Gifted Girls Need Unique Support

This week I am researching some articles to get more of a handle on gifted girls for the OAGCTDchat that will be on June 7th with featured guest Jade Ann Rivera. After reading some articles I just felt, that I needed to share a little of what I have learned.

I found some of the research very interesting, because in my classes this is the first year my gifted girls out number my gifted boys. I know gifted girls face much more of challenge at times than my gifted boys. In my urban school district boys seem to have an easier time fitting in than my girls do. I know boys comes with some of their own challenges, but I think girls have it a bit more difficult.

Gifted girls have issues that surround their self-image and abilities. Some girls have issues with hiding their abilities to fit in with their friends, We call this issue the Imposter Syndrome. Psychologist Matina Horner, in a 1969 report on her doctoral dissertation research, identified what came to be called the Horner Effect, or Fear of Success syndrome: that women characteristically under-achieve when competing against men.

I was reading an article from the Davidson Institute about gifted girls and they listed some very interesting characteristics about gifted girls that I had not thought about.

Become aware of the special challenges of gifted girls:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Apathy, based on resignation or feelings of inferiority
  • Fear of taking risks
  • Exaggerated concern about being accepted among peers
  • Ambivalent feelings about talent
  • Conflict between cultural identity and school achievement

Examine the signs of potential giftedness in this population. While each girl expresses talent in very unique ways, common indicators include:

  • Discrepancies between performance and self-concept
  • Discrepancies between average or low test scores and exceptional originality, imagination and insight in independent projects or assignments
  • Disinclination to participate, despite signs of talent or ability
  • Sudden, unaccountable appearance of some ability in a seemingly average girl
  • Misbehavior in class that shows ingenuity (despite its disruptiveness) or reveals leadership ability
  • Notable contrast between school performance and the abilities, achievements and/or activities reported by parents or community members

From much of what I am reading, to truly identify some of our gifted girls we have give them more opportunities to show their talent and gifts. Doing tests and class assignments aren’t enough. We have to have observations from both parents and teachers. We need to have open conversations with our girls we suspect may be gifted to see what they are interested in, and find out how they learn. We have to give our gifted girls some projects that challenge them and inspire them to step out of the shadows of all the average girls and show us their talents.

To help teachers identify gifted girls we have to look at cultures and socio-economic status. Both of these have an effect on girls. Many cultures have expectations for girls that may limit their abilities due to the roles they are expected to fill in their culture. Many times, the socio-economic level has effects on girls as well. Girls coming from low socio-economic levels may not have any strong positive role models to base their aspirations off of in their family or neighborhood.

E. Paul Torrance in 1977 came up with a list of observations that can help identify gifted girls in different cultures:

  • Ability to improvise with commonplace materials and objects
  • Articulateness in role-playing, sociodrama and story telling
  • Enjoyment of and ability in creative movement, dance, dramatics, etc.
  • Use of expressive speech
  • Enjoyment of and skills in group activities, problem solving
  • Responsiveness to the concrete
  • Responsiveness to the kinesthetic
  • Expressiveness of gestures, body language, etc. and ability to interpret body language
  • Humor
  • Richness of imagery in informal language
  • Originality of ideas in solving problems
  • Problem-centeredness or persistence in problem solving.
  • Emotional responsiveness

What are you doing to help find the gifted and talented girls in your school or in your classroom? How can we help our girls overcome issues with Impostor Syndrome and the Horner Effect? How can help their self-image so they can be a great asset to society?


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