ERIC Identifier: ED352775
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: VanTassel-Baska, Joyce
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Developing Learner Outcomes for Gifted Students. ERIC Digest
"What new skills will I master during this next school year? What new
knowledge will I gain about an area I am interested in? How will I become more
effective in working with my classmates? How will I improve my work habits?"
These are the legitimate questions asked by gifted students about their own
anticipation for school learning, and they nicely frame the basic questions that
educators must answer to create appropriate outcomes for such students. If
gifted students are to thrive, there must be in place a coherent curriculum
structure that defines for teachers, administrators, parents, and the students
themselves the goals and purposes of a specialized program, the specific
outcomes anticipated, and a prescribed time frame for learning.
Learner outcomes specify student behaviors
we want at a particular developmental point. These outcomes provide the basis
for creating worthwhile learning experiences, for setting appropriate
expectations, and for assessing the extent of learning attained. We may want
gifted third-grade students to prepare a science project using a scientific
process--selecting a topic of interest, reading a lot about the topic, designing
an experiment to test a question of interest, completing the experiment, and
communicating the results through a poster and oral presentation. We may want
gifted ninth-grade students to conduct a community survey, using basic
statistics, on a topic of interest. These are examples of gifted learner
outcomes. They each are (1) appropriately challenging for gifted students at the
requisite stage of development, (2) linked to a specific area of study within
the regular school curriculum, (3) substantive and worthy of substantial
instructional time and student independent time, and (4) assessable through
NEED FOR LEARNER OUTCOMES FOR GIFTED STUDENTS
learner needs goals for learning and indicators of progress in learning. Without
a clear understanding of what is to be learned and how that learning is taking
place, the learner loses interest, motivation, and comes to see learning as a
process devised by others that is trivial, irrelevant, and a waste of time.
Thus, the first reason for stating learner outcomes is to respond to learner
needs for making sense of the tasks presented. Second, gifted learner outcomes
provide a clear differentiation of what the students can learn within a given
period of time. Since the characteristics of gifted learners imply a capacity to
learn basic material much faster than other learners and handle more complex and
sophisticated material at an earlier stage of development, appropriate learner
outcomes must reflect these distinctions. Current state-developed learner
outcomes for all students may be well-informed with respect to the state of the
art in the specific disciplines of language arts, mathematics, science, and
social studies. However, the characteristics of exceptional learners demand
higher expectation levels for performance at every level of schooling. Thus
differentiated learner outcomes are necessary in order for gifted students to be
appropriately challenged. Finally, teachers of the gifted need guidance in
planning daily curriculum experiences. Random activities that offer short term
appeal are poor fare for the capacities of gifted students. Activities must be
tied to substantive outcomes; they must have a purpose larger than themselves.
To facilitate worthwhile learning, teachers must be able to see and understand
the relationship between a classroom activity and its related outcome.
HOW LEARNER OUTCOMES FOR GIFTED STUDENTS DIFFER FROM GENERIC OUTCOMES
Typically, major differences lie in the scope of
the outcome, the stage of development at which it is expected, and the implicit
proficiencies necessary to achieve it at an exemplary level. Below is a set of
ninth-grade English curriculum outcomes for all learners juxtaposed with
outcomes that were developed specifically for gifted students at that same grade
Comprehends a variety of materials.
Is familiar with the structural elements of literature.
Develops an understanding of the chronology of American literature.
Evaluates diverse materials according to a set of criteria or standards.
Creates a literary work in a self-selected form, using appropriate structural
Analyzes and interprets key social, cultural, and economic ideas as expressed in
the literature, art, and music of America at 40-year intervals.
The examples in the gifted set are consistently more challenging, broader in
scope, and more focused on specific higher level thinking tasks. They imply that
students have mastered the basic underlying skills necessary to undertake
required tasks (e.g., that students can basically comprehend what they read),
and demand the development of multiple perspectives within and across areas of
knowledge. These aspects of differentiation are central in comparing generic and
gifted outcome statements.
Just as gifted learners need differentiated
outcomes, so too, must the assessment approach be consistent with the stated
outcome. This is different from the way the more generic outcome for all
learners would be measured. The assessment approach should be developed at the
same time as the outcome in order to maintain unity of purpose and to ensure
that the proposed outcome can in fact be satisfactorily assessed. Incorporating
assessment into the teaching-learning process is essential to creating an
authentic process. Assessment of outcomes will involve rating student products,
whether they are written essays, projects, or original creative work.
HOW TEACHERS CAN WORK WITH LEARNER OUTCOMES
It is important
that teachers see learner outcomes as central to their work in the classroom;
that they capture the heart of what students need to learn. For this insight to
occur, teachers must have the opportunity to engage in the curriculum alignment
process. One approach is for teachers to develop activities that underlie each
desired learner outcome. These activities can be developed by teams and
discussed with other educators at appropriate times. Another approach to
alignment is to develop suboutcomes that will lead to satisfactory performance
at the end of the academic year. Again, teacher teams are the best way to
accomplish this task, which involves a careful analysis of the learner outcome.
A third approach to curriculum alignment is to link outcomes to existing
classroom materials. Teachers can review basal texts for lessons that support
the desired outcome and then explore supplemental resources that contribute
directly to student learning.
ALIGNMENT WITH STATE LEARNER OUTCOMES
outcomes should be the point of departure for creating differentiated gifted
learner outcomes. The example used earlier is one model for representing the
relationship between the two sets of learner outcomes. Some generic learner
outcomes would not need to be altered or adapted for gifted students. Individual
districts would decide which outcomes already meet the criteria of acceptability
for the gifted and create new ones only where they are needed. This process of
curriculum alignment can be effected for an individual learner as well, thus
meeting the needs of special populations of gifted learners who require even
more tailoring in their curriculum.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CREATING APPROPRIATE LEARNER
Create a curriculum articulation task force representative of subject areas,
grade levels, and a broad cross section of school personnel interested in
Organize subtask forces to examine state/local learner outcomes by subject area
and across K-12 levels. (Vertical planning is essential to the success of this
Review existing state or local learner outcomes, using the stated criteria for
judging whether they are challenging for gifted learners at the requisite stage
Discuss findings with the overall task force. Have each subtask force justify
the decisions made regarding adaptations in the generic learner outcomes for
Review gifted program goals/curriculum goals; align with subject area outcomes.
Create additional learner outcomes for gifted students as needed, using the
notes and suggestions of the subgroups.
Develop analogous assessment protocols for the differentiated outcomes.
Align the differentiated learner outcomes for gifted students with existing
classroom activities and materials; develop new activities and locate
supplementary materials as needed.
Hold a staff development session for all teachers on gifted learner outcomes and
the linkages already present in the curriculum that address them. Demonstrate
activities and materials that specifically teach to the attainment of gifted
Develop an on-going staff development program that assists teachers in
facilitating the attainment of the specified learner outcomes.
Tailor all teacher evaluation instruments to include an emphasis on using
activities and materials shared in staff development sessions that contribute to
the attainment of specified learner outcomes.
Use annual assessment data to determine needed changes in key aspects of the
teaching learning cycle (e.g., better assessment tools, more activities, more
targeted materials, insufficient training?).
Engage in continued curriculum development tasks such as alignment of activities
and materials, creation of curriculum units that fill gaps, and the development
of alternative assessment tools and strategies.
Curry, J., and Samara, J. (1990). "Writing units
that challenge: A guidebook for and by educators." Portland, ME: Maine Educators
of the Gifted and Talented.
Gallagher, S. (1992). "Assessment in the science classroom." Williamsburg,
VA: College of William and Mary, Center for Gifted Education.
"Georgia State Department of Education resource guide for secondary teachers
of English." (1992). Atlanta, GA: Georgia State Department of Education.
Sher, B., VanTassel-Baska, J., Gallagher, S., and Bailey, J. (1992).
"Developing a scope and sequence in science for high ability students K-8."
Williamsburg, VA: College of William and Mary, Center for Gifted Education.
VanTassel-Baska, J. (1988). "Developing scope and sequence in curriculum: A
comprehensive approach." GCT, September-October, 42-45.
VanTassel-Baska, J. (1992). "Planning effective curriculum for gifted
learners." Denver, CO: Love Publishing.