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The Debate About Teaching Gifted Students

By Keren Perles

The philosophy of gifted education requires a precise definition of giftedness. Depending on the philosophy adapted, students must be screened for giftedness, assessed appropriately, and taught using specific strategies.

The Broad Umbrella of Giftedness

The main philosophy of gifted education is that students who are found to be gifted – no matter what their areas of giftedness – deserve to be challenged and to reach their potentials. In a world where underachievers are constantly targeted through standardized testing and strict interventions, gifted students can sometimes slip through the cracks. (For example, the RTI method may not work for all gifted students.)

Therefore, those who believe in the philosophy of gifted education maintain that gifted students can be a huge asset to society. They believe that giftedness exists across all cultures and socioeconomic levels and must be cultivated correctly in order to grow. Many gifted students will be able to make a beneficial difference to the world, if we give them the tools to do so.

Screening and Assessment

When testing for giftedness, the basic philosophy is that giftedness manifest itself in several areas. Therefore, a simple test cannot necessarily identify a gifted student. Instead, many screening methods must be combined in order to make an accurate decision for any given student. These methods might include ability test scores, teacher nominations, parental anecdotes, professional observations, and academic records.

In addition, assessment of gifted students can sometimes be more rigorous than typical academic assessment. Accordingly to other philosophies of giftedness, assessments should be less structured, and possibly chosen by the student. These second types of assessment are usually only possible in the case where a student is extremely self-motivated.

The Debate Will Always Continue

Teaching philosophies of gifted education differ. Some teachers believe that gifted students should have access to more complex coursework in an ordinary classroom, or that they should be encouraged to assist their peers in learning grade-level materials. Others believe in differentiation according to area of giftedness and ability, self-motivated study, and extremely challenging material that goes beyond what is normally taught in the classroom. See this article for methods on how to create interesting lesson plans for gifted students.