Primary grade teachers' conceptions of giftedness and talent: A case-based investigation.

Catherine Brighton, Tonya Moon, Jane Jarvis, Jessica Hockett

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Despite the ongoing, extensive focus on the more equitable representation of gifted students from diverse populations, poor and minority students remain underserved by gifted education proportional to their representation in the broader student population (Donovan & Cross, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 1993). One possible factor contributing to the continued under-representation of poor and minority students in gifted programs is an inadequate understanding of the roots of the problem in the earliest years of schooling. Failure to identify and develop talent in very young children has been linked to subsequent negative outcomes in cognitive, academic, social, and affective development (Neihart, Reis, Robinson, & Moon, 2002). The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) at the University of Virginia conducted a two-phase, mixed-methods study designed to explore the beliefs and practices of teachers at the primary school level (grades K-2). Of particular interest were (a) teachers' beliefs about the nature of giftedness in young students; (b) teachers' beliefs about how giftedness is manifested and distributed across cultural and socioeconomic groups of young students; and (c) teachers' classroom practices related to talent development in the primary grades. In this way, the study considered both teachers' attitudes and beliefs about giftedness and the translation of these beliefs into instructional practices related to perceived student potential. In addition, the study explored the pedagogical potential of equipping teachers with context-specific lessons that incorporate strategies most likely to uncover and develop talent in previously unrecognized gifted students. The first phase of the project involved a multidisciplinary review of the relevant literature to determine those attributes, principles, and recommendations for identifying talent in at-risk, disadvantaged, and culturally diverse young children. The general themes from these literatures informed the development of a survey designed to assess primary grade teachers' beliefs, attitudes, and practices in regard to young gifted (or potentially gifted) students from diverse backgrounds. The second phase of the study involved intensive classroom observations by trained participant observers in primary grade classrooms in six diverse elementary schools. The purpose of this phase of the project was to extensively describe and document the classroom context and to determine the degree of consistency between teachers' philosophies about giftedness and talent and their classroom practices aimed at nurturing and developing talent in all students, particularly those from under-represented groups. Findings from both phases of this study revealed consistent patterns in four interrelated areas: (a) factors internal to the teacher, (b) forces on the teacher outside the self, (c) teacher behaviors, and (d) observable student behaviors and verbal responses which operate in concert to shape the course of talent development for typically underserved children in primary grade classrooms. (Separate chapters have references and appendices. Contains 8 tables and 1 figure.)
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationStorrs, Connecticut, USA
PublisherThe National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented
Number of pages344
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • teacher attitudes
  • gifted and talented
  • primary education
  • socioeconomic status
  • case studies
  • parent participation
  • student behaviour
  • teacher behaviour


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