Having written a little about gifted and talented students a few days ago, I’ve been asking myself how it’s possible to define G&T. I have heard teachers in the past who referred to these students as being the top 2-3% of students, but I’ve been wondering how this has been measured. Today I came across a diagram that seems to give me some answers. This diagram is based on the work of Renzuelli’s Three Ring Conception of Giftedness.
Evidence of Ability: abstract thinking, high levels of verbal and numerical reasoning, rapid information processing, applying learning to new situations, making connections to real life situations.
Evidence of Creativity: original and flexible thinking, making new connections, taking risks.
Evidence of Commitment: focused attention, enthusiasm, involvement, sustained interest, perseverance, setting high standards.
In addition to the above, it seems that gifted students should be producers of knowledge, rather than just consumers of knowledge. This is because they have managed to find new connections.
One of the interesting things I’ve been reading about gifted students is that many of them may actually be under-achievers. For example they may be bored or switched off the tasks given to them so may not show much commitment. Also, because a lot of classroom work may be easy for them, they may not have fully developed their problem-solving abilities or be very responsive to new challenges. Because they have not experienced much failure, they may not know how to cope with it or how to reflect on and learn from a bad experience.
How to teach gifted students is not something that I’ve thought about a lot during my teaching career. Perhaps the fact that I started off as a secondary teacher and then moved down to primary has given me a few extra resources for dealing with some of the high achieving students I have come across over the years. What I realized this year, however, is that not all primary teachers have this experience and many of them may be overwhelmed. I’m thinking in particular about teachers in the upper grades of primary school. For example, a 5th grade teacher with a student who is working at an 8th grade standard in maths may not have the experience of secondary maths to fall back on in order to enrich the lessons for that student. This teacher is probably not a maths specialist and may feel unsure or inadequate when dealing with a student who is gifted in maths. A secondary teacher who teaches throughout the secondary school and who has a 6th grade maths student working at a 9th grade level is probably in a better position and may have a lot of resources to give that student enrichment work.
In most of the schools I have worked, both national and international, the focus of the special needs/learning support department was to support the students who were struggling, with little support for the students who needed to be accelerated. I’ve never been in a school with a G&T programme and I’m not sure I really agree with it, but I am wondering now what is the best way to support gifted students in their regular classrooms.