Thursday, March 10, 2011

bright vs gifted

I'm off to a meeting to talk about supporting gifted and talented students at school. Not just bright kids. Gifted kids. There's a difference:

Bright Child            Gifted Child
Knows the answers.      Asks the questions.

Interested.             Extremely curious.

Pays attention.         Gets involved physically 
                        and mentally.

Works hard.             Plays around, still gets
                        good test scores.

Answers questions.      Questions the answers. 
Enjoys same-age         Prefers adults or older 
peers.                  children.

Good at memorization.   Good at guessing.

Learns easily.          Bored. Already knew the 

Listens well.           Shows strong feelings 
                        and opinions.

Self-satisfied.         Highly critical of self 
Bright kids are easy to teach. You teach them something, they practice it, they get it, they do it. Gifted kid are heaps trickier. They will have opinions on what you are teaching. They may already be able to do it (which is good), be bored with it, not want to do it, have their own way of doing it, or disagree with the whole premise on which you are operating and refuse to do it. And giftedness is often bundled in with disability, which complicates everything considerably (and makes it more wonderful).

I'm going to this meeting to try to support kids whose giftedness is in the arts areas. It's likely their teachers have no idea that these kids are gifted. Many will be right brain dominant visual-spacial learners.  These kids may be messy, big picture types - they'll be annoying to teach because their brains work in a non-sequential way. They could be atrociously bad at basic things like spelling and memory work, organisationally impaired and unconscious of time. But they have fantastic thinking skills and imaginations. 

Anyway, I'm off to this meeting. Have you notice that we only ever talk of giftedness in children? That's because with grown ups potential doesn't matter. What you have done is what we care about.


  1. This is absolutely true at university level too & as a lecturer/ tutor I have to consciously remind myself to appreciate the gifted learners rather than resenting them. As someone who has always been more in the bright than the gifted category, it's quite hard not to be threatened by those gifted lateral thinkers who swan in at the last minute and write a brilliant if highly unorthodox essay! Of course, Andrew fits fairly strongly in the gifted category :)

  2. Not sure that it's necessarily one or the other, either.

    While it sounds pretentious to use myself as an example, I can get away with it because that's what gifted people are like ;-)

    I think I'd qualify for both. Maths-gifted, but have done well across the board. Except in PE, or art, or music, or anything else that requires particular gifting!

    I suspect this made me annoying to teach. But interesting too!

  3. Hi Anthony. You can be both bright and gifted, but the two are different things. I think it's the independence and originality of giftedness that is the most obvious difference between the two.

    Jo - yes - Andrew is fairly obviously in the gifted category. Does he throw (inward) tantrums when what he is working on isn't. quite. right.?

    If teaching gifted kids is hard, marking their work is even harder. It just doesn't fit the criteria sheet [Joel would argue that the criteria are wrong.]

  4. I read this and think about throwing some ASD spectrum into the mix - very messy!

    I was a bright kid and got thrown in with gifted kids at times - I knew the difference - I felt like an imposter!

  5. Actually, I think it's usually said by chaotic types who are jealous of those who have 'done' something with their lives.

  6. Hi anon. Didn't quite get what you mean. Explain?

  7. Many parents want to have a gifted child...until they actually have one. It's much easier to have a bright child.

  8. My kids are probably more bright than gifted (although they have qualities from both your lists). Agree with Narelle that the bright ones are probably easier to manage.
    Re why we only talk about giftedness in children, is it maybe because the education system needs to "classify" them somehow to distinguish them from the typically developing kids and those who have disabilities or special needs? There isn't as much of a need for it in adulthood (although I would say that you are quite gifted in song-writing....)

  9. On first reading this today, I thought pshaw. But since I found out I'm appearing in the gifted category it sounds more and more plausible. But I fit the critique of 'anonymous' pretty well, too - few discernible achievements yet a high opinion of myself. The thing I would have articulated in my 'pshaw' is that I feel like most of those differences are developed more by early, wide-range learning - I think I was gifted by my mum and dad being very interesting and informative, but also talking about things they knew about but didn't understand. I think people make the Fundamental Attribution Error when reading lists like this.

  10. And could I just add too that I also think parents love to believe that their child may be "gifted" in some way in our modern society where the overachievers are valued so highly. I work with many parents who believe their children are advanced/bright/gifted because they know things like their alphabet and numbers at very young ages. It doesn't always follow that these little people are actually bright or gifted...(sometimes they are, but many are not...)

  11. Also crosses over with the idea of multiple intelligences. So you can be highly gifted in one area (or a couple of areas) but only bright or even hopelessly incompetenent in others.

  12. Everyone's first child is quite remarkable.

  13. Andrew - I'm still trying to work out what fundamental attribution error is. I've googled it...

    I think those kind of lists are helpful to a point - to get teachers thinking about giftedness, but it's never as simple as a list.

    Parents teach their kids about things the kids want to know about. We taught Nathan about geography and history because he cared about it - from the time he was very little he wanted to learn. I read up so I'd have stuff to tell him. Since he's been able to read he's been ahead of me. Joel grew up with the same books, being in the same room while I was talking to Nathan but knows pretty much nothing of history or geography. He wasn't interested.

    If you grew up learning about heaps of stuff it's because you wanted to hear it - not just because your parents were good (though they were).

    But for anon and other sceptics - giftedness can be measured in a proper IQ test. This can be really useful - particularly if the kid isn't straight forward. The test can show you what they should be able to do and if they aren't achieving you can try and work out why before they drop out of school and od at age 16. Or join the airforce and wonder why they never quite fit in...

  14. The Fundamental Attribution Error is a psychological bias in the judgement we make to differentiate things that are special about a person from things in which they are a product of their environment. Thanks to the bias we almost always succeed by our own efforts and fail because of situations. Other people succeed because of their situations and fail because of their poor qualities. It is an aspect of egoism, self-centredness. Lists like this seem to say other people are special because of who they are, which is an outrage to the psychological forces producing the bias. That's my guess, anyway.

  15. Having looked at the wikipedia page, I think the first few sentences explain it and then the research basis and scholarly disputation about what it all means obscures it. I may be describing the most common manifestation of the fundamental attribution error rather than its universal form. Other cultures or people with low self-esteem may suffer it differently.

    There was some research where they paid people to lie to the next experimental subject about how much something would hurt. The less they paid, the more the liar believed their lie later - because they're not a bad person, it didn't hurt that much. Paid more, they would just say 'hey, ten bucks is ten bucks.' Paid a dollar, they had to believe the lie to be able to stand the sight of themselves.

  16. Yeah. I get it now. Anon, do you think you've made the FAE?

  17. Hmmm, I also wondering about the mix of personality types in here as well. Is it not possible to have a "gifted" child who will sit quietly and do their work (even though they're bored on the inside) and not ask a whole lot of questions, just because of the sort of person they are?

  18. They will necessarily ask a whole lot of questions. Inquisitiveness is part of the deal. Who they ask, how and where will vary. They may have a special relationship with their computer or bookshelf at home.

  19. Ah yes, I see. The bookshelf would make more sense to some. Anyway, I don't necessarily read all previous comments before commenting, but now that I have such has perhaps been covered already. I do like this FAE!