ERIC Identifier: ED352774
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Parke, Beverly N.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Challenging Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom. ERIC
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
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, 1982): (1) the pace at which they learn; (2) the depth of their
understanding; and (3) the interests that they hold. 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
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE REGULAR CLASSROOM TEACHER?
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?
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.
Archambault, F., Westberg, K., Brown, S.,
Hallmark, B., Zhang, W., & Emmons, C. (1993). "Classroom practices used with
gifted third and fourth grade students." JOURNAL FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE
Callahan, C. (1990). "A commissioned paper on the performance of high ability
students on national and international tests." Unpublished paper, University of
Cox, J., Daniel, N., & Boston, B. (1985). "Educating able learners:
Programs and promising practices." Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ED 266
Daniel, N. & Cox, J. (1988). "Flexible pacing for able learners." Reston,
VA: Council for Exceptional Children. ED 298 725
Kantrowitz, B. & Wingert, P. (1992, February 17). "An 'F' in world
competition." NEWSWEEK, p.57.
Maker, J. (1982). "Curriculum development for the gifted." Rockville, MD:
Aspen Systems Corporation.
Ness, B. & Latessa, E. (1979). "Gifted children and self-teaching
techniques." DIRECTIVE TEACHER, 2, 10-12.
Parke, B. (1989). "Gifted students in regular classrooms." Boston: Allyn
The Association for Gifted. (1989). "Standards for programs involving the
gifted and talented." Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children. ED 375 924
Westberg, K., Archambault, F., Dobyns, S., & Salvin, T. (1993). "The
classroom practices observation study." JOURNAL FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE GIFTED
Berger, S. L. (1991). "Differentiating curriculum for gifted students."
Reston, VA: CEC/ERIC. ED 342 175
"Meeting the needs of able learners through flexible pacing" (1990). Reston,
VA: CEC/ERIC. ED 314 916
VanTassel-Baska, J. (1992). "Planning effective curriculum for gifted
learners." Denver: Love Publishing.
VanTassel-Baska, J. (in press). "Developing learner outcomes for gifted
students." Reston, VA: CEC/ERIC.