Supporting ‘gifted and talented’ students

By Zoe Ganim and Murray Evely from Psych4Schools.

A recent inquiry into gifted students in Victoria found that a large number were ‘dumbing down’ in order to fit in. This is not isolated to Victoria. It is an Australia-wide issue.

These children are often bored and frustrated, acting out in the classroom or in some cases simply not coming to school. Many are underachieving academically. The Gonski report highlighted PISA data that found mathematics and literacy achievement of the top performing students in Australia has significantly declined over the past 10 years.

To reach their true potential gifted children must be given the opportunity to acquire skills and develop talents through differentiation of the school curriculum.

Strategies to support the gifted and talented child

1. Do not call the child ‘gifted’. Labelling the child places excessive expectations and unnecessary pressure on the child and may cause him or her to become isolated from their peers. Programs for these children could be named ‘extended learning’ or ‘enrichment program’ rather than ‘gifted program’.

2. Extended learning programs need to be included and accepted as part of the usual school curriculum.

3. Promote a love of learning. A gifted and talented child may feel quite different from peers and therefore mask their abilities to conform and gain peer acceptance. Classroom values such as a love of learning along with respect, harmony, honesty and responsibility help to instil a clear set of guiding principles. It can be helpful to explicitly incorporate classroom activities around these values to embed the meaning of these concepts.

4. Be careful not to assume that a child is equally gifted in all areas and inadvertently put pressure on them to excel across the board. The child may demonstrate extraordinary splinter skills in one area and more average skills in another area. Anticipate that ‘giftedness’ creates asynchronous development and uneven development can lead to vulnerabilities such as perfectionism and heightened emotional sensitivity.

5. Implement a differentiated curriculum with enrichment and extension programs designed to meet the child’s needs. School curriculum and planning should continue to be adjusted to cater for the child’s higher ability. Some possible teaching strategies to support the child’s strong academic potential include:

  • opportunity to work independently
  • time to work with like-minded, bright or older peers
  • less time on repetition and generally less time on revision
  • increased provision for deeper exploration of ‘big picture’ concepts and application to real life issues
  • regular challenge through rich tasks
  • units of work and structured lessons offering opportunities for in-depth information gathering
  • activities or tasks that require higher order thinking skills
  • real-life audiences that require polished presentation of findings or new understandings
  • some accelerated instruction
  • opportunity to proceed according to strengths and special interests
  • opportunity to work through basic skills and appropriate aspects of the curriculum at a faster pace
  • varied entry points in the introduction of new topics and for new conceptual understandings and varied exit points as well.

6. Consider grade acceleration very carefully. As a general rule, teachers should first enrich the learning program, before extending the child’s program vertically.

For links to further resources on concepts in this article, visit the original article on the Psych4Schools website.

About the writers

Psych4Schools supports teachers, school leadership teams and other professionals in working with children, parents and colleagues, through an expanding range of online resources and workshops.

Murray Evely has extensive experience as a teacher-trained psychologist providing practical resources and advice to principals, teachers and school communities.

Zoe Ganim has worked as a psychologist in university and hospital settings, the corporate sector and various non-profit organisations including the Reach Foundation, Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria and Lifeline.

 

Comments

  1. Great article, hopefully the right people will get this information. “Gifted” education can be great when it’s done well – here in SA the Ignite program is a selective entry class compressing years 8-10 into 2 years, it places kids of similar level together and accelerates and extends them in maths, science and English. It works really well and the kids love being with their like minded peers. In primary school it’s the luck of the draw – if you get a teacher who understands giftedness it can be great, if you get a teacher who doesn’t – your child can be in for a tough year!

    • Thanks Emma for your comments. The “right” people I guess are the educators 🙂 Interesting to hear the system in SA. Though what happens if one of those kids is good at maths but not English, or vice versa? Or do they just extend them in the area they excel in? I am mostly familiar with the NSW system, and I don’t believe there is any state-wide system – it is just up to the school to handle their “G & T” program as they see fit.

      • Yes the “right” people are the teachers, the lecturers who train the teachers and the state governments who assign funding for enrichment programs, and take it away too!
        The Ignite program has a couple of levels – Full on 3 years compressed into 2, a class where maths only is accelerated and an English accelerated class. The kids who want to get into it sit a 3 hour test and places are offered on the basis of those test results. http://www.igniteprogram.com.au/
        I just wish there was something similar in primary schools!

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