Gifted differentiation is not a difficult puzzle to solve; it simply means matching the curriculum with the learner. Yet, in too many cases, you may find it is nonexistent.
First, we learn from the curriculum models that exist in the field of gifted education. Most of them favor an inquiry-based model of instruction, though curricula based only on higher order processes and independent study yield few studies of student impacts, and those are not consistent. The strongest body of research evidence supports the use of advanced core curricula at an accelerated rate for high ability learners, suggesting that best practice would be to group gifted students instructionally by subject area for advanced curriculum work that would be flexibly organized and implemented based on students’ documented level of learning within the subject area.
While there are barriers to successful differentiation of this kind, such as lack of professional development in gifted education, insufficient teacher planning time, and lack of administrative support for differentiation, there are actions that can be taken to increase the likelihood that gifted students will receive the educational program they need and require. In summary, these actions should include the following:
Teamwork, time, and talent are all that is needed to reverse this troubling trend of disappearing differentiation for our talented youth. We all can play a role in facilitating these processes through action, support, advocacy, and communication. If you have anecdotes to share where you have been successful at increasing differentiation for students, please do share so that more folks can benefit from your experience.
At SIG we are in the midst of preparing our own pieces of the differentiation puzzle through our summer programs. Our enrichment courses support the efforts of schools to extend the commitment of differentiation beyond the school day, provide teachers with training and opportunity to challenge their traditional approaches to thinking and learning, and provide a learning environment that is focused on student goals and passions.