maximizing the Learning Potentials of Exceptionally Gifted Eleventh Grade Students in an Advanced Track Class.

This study identifies significant problems in a high school where 11th graders have shown exceptional abilities, but are not being challenged to their full potential. The evidence of this problem is evident through teacher observations, parent interviews, student surveys, and parent surveys. The group of 11th graders consists of 52 students, and to be admitted to the program a student must maintain a 3.5 on the 4.0 scale. Students must also score in the 85th percentile on the PLAN reading test, and have a recommendation from a teacher. The curriculum for the course titled, American Studies, is specifically designed for these gifted students and is taught by an English and History teacher. One of the issues highly gifted students had with this course was boredom and a lack of feeling challenged. Students mentioned in interviews that they were frustrated with the slow pace of the curriculum even in gifted classes since many times students were placed in these classes who had trouble with the complexity of the material. Even in Honors courses, highly gifted students felt like they were much farther ahead and at times teachers were not capable of understanding their ability to make connections and comprehend abstract ideas. There is also too much overlap in curriculums, which causes more problems with boredom. Many of the gifted programs are stagnant at this school and have remained unchanged for fifteen plus years. Busy work and significant increased workload were observed at this school in advanced classes. Many students resented the increased workload because of the nature of the assignments. The most significant conclusion in this study was the need for teachers to focus on developing fulfilling assignments and projects that provide students with choice while still meetings the curriculum standards.

Silverman, L. (1995). Effective Techniques for Teaching Highly Gifted Visual-Spatial Learners.

This study discusses spatial-visual highly gifted learners, and how to better meet their needs in the classroom. There is a clear difference between auditory-sequential learning and spatial-visual learning. “Sequential learning involves analysis, orderly progression of knowledge from simple to complex, skillful categorization and organization of information, and linear, deductive reasoning. Spatial learning involves synthesis, intuitive grasp of complex systems, simultaneous processing of concepts, inductive reasoning, active use of imagery, and idea generation by combining disparate elements in new ways”. Some strategies that are suggested are as followed: Use of visual aids, manipulative materials, sight approach to reading, visualization approach to spelling, discover own methods of problem solving, avoid rote memorization and drilling, find out what has been mastered before teaching new concepts, emphasize creativity and imagination, group gifted visual-spatial learners together, engage students in independent projects, use computers so that concepts are presented visually, and allow them to construct and draw to represent concepts.

Tolan, S., Council for Exceptional Children, R. A., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children, R. A. (1990). Helping Your Highly Gifted Child. ERIC Digest #E477.

This article outlines ways in which parents can help their highly gifted students accept and handle their differences. The article identifies two things gifted children need. “Exceptionally gifted children have two primary needs. First, they need to feel comfortable with themselves and with the differences that simultaneously open possibilities and create difficulty. Second, they need to develop their astonishing potential.” Another very helpful point made was how highly gifted children are many different ages at the same time. A five year old may talk like a 13 year old, share toys like 2 year old, and read like a 7 year old. The article continues to make suggestions like acceleration, emotional needs, and possible self-projection if the parents are highly gifted themselves.

von Karolyi, C. (2006). Grappling with Complex Global Issues. Issue Awareness in Young Highly Gifted Children: "Do the Claims Hold up?". Roeper Review, 28(3), 167-174.

“It has been claimed that the highly gifted child becomes aware of philosophical, societal, moral, and metaphysical issues at an unusually young age”. Many researchers refer to this awareness as “questions of origin and destiny”, and consider this a mark of giftedness. In this article, the validity of this issue is explored. Research on this is limited, but it is definitely clear that gifted children are hyper-aware of concerns like social justice and environmental issues. In the studies, gifted children were more concerned with world issues, but there was not much of a difference between gifted students and highly gifted students reactions. Even though concern was not different, understanding was significantly higher among highly gifted students. Although their understanding was better, they did not give issues any sort of ranking or rating, which researchers found puzzling. The reasoning behind this may be that the highly gifted only thought certain issues were relevant because of personal experience. For example, a vegetarian would not be concerned with Mad Cow Disease.