Challenging Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom
ERIC Identifier: ED352774
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Parke, Beverly N.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
How do teachers develop an instructional plan that will be challenging, enlightening, and
intriguing to students of different abilities, and still maintain a sense of community within
the classroom? This is the central question for educators as they begin the quest of
bringing sound instruction to gifted students in regular classroom settings.
Research tells us that a large majority of gifted and talented students spend most of
their day in regular classroom settings (Cox, Daniel, & Boston, 1985). Unfortunately,
instruction in the regular classroom setting is generally not tailored to meet their unique
needs (Archambault et al., 1993; Cox, Daniel, & Boston, 1985; Westberg, Archambault,
Dobyns, & Salvin, 1993). This situation is putting gifted students at risk of failing to
achieve their potential. Achievement scores below what might be expected from our
brightest population provide the evidence (Callahan, 1990; Kantrowitz & Wingert, 1992;
Ness & Latessa, 1979).
The challenge for educators is twofold. Our gifted and talented population must have a
full service education if we expect these students to thrive in the manner in which they
are capable. Second, these students must be involved in educational experiences that
are challenging and appropriate to their needs and achievement levels. The place to
begin is in the regular classroom.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO FULL SERVICE?
The goal for program planners dealing with the challenges of meeting instructional
needs of gifted and talented students in regular classroom settings is to create a
learning environment in which these students can fully develop their abilities and
interests without losing their sense of membership as part of the class. This is a tall
order for teachers and students, because the usual remedy is to segregate these
students into small homogeneous groups or to assign individual projects. While both of
these strategies have their place, neither is sufficient to accomplish the goal. Therefore,
we must look beyond the conventional, consider the overall dynamics of the classroom,
and plan for a working environment in which all the students can fully develop their
abilities and interests within the confines of one organizational unit.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF
STUDENTS WHO ARE GIFTED AND TALENTED?
When asked this question, most teachers will respond by citing three observations.
First, gifted youngsters tend to get their work done quickly and may seek further
assignments or direction. Second, they ask probing questions that tend to differ from
their classmates in depth of understanding and frequency. Finally, they have interests in
areas that are unusual or more like the interests of older students. In fact, these
observations define the characteristics that challenge regular classroom teachers the
most as they attempt to bring full instructional service to gifted and talented students.
These students potentially differ from their classmates on three key dimensions (Maker,
In order to develop instructional programs that will meet the
needs of gifted students in regular classroom settings, it is necessary to address and
accommodate these defining characteristics.
- the pace at which they learn;
- the depth of their understanding; and
- the interests that they hold.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE REGULAR CLASSROOM TEACHER?
Most teachers have, on occasion, had students in their classes who know more than
they do about some specific topics they are teaching. Teachers who see themselves as
facilitators of learning can find a great deal to offer these students. As a facilitator,
orchestrator, designer, or coach, the teacher presents the conditions for learning. He or
she helps the student develop the skills necessary to learn, understand, and interpret an
appropriately differentiated curriculum. This role requires teachers to have skills in both
their subject areas (understanding its content, the manner in which its professionals
think) and in the management of learning.
WHAT PROGRAM OPTIONS ARE NEEDED TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THESE STUDENTS?
One of the greatest mistakes made by school districts
attempting to deliver programming to their gifted and talented students is that they look
for unidimensional approaches. The heterogeneity of the gifted population leaves only
one remedy that has any chance of succeeding over the long haul. That is a multiple
programming approach (Cox, Daniel, & Boston, 1985; Parke, 1989)--one in which a
constellation of programs is available in which students can participate based on their
abilities, needs, and interests. Some of these options may be specifically tailored to high
ability students (such as Advanced Placement, honors, or resource room programs).
Others may be found in the course listings for general education that are available to all
students but which serve gifted and talented students well (such as student council,
school newspaper, Future Problem Solving, computer club, etc.). Profiles of students'
abilities, derived from comprehensive assessment batteries, can be used to match
students to appropriate programs.
WHAT INSTRUCTIONAL PROVISIONS MUST BE MADE?
Designing instructional opportunities for gifted students in regular classrooms finds its
inspiration at the source of the concern--the students. The characteristics of these
students lead to the instructional accommodations that are appropriate (The Association
for Gifted, 1989). The accelerated pace at which gifted and talented students learn
information requires that flexible pacing strategies (Daniel & Cox, 1988) such as skill
grouping, curricular compacting, contracting, and credit by examination be integrated
into classroom management formats. The need to explore topics in depth leads
program planners to include provisions such as original research, independent studies
or investigations, mentorships, or classes at another school or institution of higher
learning. When addressing the unique or advanced interests of these students, planners
might be inspired to include opportunities such as minicourses, interest groups, clubs,
science or art fairs, or internships. The teachers' challenge is to identify student needs,
develop and gain access to appropriate programs and curricula that correspond to
those needs, and monitor student progress throughout the course of study. The
students' challenge is to make the best possible use of the resources available while
becoming fully responsible for their own learning.
This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and
Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RI88062007. The
opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of
OERI or the Department of Education.
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JOURNAL FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE GIFTED,16(2), 13-28.
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VanTassel-Baska, J. (1992). "Planning effective curriculum for gifted learners." Denver:
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Reston, VA: CEC/ERIC.
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