Category Archives: Intelligence

Metaphors for Gifted and Talented Students

In a recent one-semester-hour class about Differentiated Instruction strategies, members of the class shared their similes and metaphors for their gifted and talented students; the way they perceive their students powerfully impacts the way they provide appropriate differentiation in the classrooms (Godor, 2019).

Here are their ideas, lightly edited for length.

Gifted/talented students are like lichen

They are unique organisms that come in many different varieties, are a combination of two worlds, are equally hidden as they are noticeable, and are sensitive to their environment.

I try to use this umbrella as much as possible when I refer to GT student services. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to serving students under the GT umbrella…Like lichen, the variety and specific needs for a GT student to grow and remain connected are vast. 

When talking with colleagues about GT students, I often notice the lack of awareness about their unique needs…I hope to create an environment where lichen thrives, and our entire ecosystem is enhanced.  

In differentiating for gifted and talented students, it’s important to remember more work doesn’t equal differentiation. With each student being in a different space under the umbrella, it’s essential to understand how there may be support for each enrichment. 

Gifted/talented students are cheetahs

Most cheetahs have many easily identified characteristics, but they possess many other traits that are not as easily identified.   If cheetahs are not provided the proper environment to thrive and fully reach their potential, then many of their strongest talents–speed and agility, for example–may only partially develop.  Like cheetahs, students with gifts and talents need the proper environment and the proper “diet” of challenging instruction to fully develop their abilities. 

As educators, it is our responsibility to develop the skills and potential of gifted/talented students.  Differentiated instruction–beginning in the earliest stages of education–is an essential piece of the puzzle for these students. 

I cannot take credit for this metaphor; however, I feel that the article titled Is It A Cheetah?  (Tolan, 1996) accurately describes the experiences that many gifted students encounter when they enter the school system. 

I see gifted/talented students as geodes.

A geode is a rock that might look very similar to those around it, yet when it is cracked open has a crystal-like formation on the inside. Sometimes, I think it is easy to view a classroom of students as the same… a group of 30 second graders, for example, and in this metaphor, that would be like seeing a bed of rocks. This, however, is not accurate. Each rock is different and possesses various characteristics that make it unique.

Geodes can sometimes be difficult to crack open. However, once the inside is exposed, it is beautiful. In terms of differentiation, I think it is important to recognize that each student may need various support to succeed in school. It is vital that gifted students are challenged academically and receive the support necessary in order to develop their crystal-like gifts and talents.

Square pegs that don’t fit in round holes.

A few years ago, I attended a workshop led by Rick Wormeli. He mentioned that we need to stop trying to fit students into the round peg and instead need to let them be the square peg. I think this is the perfect metaphor for gifted/talented students. They’re definitely the square/star/diamond/dodecagon/etc. that we try to force into theround hole. They think in different ways, and instead of adapting our activities and instruction to their ways of thinking, we just try to make them fit our way. If we modify and differentiate our instruction, they can find a way to better fit into our pegboard without us forcing them to modify their way of thinking and what they need from us. This will help them to not stagnate but instead blossom into what they were meant to be.

Godor, B.P.  (2019). Gifted Metaphors: Exploring the Metaphors of Teachers in Gifted Education and Their Impact on Teaching the Gifted. Roeper Review, 41(1), 51-60. Retrieved from

Acceleration, Wilderness, and Everything In Between

While attending COGE at the University of New South Wales, Belin-Blank Center Director Susan Assouline met Jake Widjaya, who presented about his experiences as a gifted student with a limb difference.  He was accelerated, and he writes in TableAus, the magazine of Australian Mensa about his experiences participating in a wilderness program while two years younger than the other students.

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What Creates Genius?

Dean Keith Simonton, author of Genius 101 and a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, will visit the University of Iowa this week.  One of his areas of research is the accomplishments of historical figures.

There will be multiple events related to Simonton’s visit this week, and all lectures are free and open to the public.

  • Interested persons are invited to a discussion of Simonton’s book Genius 101 prior to his visit. The discussion will take place Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Prairie Lights Bookstore.
  • “Diversifying experiences and creative development,” 101 Biology Building East, Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m.
  • “Creative thoughts as acts of free will: A two-stage formal integration,” C125 Pappajohn Business Administration Building, Friday, Nov. 1, at 3:30 p.m.

More information is available through the University of Iowa’s IowaNow article on the events.

Conversations & Controversies: Genius 101

Susan Assouline, Director of the Belin-Blank Center, and Laurie Croft, Belin-Blank Center Administrator for Professional Development, will co-lead a discussion about Dean Simonton’s Genius 101.

October 22, 4:00 to 5:00 pm
Times Club, Prairie Lights Bookstore
Iowa City, Iowa

Click here to learn more!

Click on the image above to learn more!

Study Opportunity: Giftedness and Social Experiences

The study described below is not a Belin-Blank Center project, but we thought some of our readers might be interested in participating.

Dear Parents of Gifted Adolescents,

I am a graduate student at Ohio University conducting my dissertation research on the social experiences of the gifted.  I am looking to recruit intellectually gifted adolescents ages 10-18 (grades 5th-12th) to keep a journal of their social experiences for a month.  I am particularly interested in their experiences of social exclusion (like ostracism, bullying, teasing, etc.) and inclusion.

If your child would like to participate in the study, I will ask her/him to: (1) Keep a journal about her/his social experiences, including every time she/he experiences social exclusion/inclusion, observes social exclusion/inclusion, or socially excludes/includes others.  She/he will write journals on a website designed specifically for this study and only my adviser and I will have access to their journals.  (2) Participate in a phone interview where I will ask clarifying questions about her/his journal entries at the end of the project.  All participant information is confidential, and participants will be given ID numbers for the study.  This project has been approved by the Ohio University IRB.  For more information about the study or participant privacy, feel free to visit the study website at:

Here is a little information about me: As a child, I was labeled “exceptionally gifted,” and experienced bullying and social exclusion, often because I cared more about things like astronomy and herpetology than sports or celebrities.  Then, I switched schools and attended Phelps Center for the Gifted in Missouri.  At Phelps, I found a lifelong group of peers and friends, and felt accepted for the first time.  Today, I am passionate about helping to improve the lives of gifted adolescents.  I understand that helping the gifted to flourish does not just mean attending to their intellectual and academic needs, but also their social and emotional needs.

I have been conducting research on gifted adolescents since 2007.  I have had the privilege of working on a variety of projects, including multi-million dollar quantitative and qualitative grant-funded studies, quantitative survey designs, down to small projects where I simply asked gifted adolescents to share one story with me.  I received my M.A. in Communication Studies from Missouri State University in 2009, and I am currently working towards a PhD at Ohio University.  I also have been teaching quantitative and qualitative research methods at the college level since 2009.  Several of the articles I have written about gifted adolescents have won national and regional awards, including an article that received the Donald P. Cushman Award in 2011 from the National Communication Association.  My research and work with adolescents has also included creating anti-bullying programs for elementary schools, training students as peer mediators, and creating conflict resolution programs and substance abuse prevention programs for middle schools and high schools.

If you are a parent of a gifted adolescent between 10-18 (grades 5th -12th) and think your child would like to participate in this study, please contact me at or call me at 314-604-4298.  I’d love to answer any questions or concerns you have about this project and I am excited about the possibility of working with you and the potential this project could have for gifted children and their families.


Katie Margavio Striley, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate
School of Communication Studies
Ohio University
cell: 314-604-4298

Nicholas Colangelo on Anti-Intellectualism

Upcoming Webinar: Anti-Intellectualism & Other Challenges to Gifted Education 

Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D.  

April 4, 2013

Support for gifted and talented programs and services has not been consistent throughout history in the United States. One of the challenges is the continuous sense of anti-intellectualism, even though that same hostility is rarely apparent toward those who excel in sports, dance, art, or music.  Additional challenges have included a belief that gifted programs are “elitist,” and that talented learners will “make it on their own.”  The Webinar  (or DVD option) is required to enroll in the credit option; the online component will explore challenges to gifted and ways to advocate for programs essential for academic talent development.

Online registration is available at  Registration is for a computer; multiple individuals may watch the computer!  Limited to the first 50 computer registrations.

Credit Option Available:  7P:194:WKB Anti-Intellectualism & Other Challenges to Gifted Education (Laurie Croft, Ph.D.; April 11- May 2)

Giftedness & ADHD

“Just because you’re high ability or have academic talents doesn’t mean that everything else is automatically going to be okay. That is not always true, and we need more awareness about how to help these youth.”~Megan Foley Nicpon, counseling psychology assistant professor and Belin-Blank Center administrator.

Read more about University of Iowa researchers’ findings on giftedness and ADHD.


How Malleable is IQ?

As an organization that works with, counsels, and studies high-ability students, we are always interested in new research on intelligence.  Check out these new findings on how physical changes in the brain correlate with changes in IQ.