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Gifted Students and Cultural Difference

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: How might the definition of giftedness vary from culture to culture? How can gifted students from diverse cultural groups be discovered?

A: In reality, it should not. It should be a universal definition that defines distinct characteristics and abilities that are seen across different cultures. A universal definition seeks to allow some kind of standardization in identifying giftedness. However, a single definition could possibly defy the principles of the cultural and temporal relativity of the concept of giftedness.

Gifted students come from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds. They can be described as possessing an abundance of certain abilities that are most highly valued within a particular society or culture rather than specific skills that tested on an intelligence test. Gifted students from different cultures are valued within their own cultures; unfortunately, since they are most likely minority, these students may not be recognized as gifted as the criteria for assessing giftedness may not capture their gifts.

The one single predictor of giftedness which is still being used widely is based on standardized intelligence tests. These tests can be quite close in identifying students of higher cognitive abilities; however there may still be some who are left out. Universally, most procedures for identifying gifted students over the years have been developed for use with middle class children who are native English speakers which may lead to an under representation of gifted students from diverse cultural groups. These students may vary in terms of the language used, learning styles, values of educational attainment and obedience to authority.

In some countries (e.g., New Zealand) it is particularly important to take a multicultural approach in viewing giftedness as there may be many cultures represented. This broaden our understanding of the construct giftedness and offer scope for providing suitable programs that may reduce bias for gifted students in multicultural settings. Hence, the teacher's role is crucial in developing understanding of giftedness from a broad cultural base.

Therefore, many researchers and practitioners recommend multiple assessment measures to give students several opportunities to demonstrate their skills and performance potential. A more culturally suited definition would be that of Gardner's multiple intelligences. Gardner outlined eight categories of giftedness such as Spatial intelligence, Musical intelligence, Bodily-Kinaesthetic, Interpersonal intelligence, Intrapersonal intelligence, Linguistic intelligence, Logical Mathematical intelligence, Naturalistic intelligence and possibly Existentialism.

Today, many schools include behavioral checklists or inventories, nominations, or related techniques to identify gifted students from culturally diverse backgrounds. One of the most useful ways to define giftedness is to include learners who excel in one or more areas regardless of whether it is being tested. Within early childhood, quite often these are the children who excel beyond their peers developmentally.

Hope that explains giftedness in culturally diverse groups.


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