Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Giftedness and High Achievers

Day 3 of the GiftEDNZ Blogging Challenge prompts us to consider the difference between High Achievers and Gifted Kids. 

Today's article is The Truth About Gifted Versus High Achieving Students.  This article is a really interesting one. The writer, Chris Croll, makes some very compelling points and I agree with many of her thoughts. The one point we differ on is that Chris makes a very clear distinction between gifted students and high achieving students; her post implies that there is very little overlap between the two. I'm not so sure about this.

I have been mulling this over since reading the article and wonder whether this calls for a visual response. Since I am the only member of my whanāu to have no artistic ability whatsoever, I'm turning to my trusty friend, Canva. 

I have drawn three diagrams which might help me to think more clearly.  These diagrams are truly primitive but hopefully, you get the gist!

1. We know not all gifted kids are achieving highly but are ALL high achievers actually gifted? Are high achievers simply a smaller subset of gifted students?

2. Or is it possible that some high achievers are not gifted at all? Are they simply kids who have learned to "play the game" of school and have mastered it, meaning they are achieving well across the board? If that's the case, go them, I say! 

3. Or does the answer lie somewhere in the middle? Are there some high achievers who are gifted and some who are not?

(I apologise profusely for being unable to work out how to colour the overlapping piece an orangey shade! This is really bugging me but for the sake of getting this posted, I'm going to let it go!)

In recent years, my thinking has started to become more in line with the first diagram (all high achievers are gifted) whereas before it was probably most like the third (some high achievers are gifted but not all.) I'm not thinking of high achievers as those good, solid students who maintain good grades with a lot of effort but rather the students who consistently achieve at a very high level across the board. Isn't it possible that all these very high achieving students are gifted? 

I wonder if it really matters for the high achievers that we define them? I mean, if they are working and achieving at such a high level and we are challenging them and keeping them engaged, then yay! Happy times! 

However, the kids this really does matter for are the gifted kids who are not achieving, those who are disengaged, not feeling challenged or motivated and who are really left feeling miserable in our current system.  These are the ones we owe it to to get it right. 

This blogpost really was a stream of consciousness and as always, I could, of course, be convinced otherwise so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. 


  1. Hi Bridget, I love the graphics! It's a really effective way to share your thinking. I agree with your point about the author separating the high achievers from gifted. Perhaps this is where people find it difficult to understand how a gifted high achiever can excel but other gifted students seem to struggle?

  2. Your post has really got me thinking and it's such a valuable discussion to have. My thinking has been a bit in line with your second diagram - that not all high achievers are gifted - they have, as you've written, 'learned to play the game.' But is it really as simple as this - it's got me thinking really hard. I need to do a lot more reflection on this but it's such a valuable discussion to have. It would be really interesting to see what others think too.

  3. I've been struggling with this one for a while as well and how it comes back to how we define giftedness in the first place. Where it grates me is the way many of our girls are dismissed as not being gifted because they are compliant, and can play the if being able to know and play the game discounts giftedness. I think in the work we have done to enable greater awareness that high achievement does not equal giftedness at times that has meant we are discounting those that sit within the 3rd diagram.

  4. I love the diagrams... so clear and it made it easier for me to see what I felt more comfortable with. At the moment I sit in the number 3 camp possibly because I include those kids who work really hard and achieve well in the high achievers category as well as those who are consistently working at a higher level with less perspiration. I love your statement " if they are working and achieving at such a high level and we are challenging them and keeping them engaged, then yay! Happy times!" and wonder perhaps if that shouldn't be our aim for those gifted students who are not achieving or being engaged... that our job is to help them find the path to achievement and engagement through appropriate challenge and celebrate that?

  5. The Diagrams are great Bridget! They definitely aided my understanding. What an interesting question to ponder. Are all high achievers gifted? I have always, like you felt that, No, they weren’t, absolutely some are though. I’ve watched successfully many students ‘play the game’ and consistently get the results, yet they never struck me as particularly gifted, but more work smart. However, this is totally food for thought. My whole understanding of what gifted actually is, is still a work in progress. I love learning more and all these posts are definitely making me think more in-depth about it.