Skill Development


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In his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT), Emeritus Professor Françoys Gagné, from the University of Quebec in Montreal, famously separated natural abilities (called 'Gifts' when they occur in the top ten percent of the population) from systematically developed skills (referred to as 'Talents' when they occur in the top ten percent of the population).  He includes a unidirectional arrow (referred to as a 'Developmental Process') leading from natural abilities on the left of his model to systematically developed skills, located on the right of his model.  DMGT has been adopted by every educational system in this country and is widely acknowledged throughout the world as a positive way of differentiating between gifts and talents.

Older ways of interpreting 'G&T' assume that these two terms are synonymous and that once a student exhibits advanced abilities, that automatically results in heightened performance.  This is not so. There are a range of skills that must be developed if an individual is to demonstrate their innate abilities.  Skill development is a process, and the acquisition of skills depends upon several factors. 

Gagné's DMGT illustrates the catalysts (Intrapersonal and Environmental) that can influence the Developmental Process – whether positively or negatively. On the basis of what is shown in the DMGT, gifted students remain gifted but may not develop their talents.  It is important that skills are developed though application if a student is to become talented and realise their potential through performance of these skills.

The Developmental Process takes time. Habit formation has a part in the acquisition of skills.  It is only through repeated practice and regular effort that specific skills are developed.  During adolescence, when the brain is being restructured, whatever a student focuses on and spends time doing, is likely to create the neural basis for skill development or adult talents.  Expertise can develop in a variety of areas but requires repeated effort to embed these skills within the neural structure of the brain, leading to skill development in areas that have been targeted. 

Talent development occurs throughout one's life; however, there are key periods in one's life when restructuring of the brain allows optimum learning to take place.  During other times, learning, skill development and expertise still occur, but the pace of skill development is slower. Adolescent students are ideally situated to develop a range of skills. Adolescence is a prime time to practice and acquire academic skills that will allow students to optimise academic performance and set them up well for their future.

Skill development depends upon repetition and habit formation to embed the skill within the brain.  When students repeat an academic skill that helps them to demonstrate their ability through performance of this skill, they are creating neural pathways that will be invaluable as they progress towards adulthood. Creation of talent depends upon systematically developed skills. 

​© Michele Juratowitch

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Last reviewed 09 September 2022
Last updated 09 September 2022