Are gifted education practices appropriate for all students?
Tuesday, May 02, 2017
After delivering workshops on teaching gifted kids, I am often asked by participants, "Wouldn't these teaching tips and interventions for gifted students be helpful for other students in my class? I can think of several who would respond positively to some of the opportunities you have been describing."
I always give the same enthusiastic response to those questions: "Of course they would. What I have been demonstrating in this workshop are simply effective teaching techniques to improve any teacher's ability to diagnose each student's entry level into upcoming content, then prescribe work that moves that student forward in his own learning."
Interestingly, those words describe a popular program in current use in many districts, called "response to intervention" (RTI).
The fact that most districts reserve RTI programs for struggling learners is perplexing as it is actually equally effective for all other students as well — especially gifted or advanced learners who experience struggles in one or more areas of learning.
As most classroom teachers know, standards designed by grade levels can only be totally sensible for those students who have been successful with the previous year's or class's standards, and who are ready to move on with their learning. Ask any classroom teacher what percentage of her students are either not cognitively or academically ready for this year's expectations or who have already mastered most of the grade-level designated standards.
Therefore, the fascinating correct question should be, "To what extent do the standards at any grade level need to be adapted for students who are behind or ahead of the curve?" The teacher's response should be interesting!
What would happen if all teachers knew how to make those adaptations for students at both ends of a learning continuum? I predict educators would find the strategies they had learned that were supposed to be the correct prescription for gifted students might actually serve the needs of students who were not yet up to grade-level expectations.
And the opposite is also true. Some students who are gifted have some areas of learning in which they are struggling to be successful. For those students, access to strategies ostensibly designed for struggling students could lead to amazing achievement in their areas of challenge.
It is therefore helpful to prepare classroom teachers at all grade levels to be able to be proactive in their efforts to meet the differentiated learning needs of all their students, so the need for out of classroom interventions might be dramatically diminished. To quote a song from "My Fair Lady," "Wouldn't it be loverly!"
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