1. Introduction to Gifted and Talented
In order to understand how a teacher is to educate gifted and talented children it is necessary for them to comprehend exactly what is meant by ‘Gifted and Talented’. What is it that makes a gifted and talented child different from those around themIt is this question that is highly debated amongst educationalists and professionals alike. Robinson and Campbell (2010) suggest that ‘the education of students identified as gifted and talented, let alone the identification process itself, is highly controversial’ because they suggest that it ‘is seen as variously as elitist, divisive and educationally exclusive’(Robinson and Campbell: 2010: ix). They go on to say that ‘in addition to the theoretical arguments about the extent of heritability and measurement of ability, there are….debates about the extent of giftedness in the population, and therefore the size of the group which education policy and practice should focus’ (Robinson and Campbell: 2010: 11)
Ostensibly, there are two main official definitions of what makes a gifted and talented individual. Firstly, there is the Marland Report (1972) in the USA, which gives the following as definition:
‘Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by professionally qualified persons who, by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance. These are children who require differential educational programs and/or services beyond those provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and the society’ (Tunnicliffe: 2010: 17).
Similarly, the English educational system regards giftedness in terms of potential (Tunnicliffe: 2010: 23).
For many years now, the English education system has been using various educationalists’ views on what these multiple intelligences are and has based its education policies upon these concepts. One of the psychological bases that is utilized is derived from Howard Gardner’s ‘Multiple Intelligences’ theory. The theoretical basis for this theory was that rather than have one concept of intelligence as previously conceived, Gardner (1993) suggested:
A more pluralistic notion of intelligence in order to account for individuals’ diverse abilities both to pursue various forms of knowledge and to create new ones…the theory of multiple intelligences suggests that individuals are capable of cognitive functioning in several relatively autonomous areas (Gardner: 2005: no page number given)
This suggests that gifted and talented individuals differ from other children in the way that they take on the learning of various talents, abilities and types of knowledge both in the pursuit of being better at something as well as learning new things. It is suggested that this forms the basis of the concept of gifted and talented.
2. The Challenge for Teachers
With regards to the teaching of gifted and talented individuals teachers and educationalists alike see it as a challenge to teach them for various reasons. One challenge is for teachers especially to differentiate between the concepts of ‘fixed’ and ‘fluid’ intelligence when teaching their students. Smith (2010) suggests that it is important to note this difference as well as to ascertain parents’ and the pupils’ own concept of what intelligence is. Knowing this difference would affect the ways in which teachers interact and educate individuals in their classroom. It would also inform and underpin any teaching strategies used as any resources utilized.
Moreover, teachers need to know how to ascertain the gifted and talented element within their class. Once the teacher knows the gifted and talented element in their class it is essential that the teacher fulfills their needs also. For the teacher, this would mean maintaining an inclusive classroom that fits everybody’s needs.
However, inclusive education within the classroom is only one option of many others which all have the goal of striving to meet the needs of the Gifted and Talented pupil. Moltzen (2005) maintains that there have essentially been:
Three primary approaches: segregation, acceleration and inclusion. Many schools and teachers combine approaches. For example, those advocating for an inclusive approach would generally maintain that within this context, gifted and talented students should be permitted to work at an accelerated pace. Many supporters of segregation maintain that the gifted and talented should have exposure to more inclusive situations from time to time. Those arguing for the advanced placement of gifted and talented students will concede that this context may not be appropriate for every area of every accelerated student’s education (Smith: 2005: 42).
These approaches, as Moltzen (2005) argues, are sometimes combined especially in secondary education. However, Moltzen (2005) purposefully argues for the inclusive classroom:
As an effective primary environment for gifted and talented students. Frequently….the inclusive or regular classroom is viewed as the default option: the option that is not really an option because it represents the status quo (Moltzen: 2005: 42)
In other words, inclusion of students with special abilities within the classroom is seen as not really catering for whatever their needs are by some education experts. Their arguments seem to suggest that the inclusive classroom is ‘more restrictive for those with special abilities’ (Moltzen: 2005: 42) because they are not being used to their fullest extent.
However, teaching professionals and educationalists alike both know that the way to get over the hurdle of restricting Gifted and Talented children is to differentiate lessons and activities either by outcome or by the level of the work set. In this way, teachers are in a position to engage everybody in the classroom across the whole spectrum of needs and abilities.
It is important to note also that pupils who are gifted and talented in one subject area also have other SEN which hamper them in other departments and subjects. Autistic children and those with dyspraxia often have heightened abilities and inclinations in other areas. This phenomenon of double exceptionality can also have an impact upon how the school and the teacher approach the education of the individual child. Montgomery (2005) states that the difficulty is because:
When remedial education is considered, the difficulties of highly able students often do not seem severe enough because their needs are masked. It is thus typical that ‘doubly exceptional’ children, those with both high ability and special educational needs, are not taught at a level commensurate with their intellectual needs. In some cases attention is directed only to the special need. The result is that many of those doubly exceptional children underfunction as the expectations of their teachers are set too low and the curriculum provision is intellectually inadequate (Smith: 2005: 179)
In other words the needs of those with exceptional abilities as well as other SEN such as dyslexia often have their strengths and abilities overlooked because the focus is often upon their other needs related to their SEN.
The question therefore remains as to how teachers can overcome this obstacle in making sure that those who are exceptionally talented and gifted are accommodated for without disengaging other members of the class. As well as this, it is essential for the teacher and the school in question to accommodate for the pupil’s other special educational needs as well as the giftedness of the individual.
3.Varied Teaching Methods
Smith (2005) explains that an individual teacher’s teaching methods are often an indication of several factors. Smith (2005) suggests that:
Teachers’ attitudes and dispositions towards the idea of inclusion are closely connected to their own teaching methods, which often reflect how they were taught as students and trained as teachers. Where teaching is very much underpinned by an age/stage approach, where curricula are rigidly prescribed for specific grade/year level text books form a large percentage of the curriculum content, teachers often find the idea of catering for individual differences an anathema….An attitude that appears to pervade many schools and classrooms is that dedicated provision for the gifted and is discretionary rather than mandatory (Smith: 2005: 47).
There are several issues here regarding this type of SEN provision which are both related to how the educational establishment approach the teaching of the gifted and talented. It has been said by some educational scholars that even though differentiated learning benefits everyone in the classroom it does not mean that gifted learners are benefitting from that kind of education. Heacox and Wormell (2010) maintains that:
There is a misconception in some schools that if classroom teachers differentiate in general, the needs of gifted and academically talented students are automatically taken care of. It is true that gifted and talented students are being better served in differentiated classrooms…..However, there are significant differences between how we differentiate for all and how we need to differentiate for gifted learners (Heacox and Wormell: 2005: 136)
It could be argued that the reason behind the difference between differentiation for all and the type of differentiation for gifted learners is the fact that even those who are gifted and talented have their own learning styles and other SEN as well. In turn, this makes them all unique so their education has to be just as unique and personalized as well
4. Suggestions for Gifted and Talented Extension Activities for Literacy
To illustrate this fact it is necessary to make suggestions for activities which would include gifted and talented learners within the lesson. One way of developing this type of inclusion for the gifted and talented in particular and the class in general is to encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning. Bates and Munday (2006) suggest that highly talented pupils be encouraged to utilise metacognition (thinking about thinking) and self-evaluation. Bates and Munday (2006) state that doing so would encourage them to:
Self evaluate and to monitor their own thinking in increasingly sophisticated ways. They need to be encouraged to do this; to see the importance of perseverance and of applying new skills creatively in different circumstances….They (also) need to learn how to learn, and should be given every opportunity to experience a range of different strategies for thinking through and even around the obstacles to success, rather than achieving success effortlessly (Bates and Munday: 2005: 42).
Such strategies of self-evaluation include such things as learning journals as well as concept/mind maps. In the case of a learning journal this gives the child learner to express what they learned that day as well as how the felt about. Concept/mind maps give them a way of quickly noting down and making sense of the information that they receive.
An alternative to mindmapping is the use of Ishikawa (or fishbone) diagrams. These are especially appropriate for secondary school but can also be used in primary schools in a simplified form
There are a number of interactive resources available online either free or for a nominal fee to the school. Amongst these resources is a site called Real Lives (available at www.educationalsimulations.com) which, as the website www.brightonline.gov.uk says, is deemed appropriate for those who are secondary school age but is also something that any gifted and talented pupil can use who are 8 and above. This is due to ‘the level of language involved and the interpretation of data’ (www.brightonline.gov.uk). As a lesson resource it can be easily assimilated into a KS2 lesson about different cultures for all abilities. Moreover, this can be used as an extension activity for those who are most able.
These are just examples as to how the gifted and talented can be catered for while still being in the same classroom as other children. It could be said that it becomes easier for the teacher once those who are gifted and talented are identified as such as the teacher can feel that they can engage them more.
However, it has also been stated that teachers should be engaging their classes anyway through a variety of stimuli and teaching resources that they could use.
Bates, J and Munday, S, (2005), ‘Able, Gifted and Talented’, Continuum Publishing, London
Brightonline.org.uk Available at www.brightonline.org.uk
Gardner, H (1993), ‘Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences’, Basic Books, New York, USA
Gardner, H (2005), ‘Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons’, Basic Books, New York USA
Heacox, D (2010), ‘Making Differentiation a Habit: How to ensure success in academically diverse classrooms’, Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis MN, USA
Moltzen, R (2005), ‘Can Inclusion Work for the Gifted and Talented?’, IN: Smith, C (2005), ‘Including the Gifted and Talented: Making Inclusion Work for more Gifted and Able Learners’ RoutledgeFalmer Press, London
Montgomery, C (2005), ‘Improving Provision for the Gifted and Talented’, IN: Smith, C (ed.), (2005), ‘Including the Gifted and Talented: Making Inclusion work for more Gifted and Able Learners’, RoutledgeFalmer Press, London
Robinson, W and Campbell, R (2010), ‘Effective Teaching in Gifted Education: Using a Whole School Approach, Taylor and Francis, London
Smith, C, (2005), ‘Including the Gifted and Talented: Making inclusion work for more gifted and able learners’, RoutledgeFalmer Press, London
Tunnicliffe, C, (2010), ‘Teaching able, gifted, and Talented Children: Strategies, Activities, and Resources, London
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