Gifted Programs: An Overview
There are several different ways schools may provide instruction for their gifted students the following are some different models that are currently present within education:
Whole Child Educational Model
The desire of this educational model is to develop the child as a whole and to not focus on specific abilities or talents. Much effort is focused on bringing weaker abilities up to speed with higher abilities. This is actually how many schools are operated – all students are expected to meet a certain minimum and students are not arranged according to ability, but rather by age and grade level. Creativity is not greatly valued within this model.
Talent/Multiple Abilities Model
This model is the one that is geared toward the development of giftedness and talent. An effort is made to find the particular talents of the student and to encourage the development of those talents. Abilities that are not related to that talent are not really focused on. Creative ability is expected to emerge as the student masters his or her talent and increases their competence in their area of giftedness. The teacher is assumed to an expert who will be with the child until the child has surpassed the teacher’s mastery. This model is focused on the individual child.
Basic Skill Educational Model
This model focuses on the development of basic skills with focus on other skills if time permits. Coleman & Cross state the “child is seen as a member of a cohort that must reach minimal level of competence as measured by standardized tests. Development is age/grade-specific as it applies to basic academics” (p. 267-268). Again this is similar to how the majority of schools operate and students are focused on by age and grade level. Creativity is also not greatly valued within this model.
As is quite obvious, the best model for gifted students is the Talent/Multiple Abilities Model. However, this model is not practical with the way our current educational system is set up. By focusing on the standards, schools must require that teachers put the majority of their energy into making sure that students can at least meet the standards. Most schools simply do not have the resources to provide the intense focus that the Talent/Multiple Abilities Model requires. Since schools have to serve all children, the majority work with the Whole Child and Basic Skill models.
However, schools have partially worked around these issues by varying what they do within their gifted programs. There are three main variables:
This is a program that “extends, supplements, and sometimes replaces aspects of school’s structure” (p.270). This means extra experiences are provided that encourage the student to pursue their abilities beyond what the standard requires of them.
This particular variable allows the student to complete course work in a shorter amount of time than a student is normally given. This allows the student to move faster than his or her peers and the goal is usually to move the student into college or a career. A large amount of gifted students I have encountered prefer this type of programming because they view it as being more practical and the best the schools can do for them.
Special Grouping in Settings
This is a program that places students in the same proximity so the maximum number of students can be provided with special experiences. It is also a good way to reduce program costs. The students are usually grouped according to some common characteristic.
Most gifted programs use a combination of these variables. For instance, many schools use a combination of enrichment in the lower grades and acceleration at the high school level. There is some controversy over acceleration, such as the idea that acceleration stunts social development. It has been proven by many gifted adults that this is simply not the case. However, it is important that the school does not choose to accelerate a child that is not ready for it, as this is not properly serving the child’s needs. However, acceleration is more than appropriate for children who can greatly benefit from it.As a parent, it is important that you get in contact with your school and see what the gifted program actually offers. You should evaluate the program for what it has to offer your child. Also, remember that school systems do the best with what they can within our education system and no system is perfect. It is important to remember that the school and your child’s teachers do have your child’s best interests at heart and are the experts on children and education. However, you are the expert on your child and the communication should be open between the parents and school for your child to receive the maximum benefit