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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Effectively Educating Gifted Students

It is a challenge for teachers to generate ways to stimulate gifted students and provide them with the resources and instruction that will allow them to test their abilities and grow intellectually. Teachers also do not have the support of additional classroom help to work with gifted students.  Many teachers use enrichment activities such as independent projects, small group investigation, academic competitions to address the needs of gifted students in the regular classroom, and may design special areas of the classroom to offer advanced learning opportunities.  Gifted students might be pulled out of their regular class for part of the day to learn at a more advanced level, much in the same way learning-disabled students are pulled out to learn at a level that is appropriate for them.

Services provided for gifted students in secondary schools usually include broaden or accelerated learning opportunities. There is a difference between the two approaches however. Broaden learning experiences takes place within the regular classroom however the curriculum is changed to accommodate a wide range of interest and learning styles. The accelerated approach allows students to take more demanding courses beyond the regular classroom. Many secondary schools offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program (an international program in advanced science, mathematics and foreign language studies) and/or Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Upon completion of courses in either program, students are able to take exams for college credit.  A number of schools have built a reputation on supporting and educating gifted students with exceptional programs, such as the Bronx High School of Science, and the North Carolina School for Mathematics and Science. Others have focused on giftedness in the arts.  At least fifteen states have public high schools for advanced mathematics and science and/or arts and the humanities. Many school districts have collaborative programs with area colleges and universities, where high school students are able to take college level courses. Gifted students are able to take advantage of these programs as well.

There is concern that gifted students who accelerate and advance significantly beyond their peers will experience social problems, since they will be attending school with others who are older.  Some educators and parents believe the academic advancement is not worth the social risk.  The most commonly recommended method of educating gifted children is the same as the method for educating those with learning disabilities—inclusion. It has been proven however that acceleration is good for students despite misgivings about gifted students’ social development, and many gifted students feel completely comfortable around their older peers. 

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