Meeting the Needs of the Gifted and Talented in a Regular Classroom Introduction

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¶ … Education to the Gifted in a Mainstream Setting

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The basic premise behind American public education is the provision of an opportunity for the equal pursuit of educational growth for all students. Such a premise is intended to exist in spite of racial divides, socioeconomic imbalance, diverse intellectual potential and limited physical disability. And in an egalitarian interpretation, this suggests that all students, regardless of individual characteristics, are intended to be integrated into a fully socialized form of collective education. But this is an approach which stands in direct contrast with the needs of individual students, as we are learning today. It is a natural state of fact today that schools which exclusively serve the needs of the blind are widely available. Likewise, it is rare today for a public school not to devote classroom space and educational resource toward the heightened needs of special education students. These are facts that, rather than subverting the democratic values of public education, enhance its ability to serve the needs of all students, regardless of what must be acknowledged as differences. The students above mentioned, in being offered the facilities, resources and attention demanded by their respectively specialized needs, are better equipped to realize their fullest opportunity for educational growth. There is a direct parallel to these practical distinctions in the experience of the so-called 'gifted child.' Gifted children can be identified as those who "learn new material in much less time. . . tend to remember forever what they already have learned and . . .they perceive ideas and concepts at more abstract and complex levels than other students their age." (Winebrenner, 14)

Purpose of Study:

Introduction on Meeting the Needs of the Gifted and Talented in a Regular Classroom Assignment

While it has become socially unpopular, and to some extent diminished by educational philosophers who have derided such a principle as promoting elitism and social divisions, the distinguishing of gifted students from the general population is crucial to their educational growth. The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not these needs are being met in general educational contexts. There is little question that some students rise above the others in terms of ability. Eventually, if their talents are cultivated properly, today's students will be, tomorrow "the movers and shakers of our world. They do what others only talk about doing. Bright and talented persons frequently become the creative producers on whom we all depend for technological innovations." (Cooper, 9) It is of the utmost importance, in finding a curricular way to address the needs of gifted students, that educators seek to establish a balance between this vital value of serving each student to his greatest potential and the responsibility of offering the talented standout an opportunity to transcend the limitations of mainstream curriculum.

Research Question:

The primary research question concerns the degree to which an educational curriculum effectively addresses the needs of the student population in question. Thus, the research question is as follows:

Does teacher instruction challenge the needs of the gifted and talented in a regular classroom?

Subsidiary Questions:

In order to address this question, the research process will also be guided by a number of subsidiary questions that revolve on issues specific to the subject of providing gifted education. Thus, an important question asks how teachers identify a child as gifted and talented. This question is guided by the understanding that When gifted students have been identified according to district standards, their talents can be cultivated in a variety of ways such as "cooperative learning, simulations, incubation and reflection time, emotional awareness activities, physical activities, relaxation techniques, and individual projects." (Chance, 139)

However, such activities should take place in traditional classroom settings, where all students have the opportunity to participate. Though not all students are likely to derive the same stimulation from such mainstream enrichment, successful programs will not be exclusive to those with a certain level of intellectual capability. Rather, they will create the open-ended flexibility that will allow the most gifted students to express themselves in ways which are indicative of both stimulation and growth. This points us to a subsequent question which asks whether teachers been provided with professional development to meet the needs of the gifted and talented. The answer to this research question will determine to at least some extent how well the teacher will be able to balance these activities and the needs of specific students.

A final research question asks how teachers develop an instructional plan that is challenging, enlightening, and intriguing to gifted and talented students? This denotes the combination of effective training and a personal creativity with respect to planning.

Significance of the Study:

The significance of this study centers on the necessity to ensure that our gifted students are given access to the best possible opportunities through which to see their talents cultivated. It had long been practiced in most American public school districts that, if any program was designed to cater to the unique demands of gifted students, it was an exclusive course of study. Often, this course would necessitate that students be removed from the normal classroom setting and sequestered to a class exclusively comprised of gifted students. Here, lesson plans would exist across a wide range of enrichment activities. There were a number of flaws in this approach, however. For one, it was a way in which gifted students were moved into social isolation by their talents, with their presence in 'special' classes carrying a social stigma and inviting the potential for resentment from students who were not entitled to an excuse from regularly scheduled curriculum. While this may be of secondary concern when considering the more important role that such education could play in a student's future, there are also indications that the 'enrichment' activities do not necessarily provide gifted students with stimulation for which they are specially equipped. Such is to say that these enrichment activities, constituted of theoretical exercises and interactive projects, may not necessarily take advantage of the specific gifts of each student. In addition, it is increasingly clear that such enrichment activities could be equally beneficial to mainstream population students.

Instead, modern education experts believe that a more suitable approach is in the modification of mainstream teaching methods. Rather than isolating gifted students, or allowing them to fall anonymously into the general population without ever offering them the chance to flourish, it is important that educators be indoctrinated in the characteristics and needs of such pupils. It is not uncommon for general education teachers to be ignorant to the specialized needs of the brightest students. This creates an unfortunately stagnant experience for such students. As Winebrenner (1999) reports, "if we define gifted as an expression of ability that exceeds the expectations for age-appropriate learners and define learning as forward progress from one's entry point into a learning curve, it becomes obvious that those students who already know what is about to be taught will not be learning as much as those students who are novices in that same content." (Winebrenner, 12)

This invokes the need, as Cooper instructs, for a studied identification of those students who are in need of special attention. One of the most problematic institutional obstructions to proper identification of such students is a complete diagnostic dependency upon the grading system and standardized Intelligence Quotient testing. These, however, fail to encompass the wide range of permutations for what classifies a gifted student because "when educational researchers looked at highly successful creative producers, they discovered many of these "movers and shakers" came from a much wider band of intellectual ability than previously thought. In fact, their IQs ranged between the 85th and 99th percentiles." (Cooper, 10) This is indication that evaluations of gifted students must go beyond these cut and dry numbers.

Ultimately, the significance of this study, then, is in serving as a counterpoint to clear shortcomings in accommodating the needs of the gifted. Educational experts have begun to re-examine the ways in which gifted children are offered paths to growth, and it has become increasingly clear that such an accomplishment could only be precipitated by adequate endowment of funds, a re-education of instructional methods so as to better equip teachers with the training to help gifted students and an educational format which fosters both integration and personal acceleration. According to Cooper (1995), in order for districts to undergo the relevant institutional changes to alter the prevailing perspectives on gifted students, it is necessary for such districts to adopt a five point strategy. Herein, she assess that first and foremost, a standard must be adopted for the classification of gifted students, determining who they are and what they should be expected to achieve. From here, it proceeds that districts must determine a standard by which to identify the gifts and talents unique to each student. Only after making these foundational inroads in terms of conceptual location of such students can educational institutions transition into the implementation of "specially designed services" to aid the identified students in achieving to their fullest potential. (Cooper, 9) Hereafter, districts must determine what… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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