The terms talented and gifted have been used interchangeably in literature to describe a wide range of exceptional performance.  Talent is often considered to be a specialized ability, a high level of competence in a particular domain while the term giftedness has generally been equated with a high IQ score.  The three necessary elements proposed by different researchers and scientists for characterizing talent are:

  1. high ability
  2. task commitment
  3. persistence

The term talent is thus an umbrella concept to encompass various facets of excellence or potential for excellence.  The exact meaning of the term talented and gifted is an object of constant debate.

Studies on related literature shows that there has been a dissatisfaction with the unidimensional notion of talent and this has led to a concern for individual children’s unique strengths, interests and development and an acceptance of diverse expressions of excellence.  Howard Gardner talks about his theory of multiple intelligence and says,

In the heyday of the psychometric and behaviorist eras, it was generally believed that intelligence was a single entity that was inherited; and that human beings – initially a blank slate – could be trained to learn anything, provided that it was presented in an appropriate way. Nowadays an increasing number of researchers believe precisely the opposite; that there exists a multitude of intelligences, quite independent of each other; that each intelligence has its own strengths and constraints; that the mind is far from unencumbered at birth; and that it is unexpectedly difficult to teach things that go against early ‘naive’ theories of that challenge the natural lines of force within an intelligence and its matching domains.

Another point for consideration in understanding talented children is that while some concede that these children are a distinct group of exceptional children who share certain unique cognitive and socio-emotional characteristics, others think that talented or gifted performance should be understood in a more dynamic context and can be attributed to contextual influences as much as personal characteristics.  Rooted in this dilemma is a more philosophical question…Is it a social construction rather than objective reality?

As the phenomenon of talented and gifted is subject to many interpretations, consequent are the different strategies for assessment.  The traditional approach, which focuses on a set of static attributes or traits largely relies on testing.

In contrast there is the dynamic assessment approach, which looks at processes, strategies, errors etc. and attempts to understand the micro-level analysis and clinical insights regarding child’s performance.

Such an approach raises an issue of subjectivity in measurement and assessment.
Would talent be limited to abilities that can be measured only by objective tests or does it also need to include subjective judgment as well???