Characteristics of high-ability

There are a number of characteristics associated with each domain of high-ability. These may be related to student learning or to their social-emotional development. A student does not need to have all characteristics to be considered high-ability. Different high-ability students will present with different combinations of traits. The more traits that are present, the more likely the student is to be a high-ability learner. These lists of characteristics should be used as a guide only. Different cultural groups may show characteristics of high-ability in different or unexpected ways.

The intellectual domain

Students with high-ability in this domain may show the following learning characteristics:

  • early achievement of developmental milestones (early years students)
  • capacity to learn new material quickly (1-2 repetitions)
  • advanced capacity to remember what they have learnt (reducing the need for repetition)
  • advanced abstract and critical thinking skills
  • an extensive vocabulary
  • an ability to reason well
  • curiosity
  • a vivid imagination
  • advanced ability with numbers
  • a wide range of intellectual and academic interests
  • a tendency to become absorbed in work they find interesting
  • an ability to ask reflective, probing and provocative (older students) questions
  • a dislike of slow-paced work
  • a preference for independent work or for working with like-ability peers.

Students with high-ability in this domain may also show the following social-emotional characteristics:

  • the need to learn and feel pride in academic achievements may be at odds with the need to be accepted by peers
  • emotional intensity
  • an unusual ability to empathise with the feelings of other students or adults
  • an unusually well-developed sense of justice and fairness
  • an unusually mature sense of humour
  • often prefer the companionship of older students
  • may develop a strong attachment to one or two close friends
  • may have difficulty deciding on a career choice
  • can exhibit perfectionist tendencies
  • non-conformity
  • early development of self-concept and an awareness of being different (early years).

In this short video, the HAPL from Brauer College describes the different processes used at the school to identify high-ability. He points to data and passion in the first instance, but points out that on some occasions it will be through teachers taking notice of the learning characteristics of students that identification will occur.

 

The physical domain

Students with high-ability in this domain may show the following characteristics that may affect learning:

  • advanced gross motor skills
  • advanced fine motor skills
  • early awareness of left and right
  • high levels of physical energy.

High-ability in this domain is not currently associated with any social-emotional characteristics in the research.

The creative domain

Students with high-ability in this domain may show the following learning characteristics:

  • advanced visual memory
  • highly developed imagination (tendency to daydream)
  • flexibility of thinking
  • advanced creative problem solving
  • advanced creative thinking
  • enjoyment of role play
  • advanced skill at drawing, painting or other artistic forms.

Students with high-ability in this domain may also show the following social-emotional characteristics:

  • non-conformity
  • elaborate creative and imaginative play (early years)
  • risk taking.

In this short video, an Art teacher from Brauer College reflects on how students who exhibit characteristics of high-ability in the creative domain are supported in her school.

 

The social domain

Students with high-ability in this domain may show the following learning characteristics:

  • a preference for working with others
  • a desire to take on positions of leadership
  • advanced moral reasoning and judgement.

Students with high-ability in this domain may also show the following social-emotional characteristics:

  • perceptiveness
  • highly developed empathy
  • highly developed sense of loyalty
  • advanced social skills
  • advanced intra-personal skills.

In this short video, a year 5/6 teacher reflects on the ways he supports a student who exhibits the characteristics of high-ability in the social domain.

 

References

Betts, G. T., & Neihart, M. (2010). Revised profiles of the gifted and talented. Retrieved from Revised profiles of the Gifted and Talented - Neihart and Betts.pdf

Porter, L. (2005). Gifted young children: A guide for teachers and parents. (2nd ed.), Allen & Unwin.

Silverman, L. (1993). Characteristics of giftedness scale: Research and Review of the Literature. Gifted Child Development Centre

Gagné, F. (2008). Building gifts into talents: Overview of the DMGT 2.0. Paper presented at the 10th Asia Pacific Conference for Giftedness, Singapore.

GERRIC. (2005). Gifted and Talented Education Professional Package for Teachers Module One – Understanding Giftedness.

Merrotsy, P. (2013). Invisible gifted students. Talent Development and Excellence, 5(2), 3–42.

Montgomery, D. (2006). Double exceptionality. Gifted children with special educational needs – what schools can do to promote inclusion. In C. Smith (Ed.) Including the Gifted and Talented. Routeledge.

Post, G. (2016). Who is the gifted underachiever? Four types of underachievement in gifted children.