Duke TIP

Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent

August 30, 2011

Is there a meaningful difference between the student who excels with no apparent effort and one who excels through persistent diligence? Their performance and outcomes may be the same, but their paths vastly differ. Francois Gagné’s differentiated model of giftedness and talent considers behaviors that appear spontaneously easy different from those that require mastery through extensive training.

According to Gagné, giftedness is a superior natural ability whereas a talent is an ability/skill that has been developed exceptionally well. From this perspective, a talent implies a gift, but a gift does not automatically imply a talent.

Gagné claims that a person starts with gifts and has the chance to develop talents through a variety of “catalysts.” These catalysts include interpersonal factors such as maturity, motivation, interests, chance, and environmental factors like family and school.

According to Gagné, a child may be born gifted, but if these gifts are not appropriately cultivated, they will not develop into fully-formed talents. A student may be musically gifted, but without training, these gifts will not be realized and potentially not even noticed at all. Moreover, Gagné also notes that a person who may be talented at age 10 may not necessarily be talented at age 20 if performance is no longer superior. A talented math student may grow up to be an average college math student. This is because under this view, talent is determined based on performance relative to one’s peers or expectations. A 10-year-old who understands the fundamentals of calculus is impressively talented whereas a 20-year-old who understands the fundamentals of calculus may only earn a C+ on an exam and be considered average.

It should be noted that this type of distinction between giftedness and talent is not made by all researchers and educators. Some define the terms quite differently from Gagné, while others even use the terms interchangeably.

Like most other views, this model has an important developmental component. Gifts are not something to that can be ignored; they need to be catalyzed and cultivated into talents. The idea behind developing gifts into talents is one that many educators subscribe to and can be used to effectively advocate for your child’s needs.