Cognitive and Affective Characteristics of Gifted Children

2 February 2017

There are many cognitive and affective characteristics of intellectually gifted adolescents which differ from those of their non-gifted peers. These characteristics have the potential to assist academic and social development, or conversely may present social and academic difficulties for the adolescents. Two cognitive characteristics and two affective characteristics typically associated with gifted adolescents will be examined to explore the relationship between these characteristics and their effect on social and academic development.

The two cognitive characteristics that will be examined is self-regulation, and their dislike of slow paced work. And the two affective characteristics is the possible exhibition of perfectionist tendencies, and their emotional intensity. The first cognitive characteristic is self-regulation. Self-regulation is a characteristic in which all students will generally have. It is comprised of metacognition, thinking about thinking, and motivation.

Cognitive and Affective Characteristics of Gifted Children Essay Example

It is the process of self-regulation employed by intellectually gifted adolescents which differ from those of their non-gifted peers. The metacognition component requires students to plan and self-check their academic performance. These students tended to plan strategies and checked their solution processes and answers while solving problems. The motivation aspect of self-regualtion involves self-efficacy and effort. Highly intrinsically motivated students expended greater effort for completing relevant tasks, and also tended to be self-efficacious. Hong & Aqui, 2004) It has been asserted that gifted student’s use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies enhance perception of self-efficacy, which as a consequence provide the motivation for self-regulation. Confidence in their own abilities causes their efforts in the face of failure to increase exponentially until success us achieved. (Hong & Aqui, 2004) Gifted students have the ability to apply more conscious control over their use of metacognitive processes, such as controlling the solution process.

This characteristic translates to a positive influence onto gifted student’s academic development, since gifted students are more self-efficacious. This means that they are more aware of what their level of ability is, and can strive to the best of their ability. With this increase in self-efficacy, since the students know what they can do, expend greater amounts of effort in achieving the desired results. Such effort, although generally positive, may lead to negative perfectionist tendencies, which will be discussed later.

Another aspect of self-regulation which can be seen to directly benefit academic development is planning and self-check. Planning may involve activities such as time management for successful balance between studying and leisure, planning the processes required to reach the desired solution when completing a task, or even planning how to disrupt a classroom in their bid to mask their giftedness. Gifted students will generally be more proficient with the planning processes than non-gifted peers, thus allowing them greater opportunities for academic success. (Hong & Aqui, 2004)

Research conducted by Hong & Aqui appear to indicate that male gifted students have higher self-efficacy than their female counterparts, whereas the female gifted students have higher motivation for success. An explanation proposed is that “female adolescents [to] examine their work meticulously even when they attain high levels of achievement in school […], male high achievers might believe that they can do well in school […] without exerting much effort. ” (Hong & Aqui, 2004) The next cognitive characteristics to be discussed is gifted adolescent’s dislike of slow paced work.

Intellectually gifted students have larger, more efficient memories, they have larger and more elaborately organised schemata, and as mentioned before, exert greater conscious control over metacognitive processes. All of this indicates that gifted students require less time to learn new material, master it, and to be able to effectively reproduce the material in original ways. (Robinson & Clinkenbeard, 1998) In a typical classroom without a curriculum devised for gifted and talented students, the progress of the class will be perceived as being slow paced.

The gifted students will have already mastered the current material, and in all likelihood, have already predicted correctly the next process, and may be planning on studying by themselves to escape the slow pace. There are various positive and negative aspects of this characteristic towards academic development. The major disadvantage of a slow paced classroom is that the gifted students may feel excessive levels of frustration at constantly being held back by the class.

Unless this frustration is addressed, this can lead to underachievement, or constant disruption of the classroom environment. Teachers can address this frustration by providing more challenging work for the gifted students once they finished their assigned work, or possibly include challenging material for the whole class to complete, as research has indicated that even non-gifted students may find some aspects of the current curriculum to be mere revision. (Robinson & Clinkenbeard, 1998) Another consequence of gifted students’ dislike of slow paced work is boredom.

In a classroom where the students are not provided with challenging and engaging work, the gifted students may slowly develop underachievement tendencies, such as disengagement from the curriculum, or completing tasks at an adequate level, but well below their capability. Once again, material for students must be engaging and challenging to meet gifted students’ needs. The boredom in the classroom can lead to different types of disruptive behaviour, such as constantly being provocative, being a ‘class clown’, or even non-attendance. (Robinson & Clinkenbeard, 1998)

Despite the many negative consequences of the dislike of slow paced work, there are positive aspects, though not particularly for the gifted student’s benefit. When the gifted students have completed their set tasks, they may then proceed to provide assistance to their non-gifted peers. The gifted want the pace to increase, so by ‘tutoring’ their peers, can provide the assistance for more students to finish the work quicker, thus increasing overall pace. This generally helps the other students, but by teaching other students, their own understanding and mastery of the material also have the potential to increase.

This practice however, can be perceived as discriminatory and unfair, in that the student is doing the teacher’s job. (Robinson & Clinkenbeard, 1998) Another possible positive aspect is that in a slow paced classroom, gifted students have the opportunity to seek out knowledge from their own interests, and become autonomous learners. Once the gifted student has completed the required tasks, they can then maybe proceed with extra credit work, or do research and learn material not in the curriculum, but peaks their interests. For example, learning about bath houses and the ‘unseen’ history, when studying a unit on Ancient Rome.

Becoming an autonomous learner is a desired outcome for academic development. (Robinson & Clinkenbeard, 1998) Two affective characteristics of gifted adolescents is exhibition of perfectionist tendencies, and emotional intensity. Being a perfectionist means that a person wants everything they do to be the best physically possible. For gifted students, this may mean the drive or motivation to achieve standards the student knows they are capable of (self-efficacy), or negatively, may develop into a fear of failure, resulting in submission of work which is correct, but below the level of their true capacity. Lovecky, 1994) Gifted adolescents appear to have “logical imperatives related to their complex though patters […].

The necessity for the world to be logical results in a need to argue extensively, correct errors, and strive for precision of thought. ” (Lovecky, 1994) The result of this is that gifted students may find simple tasks to be complex, and complex tasks to be simple. An example to illustrate this point is asking a gifted student a simple question like ‘What can a computer do? ’. A non-gifted student may answer with ‘I can play games. , but for a gifted student, they may know so many possible answers to the question that they can’t settle for a simple answer.

To combat such a situation, the student may either choose to answer in as many ways possible to be ‘perfect’, or ‘dumb down’ and give a simple correct answer in fear of failure to ‘correctly’ answer the question. (Lovecky, 1994) When a gifted student exhibit perfectionist tendencies, it can lead to social rejection. During adolescence when social acceptance and conformity is most important in their eyes, social rejection is the worst possible outcome.

When a gifted student exhibit perfectionist tendencies, their peers may give them labels such as ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’. Such labels can act as barriers against social acceptance. The gifted student may, as a result, stop exhibiting such tendencies, and ‘dumb down’ to act average for social integration. The aim is to encourage the positive aspects of perfectionism. This can be achieved by setting long term tasks for the class to complete, with checks at regular intervals to monitor progress.

This gives students the opportunity to strive for their best over an extended period of time, and encourages all students to expend greater effort in completing the task. (Lovecky, 1994) The last characteristic examined is the affective characteristic, emotional intensity. Gifted adolescents tend to experience emotional reactions at a deeper level than non-gifted peers, and have a heightened capacity to respond to intellectual or emotional stimulus, which sometimes causes them to appear immature.

Theis translates over to a high capacity for empathy, and for them to experience the emotions of others. Emotional intensity suggests that gifted students are easily over-excited by regular stimuli, for example with humour. Gifted adolescents also have an unusually well developed sense of humour, so they may find something which others do not, overly funny. Also during events causing much grief, such as the death of a relative, they may feel sadness at a much deeper level, and may display such emotions with little conscious control. (Lovecky, 1994)

Empathy is ordinarily referring to the projection of “oneself into another’s persona and determine what the other is feeling”. It can also mean the ability to transform their emotions into a physical entity, such as with writers or artists creating books and sculptures. (Lovecky, 1994) There are various effects this capacity for empathy can have on the social development of gifted students. Being highly emotionally sensitive during a time when they are still understanding and establishing their identity, this can cause some confusion.

They may be experiencing sadness when world disasters occur, but not understand why it should affect them so, for example. The emotions of those close to them may also ‘bleed’ over and ‘infect’ them. For example, a parent may be under the effects of depression. Being emotionally sensitive may cause the gifted student to pick up on the symptoms, and begin exhibiting such symptoms themselves. (Lovecky, 1994) This can be positive in that gifted students can judge what others are feeling, and adjust certain behaviours to suit the situation.

For example, a friend may be frustrated or sad over something. The gifted student may realise this, and try to remedy the situation. Another positive effect for their high capacity for empathy is that they have the ability to imagine themselves as part of their own creative products. They may also be able to project themselves into the process of problem solving. For example, with musical compositions, the best compositions will cause the listener to fully experience the motions intended by the composer, such as with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. (Lovecky, 1994)

As it can be seen, the cognitive and affective characteristics of gifted adolescents are interwoven with each other, and can’t really be considered on their own, as each characteristic have an effect on each other. Each characteristic can also be seen to have an effect both positively, and negatively on the academic and social development of gifted adolescents, as can be expected from the multidimensional characteristics of giftedness.

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