The Other 1:1 Debate

It is an honour to be writing for the SENG Blog Tour. If you are not aware of this organisation, please check out their website, especially their online articles and resources.


There is an ongoing debate about whether or not the provision of one digital device to one student is worthwhile. While I have an opinion on that, in terms of gifted education, I think it is time to start another 1:1 debate. Quotas in the identification of gifted children are highly controversial, but I am not afraid of a little controversy. The bell curve is symmetrical, so what if schools routinely identified one gifted child for every struggling learner they identified? What if they had to meet that 1:1 quota, with no ifs, buts, maybes or excuses?

What if…?

Here are some things which might happen. You may like to add your own ideas in the comments below.

  1. Schools which “don’t have any gifted children” and therefore don’t provide gifted education services, may discover that it is easier to begin identifying gifted children than it is to stop identifying other learners with special educational needs.
  2. Schools who believe that “all children are gifted” (and therefore that everything they provide to suit all children suits the gifted) may find it harder to convince themselves that all children also struggle as learners.
  3. Schools may begin identifying additional gifted children whose strengths lie outside the most frequently or easily assessed areas of the curriculum.
  4. Creativity may be given more weight as an indicator of giftedness. The kind of evidence gathered about children’s learning may change to facilitate this shift.
  5. Schools may begin asking interesting questions like, “Is it acceptable to identify the same child as both gifted and a struggling learner?”
  6. Schools may realise that their children have cultural differences from what they had thought of as a “typical gifted child”. They may respond by investigating how giftedness manifests in a range of cultures.
  7. Schools may analyse the gaps in who they are identifying as gifted in order to fill their quota. This may involve looking at gender and ethnic balance, month of birth, socioeconomic factors and language spoken at home.
  8. Gifted education supporters who have very entrenched and exclusive views about who is gifted, particularly in a nature versus nurture way, may have to find merit in other viewpoints about who is gifted in order to meet quotas.
  9. Sufficient gifted children will be identified that it will be logical to work with groups of gifted children at times. This will result in many gifted children feeling less isolated.
  10. Cost effectiveness in provision of gifted education would become very important. The literature on grade skipping is likely to be dusted off. Grade skipping may become common enough that every grade skipped child meets others in the same situation.
  11. It is likely to be acknowledged more widely that all teachers are teachers of the gifted, and need preservice training in meeting gifted children’s needs.
  12. Catering for the profoundly gifted would need to be monitored carefully. They may be better served because of increasing awareness of giftedness. They may be worse served, through being treated exactly the same as other gifted children when they may have had personalised provisions before.

Yes, I have my rose coloured spectacles on, and I am mainly looking at what could go right. However, I feel that there is not enough optimism in our field, and that this holds us back from advocating for changes which could be very helpful. I firmly believe that we ought to be identifying far more children as gifted than we currently do. Why?

  • To help gifted children to “find their tribe” – the children and teachers who they can relate to best. This is of huge importance when so many gifted people, whether children or adults, experience distressing loneliness until they find others who enjoy thinking in similar ways.
  • To create groups of learners who willingly challenge each other and themselves to achieve more. I agree with Martin Seligman who draws our attention to the strong connections between succeeding in worthy challenges and self-esteem. Challenge is enormously important to all learners, and challenging gifted learners doesn’t often happen by accident. Grouping and clustering facilitate the development of a culture in which an appropriate level of challenge is valued by learners and teachers alike.
  • To enable all children to learn as much as they can, rather than having many able learners mark time during their school years.  The knowledge and skills gained will benefit the children as individuals, and will later benefit the various communities they contribute to.
  • To demonstrate the true size of the problem of inadequate educational provision for gifted children in order to seek change.

So should we do this? Should we identify as many learners from each end of the bell curve as unlikely to have their needs met by the routine delivery of curriculum? If we don’t, then my mathematics says we must logically believe that routine delivery of curriculum is pitched above the average. Do you see any evidence of that?


About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
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