I've spent the last few days reading up on gifted education. I've worked my way through 6 modules of the ed qld pd course at specialisation level so I figure I now know more than most teachers. But I still know precious little.
Here are some thoughts.
- the main issue here is equity. Each child deserves to be taught at a level appropriate to them. Parents spit at the thought of other people's kids getting special treatment because they are bright, but we all need to get over that way of thinking. The aim is that each child works at a level that is challenging (but achievable) for them. This will mean a differentiated curriculum.
- An undifferentiated curriculum will mean significantly worse outcomes for gifted children socially, emotionally and academically.
- Grade advancement is being shown to have great outcomes for gifted kids.
- Many kids who are intellectually advanced are also emotionally and socially advanced - though they may not look it. They may appear to be loners but it is possible that they feel they have nothing in common with children their own age. Different things interest them and they may be looking for a poor-our-hearts-out-to-eachother friend while their peers are really just looking for someone to kick a ball to. It can be really satisfying for gifted kids to hang out with kids a few years older. This should be encouraged.
- Gifted kids who aren't adequately catered for in the school system have a much greater chance of depression etc later on. And gifted teenagers are already likely candidates for depression.
- Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse. Need I say more?
- Identifying gifted kids can be tricky. Some models say kids with IQs in the top 15% are gifted (but then introduce categories of gifted within this - mildly gifted, gifted, ? gifted, profoundly gifted...), others limit it to the top 3%. I'd be happy to run with either model if kids arrived at school with IQ scores... The trouble is that gifted kids often go under the radar. Some perfectionist types decide early on that's it's safer to go undercover and bludge their way through school. Other kids' abilities are masked by disabilities (these kids are called 'twice exceptional' and basically, no one knows what to do with them!), or by anxieties.
- Most teachers (according to studies) are profoundly uncomfortable with giftedness. They would prefer to teach students more like themselves, who think in a straightforward way, who won't challenge them. Gifted children sense this and learn very early on not to share the fact that the theme in x children's book was developed much more interestingly in Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy.
- If my classroom is to be a place where gifted kids can work and thrive, I need to make changes. In another post I'll outline my plans.