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Gifted Education

Gifted Education

21 June, 2016

Gifted Education is a general term for special practices, procedures and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented.

Youths are usually identified as gifted by placing highly on certain standardized tests although this method is becoming antiquated and educators are shifting towards more broad means of identification.

Those who support gifted education argue that gifted and/or talented youth are so perceptually and intellectually above the mean, that it is suitable to pace their lessons more aggressively, track them into honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate courses, or otherwise provide educational enrichment.

They also argue that the necessities of many gifted students are still abandoned, as schools tend to place more emphasis on improving education for the mainstream. Some even say that too many resources are diverted from gifted education to the other end of the spectrum—disabled students—of special education (of which gifted education is a part). This may be an unintentional consequence of the development of disability rights litigation, which some pundits argue has led to the disabled receiving escalating resources at the expense of needed growth for gifted programs.

Both gifted and disabled students are often discontented with the education system, which, while it may suit the majority of students, doesn’t meet their needs.

Gifted programs are often cut when budgets are tight, partly because they are seen as a luxury and partly because their unpopularity means supporters of such programs will not have many allies.

Terms Commonly Used in Gifted Education

Differentiation: Reforming a gifted student’s curriculum to accommodate their specific needs. This may involve changing the content or ability level of the material.

Affective Curriculum: A curriculum that is intended to teach gifted student’s about emotions, self-esteem, and social skills.

Heterogeneous Grouping: A strategy that enables the grouping of students of all ability levels to learn in the same classroom environment.

Homogenous Grouping: A strategy that enables the grouping of students by specific ability, interest, or subject area.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A written document that addresses the gifted student’s needs. It may include specific accommodations, materials or classroom instruction. IEP’s are generally used with Learning Disabled (LD) students. Many states are not required to have IEP’s for gifted students.

Appropriateness of forms of gifted education

This is the most hotly argued aspect of gifted education. Some people believe that gifted education resources do not have enough availability and flexibility. They feel that in the alternate methods of gifted education, the gifted students “miss out” on having a “normal” childhood and educational experience. Others believe that gifted education allows gifted students to interact with peers that are on their level, be adequately challenged, and leaves them better equipped to take on the challenges of life.

Arbitrariness of selection criteria

Even if the notion of IQ is a good one, the question of the cutoff point for giftedness is still important. As noted above, different authorities often define giftedness differently.

Impact on School

Mara Sapon-Shevin has argued that gifted programs result in educational triage, with the gifted program taking an unequal amount of school resources, leaving other pupils with much reduced resources.

Her critics have countered that her research was into a school that was untypical of gifted education programs in general.

Gifted programs also often have problems with the singling out of the gifted students by regular students.

Gifted programs that are in the same school but under a separate program can cause a problem with bullying, as a specific set of targets, already singled out for a reason that might fuel a bully’s insecurity (above-average performance intellectually), are objects of abuse.

Such a program can result in gifted students being discriminated against by other students. This obviously has negative effects on the students as well, perhaps not just limited to a dim view of ‘normal’ students.

Impact on pupils

While giftedness is seen as an academic advantage, psychologically, it can pose social issues for the gifted individual. Especially in regard to children, social pressures cause children to want to “play down” their intelligence and blend in with other students. This is a behavior that is clearly discouraged by educators as they attempt to teach children to not only challenge themselves, but also embrace their gifts and talents.

Children can flee or fight. “Playing down” is a strategy often used by girls, boys tend to attract attention and to disrupt the normal order of the class by giving the correct answers all the time, working ahead, asking for new things, and commonly mistaken for ADHD.

Over-Reliance on IQ

Some authors question the existence of “the g factor” and thus hold that the result of an IQ test is meaningless, thus rendering the notion of giftedness meaningless. The most famous example is The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould. In her book, Identifying Gifted Children: A Practical Guide, Susan K. Johnsen (2004) claims that schools should use various ways of student capability and potential when identifying gifted children. These measures may include portfolios of student work, classroom observations, achievement measures, and intelligence scores. Most educational professionals accept that no single measure can be used in isolation to accurately identify a gifted child.