Research in the area of intellectual giftedness has been rather scarce historically , so this phenomenon continues to be a field to study and know at a necessarily deeper level.

The contributions of American origin make a distinction between the concepts “supergifted” (gifted in all subjects), “gifted (IQ over 130)” and “talented” (high abilities in some specific subject). More specifically, the American Department of Education indicates six criteria to be met by the student in order to be considered intellectually gifted:

  1. Possessing general academic excellence.
  2. Have specific skills.
  3. To have a type of productive thinking.
  4. Good leadership skills.
  5. Presenting a talent in the visual and physical arts
  6. A superior psychomotor skill.

Thus, the exact definition of what a gifted pupil would be for this group would correspond to the capacity presented by children who are very precocious in their general development or in the development of specific skills.

The facets of intellectual giftedness

Among the characteristics by which this class of students stands out, three areas are differentiated: behaviour (they are very active and show a lot of interest in their surroundings, their understanding of the environment is very high and they have high concentration and memory capacities), physical characteristics (they are hypothesised to have an attractive physiognomy and a greater probability of using glasses to correct their vision) and social adaptation (they show greater maturity, greater independence and their social relations are usually satisfactory in cases up to an IQ 150 limit, the opposite being true for children with higher IQs; In addition, they tend to show more emotional stability, empathy, interest in leisure activities of an intellectual nature and their sense of humor is highly ironic and twisted).

Discrimination against Gifted Students

As problems associated with intellectual giftedness, we can differentiate between the so-called Internal or External Dyssynchrony Syndrome and the Negative Pygmalion Effect. The first refers to an alteration in the synchronization with regard to intellectual, social, affective and motor development. This includes internal dyssynchrony (which may be intellectual-motor, related to language, and to reasoning capacity or in the affective-intellectual area) and social dyssynchrony (both in the school environment and in the family).

On the other hand, the Pygmalion Effect is usually associated with cases of unidentified giftedness in which the figures of the family and/or school environment give low expectations to the student’s school performance, which provoke an attitude of conformity and low effort on the part of the child, combined with a feeling of guilt regarding his or her precocity that feeds the decrease in school results.

Types of intellectual giftedness

Research has found a great heterogeneity in the aspects that characterize gifted subjects, greater than the points they have in common. Thus, a first way of categorizing this group of individuals is related to their level of creativity .

1. Creative gifted

On the one hand, the creative gifted stand out for their highly developed sense of humor, powerful nonconformity and differentiation from others. Their main characteristics are associated with a greater capacity for the flow of ideas , originality, ability to abstract, to take unusual perspectives and the capacity for imagination.

2. Gifted by IQ

On the other hand, the gifted can stand out because of their IQ level, and not so much because of their creative capacity. In this second group we find subjects with an IQ of approximately 140, and we can discriminate between gifted people from a privileged environment (characterized by a high critical spirit, nonconformity, impatience, although they also enjoy an adequate self-esteem and positive self-confidence), and gifted people from a disadvantaged environment (more conformist), Intensely emotionally sensitive, usually worried about failure and dependent on ethical and moral values) and the extremely precocious gifted (they are associated with personality disorders and obsessive or psychotic psychopathology, so they are often marginalized, maladjusted and socially misunderstood individuals).

How to identify the gifted student

Several authors have made different lists of the defining aspects of people with high IQ, very applicable in the detection of gifted students.

For example, the contributions of Joseph Renzulli from the Research Institute for the Education of Gifted Students indicate that there are three criteria that must be taken into account when qualifying a subject as gifted:

  • Above-average intellectual capacity
  • A high degree of dedication to tasks
  • High levels of creativity.
  • It is also usual to associate these young people with great leadership qualities and high artistic and psychomotor skills. But these are not the only characteristics related to giftedness.

The characteristics of the gifted

The particularities that have been exposed as defining a gifted subject, such as creativity, dedication to the tasks to be performed or an intelligence coefficient that really reflects the intellectual capacity of the individual free of foreign variables, are very difficult to evaluate.

Even so, consensus has been reached to include some aspects as indicators of intellectual giftedness , whose presence is found in a high proportion of the cases studied.

Thus, from the family and school environment, the figures in the child’s environment can observe the following qualitative and quantitative parameters: the use of language (wide vocabulary and high complexity of sentences), the type of questions posed (unusual, original), the elaborate way of communicating one’s ideas, the ability to design strategies to solve tasks, the innovative use of common materials, the breadth and depth of their knowledge, the marked tendency to collect and to have many hobbies (especially intellectual), and a constant and highly critical attitude.

Psychopedagogical intervention in gifted students

Despite the fact that there are some widespread beliefs about what type of intervention is most appropriate for this group of students, it seems to be proven that the most effective measure is to treat these subjects as being included in the usual school environment shared by the rest of the students.

Therefore, we must avoid segregation and the integral modification of the academic curriculum or the need to be tutored by a teacher with a specific professional profile. More specifically, the following psycho-pedagogical strategies are proposed for intervention with gifted children:

Application of the academic curriculum

It should be established individually for each gifted subject (according to his/her particularities) , indicating what type of help he/she will need both quantitatively and qualitatively and whether this will be informal or will require formal changes in the educational programme. Facilitation of stimulating activities should be sought at the level of self-knowledge and heterogeneity of the students and opportunities for parents to better understand the characteristics of their children.


This intervention refers to the substitution of an academic course to be taken by the student for a more advanced one. This resource has the advantage that allows a more stimulating environment to be adapted to the student although it is true that the maturity and capacity of the gifted student is not equal in all areas, so he may feel inferior to his classmates in the advanced course and, thus, increase the promotion of competitive attitudes among children.

The support room

In this case there is a specialist teaching team assigned specifically to determine what type of support this type of student needs. Gifted children are instructed in a segregated manner from their usual peers , establishing a new group of high capacities in which the development of skills and interest in the different areas of learning are worked on. The main disadvantage is that it may facilitate the appearance of rejection by peers who do not present high intellectual capacities.

The usual classroom

This strategy is based on the development of learning within the student’s home classroom, which shares the same treatment as the rest of the class. The advantage of this methodology lies in the fact that the students do not perceive discrimination or preferences , in addition they learn to adapt and normalise the fact that the learning process occurs naturally in a heterogeneous manner. The main disadvantage lies in the decrease in motivation that gifted students may suffer if they do not receive sufficient stimulation.

Projects to expand the curriculum

In order to apply this strategy you must pay attention to and analyse the type of specific skills presented by the student , the areas of interest, the style of his/her learning, the condensation (individualised adaptation of the curriculum), the assessment of the product or activity carried out, the proportion of stimulating complementary activities (conferences, exhibitions, fairs, etc).

Family support

Family collaboration is fundamental since it can facilitate the teaching task and the emotional stability of the student, avoiding demotivation or rejection by their peers. Parents have a greater knowledge of their child’s needs and can complement the need for school stimulation at home. For this reason , communication between both parties is fundamental , since it will allow the teaching team to provide them, in addition, with certain appropriate educational guidelines regarding the treatment offered to the child at home regarding the avoidance of comparisons, excessive demands, acceptance of his/her particularities, etc.

Teaching and training of concrete intellectual skills

For further enrichment of the acquired contents, the training of the following skills can facilitate their learning and motivation .

The information and data received can be worked on in aspects such as sequencing, comparison, classification, cause-effect relationship, elaborating lists of attributes, carrying out logical reasoning, planning and execution of projects, evaluation of ideas and perspectives, detection and correction of errors, mainly.

Bibliographic references:

  • Acereda, A. and Sastre, S. (1998). La superdotación. Madrid: Síntesis.
  • Alonso, J. A., Renzulli, J. S., Benito, Y. (2003). Manual internacional de superdotados. Madrid: EOS.
  • Álvarez González, B. (2000): High capacity students. Identification and educational intervention. Madrid: Bruño.
  • Coriat, A. R. (1990): Gifted children. Barcelona: Herder.
  • Renzulli, J. (1994): “Development of talent in schools. Programa práctico para enriquecimiento el total rendimiento escolar”, in BENITO, Y. Mediante (coor.): El modelo de Intervención e investigación psicoeducativa en alumnos superdotados. Salamanca: Amaru Ediciones.