Gifted And Talented Learners Essay, Research Paper
The term exceptional learner is used to describe students who require special education and related services if they are to realize their full human potential. Many times, this term is used synonymously with students with learning disabilities, as these students are viewed as the exception to mainstream education. The term, however, is much broader then the commonplace definition, as it also includes students who are gifted and talented, and therefore at the opposite end of the exception to mainstream education.
Gifted and talented students are those who have demonstrated a high level of attainment in intellectual ability, academic achievement, creativity or visual or performing arts and are even distributed across all ethnic groups, cultural groups and socioeconomic classes. There are two kinds of giftedness. Schoolhouse giftedness refers to those excelling in test taking and lesson learning. The other kind of giftedness refers to students who demonstrate creative and productive giftedness. Giftedness is a combination of three factors: above average general ability, high level of creativity, and a high level of task commitment or motivation to achieve in certain areas.
Much research has been conducted to examine differences in gifted and talented students based on lines of ethnicity and gender. Though males score significantly higher on global and aesthetic self-concepts, females obtained significantly high scores on social self-concept. However, there were no noticeable differences found in the area of academic self-concept. Blacks and Hispanics were greatly under-represented among a sample of gifted and talented American students, while whites and Asians were greatly over-represented.
There is much debate, however, existing within America s own borders concerning the diagnosis of a gifted and talented student. A criterion for classification varies from state to state. For example, in North Dakota schools classify only one percent of its students as gifted and talented, while Wisconsin classifies nearly fifteen percent of its students. Obviously the criterion used in classification is more stringent in some states than others. However, the national average on the number of students deemed gifted and talented lies somewhere between there and five percent.
There is also evidence of a correlation between state and level of achievement of gifted and talented students. Gifted students in the Northeast are more likely to be talented than students in the South. Such fact may go to further explain the existence of the discrepancies in program qualifications.
Just as there are differences in the classification of gifted and talent students, there are different means of effectively teaching such students. Educational psychologist Anita Woolfolk suggests, Teaching methods for gifted and talented students should encourage abstract thinking, creativity and independence and not just the learning of greater quantities of facts. Different levels of schools adapt different measures to meet the needs of gifted and talented students. Generally, elementary schools practice early entrance, grade skipping, non-graded classes, and accelerated compacted curriculum. Junior high schools practice grade skipping, grade telescoping (shortening the amount of time to complete a grade level), concurrent enrollment in upper level curriculum, subject acceleration and curriculum compacting. Regular high schools practice concurrent enrollment, subject acceleration, advanced placement classes, mentor ships, credit by examinations and early college admission.
Often time formal gifted and talented programs expire by the time that a classified student reaches the high school level. This can be attributed to the assumption that accelerated classes and a wider curriculum replaces the need for such programs. Though high school does represent a shift in methods of educating students, it is still essential to keep in mind the needs of gifted and talented students. There are several things to be considered when developing education plans for such students.
Being able to effectively teach gifted and talented students requires a teacher possessing a wide variety of characteristics and may surpass those possessed by average teachers. This is especially true in high school, because for the first time, students classified as gifted may not be participating in a formal gifted program. Therefore, much weight must be placed on the method in which material is being presented. Gifted and talented students learn best when teachers demonstrate very specific skills. Such students respond best to teachers who are highly intelligent, have cultural and intellectual interests, strive for excellence, are enthusiastic about talent, relate well to talented people and have broad general knowledge. This is an extremely important point to consider when staffing a department with educators capable of relating to gifted and talented students. Teachers should not be held solely responsible for challenging gifted students, as school administrators, counselors and other school staff can do as much to create social conditions and climates that support talent development.
In discovering the kind of teacher that gifted and talented students will best respond to, there is one major issue left to consider. How does a qualified teacher meet the needs of gifted and talented students? There are many different ways of doing so.
It is essential for a teacher to assess what students have already learned before teaching students. There is little point in having student relearn what they already know. Looking over achievement tests scores, giving pretests, can do this and giving teacher constructed diagnostic tests are an option as well. Hand in hand with this point, is allowing a student to test out of a course.
Teachers can also reduce the amount of drill and repetition to a bare minimum. Most gifted students can master concepts in nearly half the time that it takes the average student. Gifted students do not profit from review. It often has a negative effect and turns them off to learning.
Gifted and talented students benefit greatly from high level, practical independent study projects. Such projects give students creative freedom over the direction in which they will take their project. It is important that teachers consider the gifted students need to express their personal thoughts when devising lesson plans. Another idea for a project is to involve gifted students with community service projects. This method also offers students an opportunity to express their interests in the community and grow and develop their sense of self.
Teachers should stress the idea of enrolling in three years of a foreign language. Not only will bilingual skills be a benefit to a gifted student, but also foreign language courses offer dramatic insight into the culture and lifestyle of places that might be unfamiliar to the student. This may also encourage students to pursue an experiential learning opportunity like a study abroad trip.
Lastly and most importantly, it is imperative that teachers understand that rigorous coursework is a must. Just because gifted students quickly grasp the concepts and methods presented to them, does not mean that they don t need practice just like average students. Teachers should set extremely high expectations for their gifted and talented students, for it is a teacher s job to challenge each individual to work to and surpass their initial potential.
Teachers have an enormous impact on the lives of gifted students. The investment of time and energy in directing curriculum especially towards gifted students can inspire students to have higher aspirations, win scholarships, choose demanding careers. The more confidence that a gifted student receives in his or her ability to learn, the greater chances that students will use their gifts towards t