What should educators of gifted children understand if they are to be successful? This question is especially appropriate in inclusive classrooms where the gifted child and the delayed child learn together. Many false conclusions about gifted students lead to unfortunate scenarios in which they are separated and segregated, dragged along at an accelerated pace through all subjects or left to their own devices while teachers attend to slower learners. There are, however, some things teachers should know about teaching the gifted.
Gifted Children Differ
From what do they differ? They differ from each other in personality, in abilities and in learning styles. They differ from the normal expectations of students in a classroom environment, and they differ in likes and dislikes from other children. That is why Common Core curriculum may not be the best choice for a gifted program. Although Common Core has clear standardized expectations that encourage the student to pursue higher-level thinking and innovative problem-solving, those standards may be too simplistic to challenge the gifted child. Additionally, students who are hands-on learners may be bored with lectures, and students whose learning is best-motivated by interests may need more directed tasks. A one-size-fits-all classroom structure is not for the gifted child.
What Gifted Means
If gifted children differ, how do educators assess that difference? A definition from the National Association for Gifted Children says the gifted are “those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence…in one or more domains.” The benchmark of that competence seems to be children who perform in the top 10 percent of their peers.
While it is true that gifted children differ from “normal” children in learning abilities and styles, evidence has shown that they benefit from peer interaction. That said, an article from the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented cited a study by Kulik and Kulik that also asserts the gifted benefit from being clustered with other gifted students for part of the day. The gifted child who is left in a mixed-ability classroom for the entire school day often is expected to “tutor” children of less ability, or to read or study alone while the teacher works with “slower” children. Teachers of a gifted population cloistered for part of a day saw positive results because their learning pace and styles could be accommodated.
Curriculum is Important
Gifted children seem to function best when their curriculum focuses on principles and is relevant to their lives. Accelerated curriculum is important, but that does not always proceed at a faster pace. Some gifted children need a slower pace to explore and deepen the learning experience, gaining depth and breadth. Curriculum for the gifted child should be individualized according to their needs and assessed frequently because the needs of gifted children change as they age just as the needs of “average” children do.
Related Resource: Top 20 Gifted and Talented Education Master’s Online
Educators studying patterns of gifted learners also said they did better when their teachers were instructed in dealing with their population. Gifted children need structure, but they also need challenge and freedom to pursue their own interests and to problem-solve in innovative fashion. Teachers should understand that, while they should always keep the differing learning abilities and patterns of all children in mind, the gifted child has different needs that must be addressed if they are to grow intellectually.