Giftedness and the 10,000 Hour Rule | Q&A with Queenie

by Queenie on June 10, 2010

Image of QueenieHow has giftedness been traditionally defined?

When many of us think about giftedness we are usually referring to one type of intelligence that is usually rooted in reading, math, writing etc..

The California Department of Education states that:
Gifted and Talented Pupil:”means a pupil enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school who is identified as possessing demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of high performance capability.”

Highly Gifted Pupil: “means a gifted and talented pupil who has achieved a measured intelligence quotient of 150 or more points on an assessment of intelligence administered by qualified personnel or has demonstrated extraordinary aptitude and achievement in language arts, mathematics, science, or other academic subjects as evaluated and confirmed by both the pupil’s teacher and principal.”

What is wrong with this definition?

For me the is really hard to read, even though I was labeled “gifted” in school and was enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Education Program (GATE). As  a human developmentalist and educator it concerns me that being gifted is ONLY defined by “achieving a measured intelligence quotient of 150 …and demonstrates extraordinary aptitude.”  These tests are largely based on logic and reasoning data. Intelligence is complex and can be measured in over 150 domains according to J.P. Guilford. This is an inefficient way to stratify and label children as gifted.

Why is this a problem?

Many take this definition as either my child is gifted and talented/highly gifted or they are…not? It doesn’t illustrated the entire spectrum and process of giftedness nor does it take it account the many types of intelligences.

Also, the mistake that schools and parents make is not understanding that intelligence is developed, refined, and honed over the years, and guaranteed success does not automatically come along with the label of giftedness.

Why is understanding a more comprehensive definition of gifted truly important?

I believe that it’s important to peel back the layers on this terminology and add more depth and insight to this word. Having a more sophisticated understanding of the word allows parents to see the categories as providing students with the resources they need as oppose to seeing children as more smart and less smart.

So does this mean that anyone can be gifted?

Yes! All of us are gifted in some area or another. Last week I said that the human mind was far more complex than one learning style, and again, I want to remind you that your child’s human potential and intelligence is magnificent and should never be measured solely on one type of learning scale. The capacity that children have to learn new things is simply amazing.

So how can I develop giftedness within my child?

Think about this, most great composers started when they were three, most musicians when they were three, dancers when they were three, most hall of fame athletes when they were three (ok, I’m exaggerating) but are you starting to get the point. Most people who we revere culturally as gifted in a particular area, started when they were really young. By the time they were labeled as “gifted” they have had over 10, 000 hours of practice and development in one particular area.

Where did I get 10,000 hour rule from, you might be asking?

Anders Ericsson, coined the ten thousand hour rule, it means that if any one person has 10,000 hours of deliberate practice of a skill they will become an expert or gifted for that matter in that particular domain. How did he stumble upon this revelation? He correlated achievement with hours of practice as oppose to innate abilities. What he found in his study at the Berlin Academy of Music was that the elite students all put in 10,000 hours of practice, the good 8,000 and the average 4,000. He replicated his study in other domains, and found that the research was valid and held true.

Should we use the label gifted?

I’m not advocating that we don’t use the word, I’m simply giving more meaning to the word and hopefully changing the way people view the categories. Because, we now know that intelligence and gifts are largely developed, if your child is labeled gifted, continue to support them by using strategies and resources that support where they are at on the learning curve.

But also know that giftedness in one area doesn’t automatically translate as gifted across the board. If your child is not labeled gifted, now you know that by identifying specific areas of weakness, and with the use of cognitive strengthening exercises, time, practice and brain-based strategies your child can improve their thought patterns in any area, and refine and craft their level of intelligence as well.

Is there anything else you want parents to know?

The goal is to not see the word gifted as “smarter than” and to understand that your child’s success is a sum total of the positive effects of our environment, unique opportunities, time, rehearsal, and cultural relevancy of the skill or ability in which they have talents.

Its not a race to get your child labeled gifted or a competition amongst you and another parent but what’s most important is that you are giving your child what they need at any particular time in their learning experience.

Queenie Lindsey is an academic coach and educational consultant. She is the founder of Tandem Teaching and Distinguished Learning Group, an academic coaching firm. Follow her on Twitter.


gwenlyn martin June 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm

This article was very well written, now i understand you better my gifted daugher.

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