Gagné’s Promise … Potential and Achievement

Recently, I was privileged to hear Dr. Françoys Gagné give a presentation on his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent 2.0 (DMGT) in Second Life [see here]. Although I had read many papers by Professor Gagné, nothing could replace listening to him explain it in person (virtually) and answer questions from the audience.

With all the recent discussion of talent development in the U.S., the timing of this presentation could not have been better. I was immediately struck by the different approach taken by Gagné and understood why those in other countries did not understand the resistance to talent development in the U.S. by many leading gifted education professionals.

Gifted children … our children … are more than a product to be exploited. They have feelings and needs beyond their academic abilities. As a parent, this is often seen as more important than raising the next Nobel Laureate … although a Nobel Prize in the family would be nice.

The DMGT addresses both giftedness and talent as a whole package. Fancy that! It’s always nice to see academics get it right. It is not an either/or proposition. Giftedness is the possession of natural abilities – a promise of achievement when coupled with effort. Will all children who are identified as gifted achieve? No. Is it the end of the world? No. Could a child’s achievement change the course of history? Sure. As parents, it is our role to learn about and understand giftedness so you can support and nurture your child. It is in the end, however, your child’s decision whether or not to make the effort.

Professor Gagné developed a chart [shown above] to show the process that transforms giftedness into talent via catalysts ~ environmental, intrapersonal and developmental. His model includes the top 10% of learners among age peers – he casts a wider net than many of his colleagues. This is reflected in his definition of giftedness, “Giftedness is the possession of outstanding aptitudes (natural/untrained abilities) in at least one ability domain, to a degree that places an individual among the top 10% of age peers.”

This model acknowledges the existence of ‘giftedness’ and ‘talent’ as aptitudes and competencies while defining three shared characteristics. As both are human abilities, they target those who are different from the norm, and that difference exists due to outstanding behaviors.

The DMGT covers many bases included in other models. It represents a child-friendly approach to understanding giftedness. The columns on the model are detailed and straight-forward. Gifted Education is a field of many different approaches and it is hoped that the reader will be helped to better understand them with information presented in this blog.

Being able to hear Gagné explain his model was priceless. If you would like to join me at the next Virtual Conference in Second Life, please take a moment to visit this website to find out how. Hope to see you there! 

Further Reading:


  1. Gagne is a wonderfully warm speaker.. and his model is certainly very close to the human element of gifted.. nice post Lisa as always.. les..

  2. I have always liked Gagné's approach and wondered why it wasn't used as a foundation for all discussions of giftedness. It seems to encompass all of the aspects that need to be considered when talking about gifted people (kids and adults).

    I tried getting into Second Life, but I couldn't figure it out and gave up.

  3. Great post, Lisa. Prof Gagne is a wonderful, engaging speaker!

  4. This is so well said and abslutely reflects the the NAGC's new position paper defing giftedness in the states, as well as President Paula OK's platform. Any effort to intellectually support/develop a gifted child is talent development and because of excellent research in the last four decades, the programs usually have significant social-emotional components and parent supports. Well said!

    1. With all due respect, I believe there are many who might disagree with this interpretation of Paula's position. Recent statements from James H. Borland and Jim Delisle appear to contradict this new direction.

  5. Hi Lisa:
    A couple of comments.
    First : Borland doesn't like Gagne's model either :-)
    Second Borland believes that gifted only exists as a construct of education and is a recent invention.
    Borland states in the article:" A number of years ago (Borland, 1989), I made a distinction between two views of gifted students and gifted education and two concomitant rationales for the field's existence. One I characterized as the national-resource approach. In this approach, gifted students are thought of as a vast, largely untapped resource that needs to be identified and developed for the common good. This is a future-oriented approach; gifted students are thought of as those who have the greatest potential to become creative-productive adults (Renzulli, 1978). Conceptualizing the field in this manner can make a compelling case for the existence of gifted programs, especially in times of national crisis, such as the post-Sputnik era of the late 1950s, when gifted education was sold to the public in just these terms."
    The gifted literature is filled with this concept of the goal being eminence and giving back to society at large by being part of the people who improve it over the last generation. "In the late 1930s the great psychologist Leta Hollingworth (1940) began a memorandum to the American Council on Education with these words: `The development of all the world's natural resources depends on human intelligence, courage, stamina and will. It depends primary on thinking. Therefore, intellectually gifted children are among the most valuable assets of a civilised nation' (p. 116)."
    Borland then writes:" the major problem with the national-resources approach is that it takes our eye off the ball. We lose sight of what is happening in today's classrooms and focus instead on developing future talent. Moreover, when the ante is raised and eminence, and not special education, becomes the goal, the number of individuals included in the mix decreases significantly. We sacrifice the needs of millions of needy high-ability students in an effort to develop eminence in a relatively few. "
    I don't see how he comes to this conclusion. Gagne's model ,which is utilized the most worldwide, widens the net to the upper 10% in gifted or talented and the same with the NAGC. This model is not limited to IQ gifted but rather extends to the upper 10% in talent also. It also does not make sense to me that providing a sound educational foundation that prepares the student well for secondary education is in direct conflict with what is needed for each student today.

    Deslisle: too bad he didn't have someone vet that article before it was published..he conflates the issues to begin with and offers no data to support his position. To me it was purely an opinion piece and bordered on a rant.
    The more I read about gifted education throughout the last 100 years the more I see that Subotnik and Paula are really only reiterating what has been said for many , many years and in many different ways but with scientific/research back-up (i.e Ericcson and such).
    There is an interesting article in Roeper Review 9-22-05 "Examining our foundations: implications for gifted education research."
    "Albert (1969) concluded that in the period from 1927 to 1965 there was a shift away from the use of the terms genius, eminence, and distinction, and toward using the terms giftedness and creativity.... concluded his article by mentioning one important question to investigate: "the prediction from giftedness to eminence" (p.752). The article goes into the PCness of gifted education terminology and ends with " sustained action that supports all members to act as knowledge producers, we would hope to repeat this study in 35 years to find a noticeable growth in the number of articles including data-driven suggestions and theory-refining recommendations."

    1. Hi Kristine,

      Thanks for the resources. Of course gifted is a socially derived concept: everything that we socially share including our language is a socially derived concept. We create (collectively) our societies, even our experiences and consciousness. That line of thinking comes from postmodern social constructionism. We are 'rethinking' gifted once again, re-constructing so to speak, through these discussions on a world stage. Thus, the importance of collaboration, cooperation, discussion and policy making (I think this is part of the affront the community is feeling as they felt it was premature to make policy before consensus, but that's just a guess).

      Borland misses (though we can't blame him as he wrote in 1997)the brain studies that show differences between those identified as 'gifted.'


    2. Hi Catherine:
      You wrote: "(I think this is part of the affront the community is feeling as they felt it was premature to make policy before consensus, but that's just a guess)."
      I gathered that too, but see no evidence of policy being made or changed. The NAGC has not changed their position statement with the release of Subotnik's and Paula OK's paper on "Rethinking Giftedness". It may be Paula's platform but the committee who develops and approves policy has not issued a policy change since 2010.
      From the NAGC FB page: “A Defining Moment” mistakenly conflates Paula Olszewski-Kubilius’s Presidential address at the 2012 NAGC conference with the position paper adopted by NAGC, “Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm” Paula did not “present” this new definition in her presidential address, nor make any mention of or reference to it. The content of her presidential address included her views on the field presented to stimulate discussion about the future of gifted education….The definition referred to in “A Defining Moment,” was the product of a task force created by Del Siegle when he was president of NAGC in 2008-2009. Del announced the task force in his public presidential address to the NAGC members at the conference that year. ....The members of the task force included researchers and practitioners: James Gallagher, James Webb, Nancy Robinson, Karen Rogers, Catherine Little, Catherine Brighton, Mary Slade, Elissa Brown, Sheila Smith, Valija Rose, Larry Coleman, Kristina Ayers Paul, Kristie Speirs Neumeister, and Susan Johnsen….The formation of the task force was approved by the NAGC Board of Directors, elected representatives of the NAGC membership, and was the product of the task force's work in March 2010. These procedures are consistent with NAGC policy and are the ones followed for every task force constituted by the board to take on similar work. "
      Borland: I don't think the brain studies would make any difference to Borland and really don't impact his premise. His platform is that without formal school starting at K there would be no need to classify a child as gifted, hence it is a social construct traceable to the use of psychometrics. In his book “Rethinking Gifted” The gifted child as a social construct has questionable validity. He argues that : “we can ,and should ,have gifted education without gifted children”. Joan freeman’s studies on the gifted label are similar in the lack of need for the label.
      What I have seen over the last decade is a growing movement within internet gt-land of a tribal mentality, or an identity fixation tied into a group, based on the IQ number. “Gifted “has moved beyond educational needs in K-8 ,possible 9-12, to a fierce and loyal tribe of people who “understand each other To me this whole debate is not about education at all, as there has been nothing new stated, but rather it is about territory (within the field of psychology ) and identity among the lay people. If you looked at this purely from an educational standpoint Subotnik’s paper is brilliant -what isn’t there to like. All of the negative responses have centered around “gifted is who you are” –whatever that may be. I’m good with that- though it is not my cup of tea and doesn’t apply to our family dynamics .We haven’t use the word gifted as an adjective, nor as a noun ,since the child entered high school/college. The descriptor “gifted “ was no longer germane to her educational needs, as her demonstration of subject mastery spoke for itself. Her career environment is filled with really smart people and nobody refers to themselves ,or others ,as gifted. Talented, creative, brilliant – those adjectives are used but gifted? No..
      Best, Kristine

  6. Hi Lisa,

    This is a wonderful post on Gagne's theory and I like how you tie it in with the new NAGC and U.S. educational change in definition of gifted. The problem with this approach to education, I believe, is in the identification process (focus on talent). There are catalysts (those from disadvantaged environments and/or who are 2e) that will affect 'giftedness' and thus influence the talent portion. I believe in early identification and interventions for all children, including gifted, such that they can potentiate their abilities translating into 'talent.' I wrote more about my response to the new U.S. focus and definitions in a paper and re-drafted it for the audience on my blog (would love to know what others think):
    and wrote a policy analysis in 2010 about this for the state of Illinois that can be found on my linkedin account 'box' (perhaps I'll post it on my blog, though it's a bit long for a blog post).

    I love your blog and keep up the great work that you are doing for the Gifted community. Thanks from another Mom and advocate.


    1. I just realized that I made an error, though it is kind of funny. I do believe things can cause affective issues in children resulting in issues with 'talent;' but realize that the correct word is effect. My error. :-)


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