The Effects of Stereotypes on Gifted Kids
What are the most prevalent stereotypes you hear about gifted children and teens? Unflattering terms such as ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’ promote the stereotypes of GT kids as being interested in only academic pursuits and lacking in social skills. Gifted children are often perceived as over-achievers in school, non-athletic, and reticent to associate with age-peers.
How gifted students see themselves in response to stereotypes can affect their willingness to be associated with gifted programs and even the gifted label. Academic performance can be diminished when GT students assume stereotypes which focus on intellectual ability; many longing to simply ‘fit in’ with age-peers.
Stereotypes can affect teacher perception of gifted students. The stereotype of the always high achieving student can put at risk those students identified as GT but for a wide array of circumstances do not achieve at expected levels. Achievement shouldn’t be the sole consideration. Not all GT students are ‘teacher pleasers’ and may exhibit unexpected behaviors. Support professionals should be consulted rather than removing services for these students. Negative stereotypes about gifted students can be mitigated by increasing exposure to gifted education for teachers at the undergraduate level and through high-quality professional development in the field.
What role does ‘stereotype threat’ play in gifted students’ development? Stereotype threat occurs when a student assumes a negative stereotype is true and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Steele & Aronson 1995) Test performance can be significantly influenced by stereotype threat; specifically cultural stereotypes relating to intelligence – the belief that certain racial groups or low-ses students do not do well in particular subjects. At the same time, stereotype threat can be diminished simply by acknowledging that it exists (Johns, Schmader & Martens, 2005) and seeking affirmation of positive personal characteristics (Marx & Roman, 2002).
Movies and television too often portray gifted kids as the butt of jokes, the kid no one wants on their team, or a failure in interpersonal relationships. Gifted kids can develop low self-esteem and find it hard to overcome in real life. Negative stereotypes of gifted children in the media are also consumed be age-peers who may lack understanding and maturity in how to respond positively towards their GT friends.
Parents and advocates can do some things to counter negative stereotypes about GT children. Parents need to discuss stereotypes honestly with their children and make it personal. These kids look up to their parents and can appreciate smart strategies to combat negative stereotypes. Advocates must stand up for gifted children by countering negative stereotypes whenever they are proposed either in a school setting or society at large. Presenting strong positive alternatives is important.
A transcript of this chat can be found at Wakelet.
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About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.