What Do We – the IHVO – Think about Giftedness?
by Hanna Vock
I consider three aspects of giftedness as being essential and I would like to explicate and exemplify them as follows:
1) Effortless learning
If a child (and, of course, the same goes for adults) has a special gift in one area, this means he/she is „naturally“ apt to assimilate new knowledge in this area with unusual ease. The first essential and detectable aspect of giftedness is therefore an extraordinarily pronounced effortlessness in learning.
This effortlessness in learning means, that a child can – in one or several areas of giftedness – learn successfully with extraordinarily little help, effort and in unusually little time (this also implies little or no necessity for repetition). Learning being defined as the assimilation and processing of new data (development of knowledge) and the development of new proficiencies and skills (development of capability).
2) Intrinsic motivation
Gifted children dispose of an extraordinary intrinsic motivation. This means, they feel an inner urge to concern themselves with the area of their giftedness. They do want to apply themselves to that area, they do want to learn, they feel a strong urge to explore it ever anew and to experiment with it. If hindered in this pursuit or if the environment offers too little stimulation, they experience unrest and frustration.
Extraordinary intrinsic motivation means, that a child will – in one or several areas of giftedness – take and keep up activities over surprisingly long spans of time and all upon its own drive, that it will search for new challenges and gladly accept adequate challenges presented to it.
I consider to be an extraordinary sense of creativity in the specific area of ability the third essential aspect of giftedness. This sense of creativity consists in the search for ever new questions and solutions as well as for unusual approaches.
Extraordinary sense of creativity means, that a child successfully combines and utilises its knowledge and capabilities in unconventional ways when confronted with a specific task or when trying to solve a problem. Creativity may also show in the unconventional ways in which a child acquires new knowledge or develops new capabilities, thus organising its own learning process in unconventional ways and setting himself unconventional tasks. According to Wieczerkowski and Wagner (1981) creativity encompasses abundance of ideas, flexibility, imagination, originality and divergent thinking.
EFFORTLESSNESS IN LEARNING
With an example from my own working experience at a kindergarten I would like to illustrate these constituents of giftedness and thereby show how they may concur:
Lena (4;10) has been interested in numbers for quite a while. She can count up to 100 without making a mistake. One day, I, her kindergarten teacher, give her a hint that one might count in steps of tens, too. She immediately puts this into action and manages to count to 100 in steps of tens without making a mistake, turns around and asks whether one could also count in steps of two. She then proceeds to do this successfully if with some effort up to 100.
Two days later another surprising thing happens. At home Lena has an elder sister, who is just in the process of learning the multiplication tables and does not want her younger sister to practice along with her. This refusal by her elder sister has, however, not diminished Lena’s interest in multiplication.
Actually?? I shouldn’t learn this before three years from now??
Another day in kindergarten – Lena is, as she often does, clearing the dishwasher – she approaches me, meat-tenderiser in her hand, and asks: „5 times 5 comes to 25, doesn’t it? I have counted that, too.“ She looks at the pyramid shaped spikes of the meat- tenderiser and turns it around. On the opposite side it has smaller but more spikes. She counts the spikes of the first horizontal row, then the first vertical row, leaving out the corner spike. Upon my remark that she had forgotten to count the corner spike, she answers: „Why? I have already counted it as part of the horizontal row. – And what do 7 times 6 come to? I’ll count that.“
In spite of that little error (7×6 instead of 7×7) all three elements of giftedness are clearly shown in this example:
- Effortless learning: Lena moves from one calculation technique to the next at a surprising pace and is able to successfully put into action simple and incidentally uttered hints (steps of tens). She has picked up the abstract term „horizontal“ and uses it confidently.
- Her interest in numbers and sets has awakened early and has been consistent since. She is clearly showing an intrinsic motivation to calculate. The task of learning how to multiply she set to herself and pursues it single-mindedly.
- She combines her abilities to count and her understanding of numbers in unconventional ways by applying them when engaged in unrelated activities such as clearing the dishwasher or utilising them to apprehend mathematical operations that are yet new to her (multiplying). She recognizes the uniform alignment of spikes on the meat-tenderiser as a means of conceptualising a way to solve a problem of calculation – all by herself.
Later on Lena was tested and determined to be gifted in the fields of language and mathematics. In a general intelligence test she also achieved a high score.
When the three before mentioned aspects are so pronounced in a child, that its score in an intelligence test reaches 98 percent (that is, only 2 percent of that age group scored higher during the calibrating phase of the test) it is generally assumed by experts that this child is highly gifted. The corresponding IQ would be 130 and higher.
Whether or not giftedness will result in high achievement depends largely on the degree and stability of motivation, on the creativity and further personal traits of the child. The development of innate dispositions for extraordinary ability, motivation and creativity is greatly dependent on favorable environmental preconditions.
In early life the family is of paramount importance, the next factor coming into effect is kindergarten.
Alas, many a conventional concept of giftedness does not even mention kindergarten
Date of publication in German: May 5 th, 2007
Translated by Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint