Gifted Education and Talent Development: Myths and Misconceptions (page 4)
Uninformed attitudes about the education of gifted and talented learners have often become strongly held beliefs among educators and decision makers who are most responsible for the educational services that these students receive. Among the beliefs that limit educational practices are the following:
All children are gifted.
All children are valuable, all children are important, and all children should be allowed to develop to their highest potential; however, all children are not gifted. The term gifted designates the students “who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities” (Javits Act P.L. 100-297, reauthorized in 1994 through 2006). The capabilities to which the Javits Act refers include high levels of intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or academic abilities. Obviously, not all children have high levels of development that create needs for modification of the curriculum, and yet, in a misguided effort to assert the value of all children, a statement such as “all children are gifted” is mistakenly made. The problem is that such a statement can cause the unique educational provisions needed by gifted students to seem unnecessary, and, therefore, they will not be provided.
Gifted students are not at risk. If they are really gifted, they can get by on their own.
This would be true only if intelligence was solely inherited and, therefore, did not change. The well-documented fact is that intelligence is developed from an interaction between genetic patterns and environmental opportunities. It is dynamic rather than fixed, which puts children who are not stimulated at the level of their growth at risk. They do not progress; rather, they regress. Additionally, the growth of intelligence is less limited than was once supposed, and the level to which any child can achieve, when given appropriate stimulation, is unknown. This possibility alone makes this belief that these children can get by on their own very problematic. Gifted students, like all students, need challenges presented to them by their educational experience at the level congruent with their ability and development. The problem for the gifted learner is that schools often do not present curriculum aimed at higher levels of thought.
Giftedness can easily be measured by intelligence tests and tests of achievement.
Brain research has indicated that the brain has at least four major areas of function: physical/sensing, affective, cognitive (both linear, rational and spatial, gestalt), and intuitive. The functions of these areas integrate to form a person’s intelligence, and the brain seems to be nearly unlimited in its potential for development. Any of these areas of function or a combination of them can be involved in expressing intelligence, making the concept of intelligence quite complex. Intelligence tests generally measure only a sample of the linear, rational ability of a person, and because intelligence can be expressed in many other ways, such a small sample cannot be viewed as an adequate measure of the universe of intelligence or the potential of any person. Although current intelligence tests give valuable estimates of abilities in the area of intelligence that can be predictive of success on school-related tasks, these tests cannot identify giftedness in many areas of intelligence or suggest an individual’s potential. Identification of giftedness is a complex task and requires a variety of samples of a person’s abilities from many areas of function.
A good teacher can teach any student because good teaching is all that is needed. What is good for gifted students is good for everyone.
Although good teaching practices must be the basis for all teaching excellence, the appropriate education of gifted students does not end with these important concepts and strategies. In addition to using exemplary educational techniques that support the learning of all students, teachers of gifted and talented students need some special skills. They must know how to change the pace of instruction, provide in-depth learning, and advance the level of content because these are common needs of gifted students. Teachers must know how to develop high degrees of complexity and interrelationships in the content, as well as develop and provide novelty and enrichment. They must accept intensity and divergence, and they must encourage creative solutions. These are but some of the added teaching skills that teachers of gifted and talented students need because these students have specific needs, require additional challenges, and produce differently in terms of both quantity and quality.
If you accelerate the curriculum for all students, you do not need programs for gifted learners.
All students must be given opportunities to have challenging learning experiences. However, those challenges will not be the same, either in content or in pace of instruction, for every student. One of the commonly accepted characteristics found as the brain becomes more efficient and expresses higher levels of intelligence is the increased speed of thought processing. Gifted students learn faster and process information more quickly. It would be as unfair to ask a gifted student to slow down this process as it would be to require a slower learner to think more quickly; neither student can do what is being asked. With the “dumbing down” that admittedly is occurring within the curriculum in many schools, some acceleration of content and pace might be positive; however, to speed up the learning process to the pace of the gifted learner would be inappropriate for other learners in the regular classroom and would inhibit their chances for success. In National Excellence (Ross, 1993), this vision of schools of excellence was offered: “All children progress through challenging material at their own pace. Students are grouped and regrouped based on their interests and needs. Achieving success for all students is not equated with achieving the same results for all students”.
You really learn something when you teach it. It never hurts students to review what they have learned.
This belief has led to the practices of using gifted students as tutors for slower students in the classroom and having them do more work at the same level. Such activities have been used to fill the time of the student who finishes assigned work quickly, relieving the teacher of additional planning for such a student and simultaneously providing help to students who require extra support. This situation has been especially noticeable since Cooperative Learning groups have become an integral part of classroom organization. Too often, in an effort to maintain the standards they require of themselves, gifted students who are placed in a heterogeneous Cooperative Learning group will take on the major part of the research, writing, and presentation tasks, while also trying to tutor other members of the group, so that the group result will not be unacceptably low to these gifted students. Although sharing with classmates is an important social experience for gifted students, the overuse of group projects and the use of such students as tutors will prevent them from engaging in their own educational challenges. The increasing number of gifted students writing articles on their frustration with experiences in inappropriately constituted Cooperative Learning groups adequately validates the idea that there is a limit to the educational value of repeatedly reviewing materials and concepts that have already been mastered. On the other hand, Cooperative Learning groups of gifted learners can be stimulating and provide important interaction among intellectual peers.
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