Many teachers consider studying gifted education, but have niggling doubts, asking themselves, “Shouldn’t I take a paper which will benefit the whole class?”
After ten years in gifted education, I am now focussing on my other specialty which is distance education. Some of my students are gifted. Most are not. Below are just a few of the ways in which the things I have learnt through studying gifted education help me with every child. While every teacher will have some of these tools at their disposal, training in gifted education will help to develop each of them further.
- I have learnt to appreciate the importance of individualised challenge, and seeking challenge which feels like a good fit is resonating with many of my learners, including those “well below” in terms of national standards.
- I aim for successful learning to be its own reward, and am very happy to hear things like, “He doesn’t seem to care about the certificates he has earned. He is just so excited that he can see how much he is learning,” from a parent.
- I recognise the tension between attainment and fulfillment. I encourage personal interest projects which align with students’ own values and goals, and make the curriculum fit these projects rather than working the other way around.
- I have a broadened toolkit of strategies which promote engagement, and I use them every day.
- I respect the interplay of underpinning knowledge and complex thinking, and this helps me to choose the best building block for a learner’s understanding at a given point in time.
- All that pre-testing and curriculum compacting turns out to be a powerful tool for helping kids who are behind to gain ground efficiently. I think I could talk effect sizes with John Hattie and hold my own!
- Gifted learners tend to be critical thinkers who can be relied upon to teach teachers about the value of student feedback, whether the teachers looked for it initially or not. I now seek out feedback, from as many students as possible, and this helps me to teach to each learner’s needs.
I studied gifted education at Massey University in New Zealand, and I have a strong preference for university study over other qualifications because of the breadth of resources available, especially through research databases. I also favour courses which explore many models and many viewpoints in this complex field. I believe a wide range of ways of thinking about learners and learning equips us best to help the diverse group of learners we will encounter in our work.
Image Credit: “Graduated”, by Roel Wijnants, CC-BY-NC.