The Contribution of Challenge, Creativity and Engagement to Well-Being in Gifted and Talented Youth


Sally M. Reis, PhD

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs | Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor| A Teaching Fellow in Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut
United States of America



Some gifted education pedagogy can help to create a sense of well-being in gifted students. in fact, it can eliminate some of the challenges that threaten their well-being, such as a lack of challenge and engagement in school. The underachievement of identified gifted and talented students is one of the biggest problems in our field. Too many smart students learn to get by in school with minimum effort and subsequently, some do indeed drop out of high school and fail to graduate from college. 


The Schoolwide Enrichment Model developed by Joe Renzulli and myself is widely used both as a gifted program and a way to provide enrichment. Services to identified gifted and high potential students are essential to alleviate boredom and underachievement, ensure challenge, and provide both advanced content and creative opportunities. A continuum of services that offers many different types of learning opportunities, affective engagement, and challenge including instructional and interest grouping, advanced independent and group projects, and curriculum differentiation and compacting for talented students is essential. 




Gifted education pedagogy is among the most creative and engaging pedagogy in the world. In our Schoolwide Enrichment Model, talent pools of high potential and culturally diverse students in every school result in both equity and opportunities for talent development in all schools. Teachers trained in enrichment pedagogy provide enrichment to develop the talents of their students by providing opportunities, resources, and encouragement for all children, including those identified as gifted and talented and those who achieve below grade level. Gifted education pedagogy opportunities include interest assessment, project-based learning, differentiation, creative and critical thinking, independent and small group learning opportunities for developing creative products, based on interests. Pursuing interests increases well-being.


Recently, we met a young gifted student named Stephanie who has a very creative nature. Her ability to choose work that was engaging and interesting to her resulted in her being one of the most enthusiastic and happy students in her school. We are convinced that having the opportunity to express that and use her talents on a daily basis has enabled her to excel in school and increase her own sense of well-being. She was a finalist at the National Invention Convention and also was awarded first place at the regional National History Day competition. One of her inventions was the Tech Pet Feeder, a contraption that allowed a pet owner to text their pet’s food bowl and,  upon receipt of the text message, release food for the pet. From the beginning of the process, Stephanie knew that she wanted to create an invention that would assist an animal, and she played around with several ideas, ultimately deciding to create a digitalized pet feeder as she had witnessed her own dog become sick from overeating.


Helping creative young people find meaningful projects and enjoyable work to do, and relieving them from the boredom of doing work they already know, enhances their well-being, happiness, and engagement and enthusiasm about learning.



About Sally M. Ries, Ph.D

Professor Sally M. Reis recently completed a six-year term as the vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut and currently holds the Letitia Neag Endowed Chair in Educational Pyschology. She was previously a department head of the Educational Psychology Department, where she also served as a principal investigator for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. Sally has authored or co-authored over 250 articles, books, book chapters, monographs, and technical reports. She is an expert in enrichment, talent development, curriculum differentiation, talented readers, and gifted girls and women. She is a past president of the National Association for Gifted Children.




Posted as part of the 2020 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

The views and opinions expressed in the Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of NZCGE, their staff, and/or any/all contributors to Gifted Awareness Week.

The Contribution of Challenge, Creativity and Engagement to Well-Being in Gifted and Talented Youth

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