Classroom Service Options for Gifted Students

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn about various delivery models for the education of gifted students, including the benefits and drawbacks of each model.

Classroom Service Options for Gifted Students

The ways in which gifted students are served academically are as diverse and unique as gifted children themselves. In one school, gifted students may be clustered in heterogeneously mixed inclusion classrooms, while in another, they are served through a self-contained model. In some districts, entire schools are set aside to meet the gifted needs. Other districts may choose from a wide array of options for serving their gifted students.

All delivery methods, however, have benefits and drawbacks that should be carefully considered when program planning. Let's explore the various models and what they offer our most talented students.

Delivery Models

The model used to provide services often depends upon how gifted students are identified and placed within a district. Students who qualify as academically talented may receive different services from those identified as being gifted in a creative area such as art or music. Further, students who are profoundly gifted may need an altogether different educational experience.

Inclusion places clusters of gifted students in heterogeneous classrooms. In this model, teachers differentiate instruction for gifted students through acceleration or curriculum compacting. Students may work on the same standards or content, but their assignments are different from their non-gifted peers.

A pullout model places gifted students in regular education classes for their academics, but provides enrichment on a regular basis. For example, Jocelyn is a gifted student in middle school. She attends regular classes, but her school has a weekly pullout gifted class. On Wednesdays, Jocelyn meets with her gifted services teacher and her gifted peers to engage in enrichment activities such as research extensions.

In the self-contained model, gifted students are placed together in homogeneous classes. They may have non-gifted peers on their hallways or teams, but their academic classes are tracked to allow them to receive instruction and services as a non-differentiated group.

Another form of self-contained gifted education is the use of special or alternative schools, which are set aside for the sole purpose of serving gifted students. Sometimes these schools are arranged around a particular instructional model, such as a science and math academy or a school of the arts. Often, special schools for the gifted include accelerated course work.

Virtual schools, which give students the option of taking classes online, are another way to serve gifted students. Students are able to self-pace, providing the opportunity for acceleration and for students to pursue specialized interests such as dance or athletics.

As students enter late middle school or high school, dual enrollment, when students take both grade level classes and college courses, becomes a viable delivery model. Dual enrollment can take many forms. Students may take some classes at their local school, then visit a nearby college campus to take classes. Or they may receive both regular classes and college classes at their high school campus. Finally, some students take all their classes via early college enrollment, but receive high school credit for their college classes as well.

Benefits & Drawbacks

Each model has its own particular positives and negatives. Examining student experiences can help us see the benefits and drawbacks in each delivery model.

As seen previously, Jocelyn attends a middle school that uses the traditional pullout model, in which Jocelyn takes regular classes but receives enrichment on a weekly basis. Obviously, Jocelyn's need for academic enrichment is recognized in this model; however, unless her regular education teachers are willing to differentiate within the classroom, Jocelyn does not receive instruction appropriate to her level of ability on a daily basis. Often, this leads to frustration and boredom for Jocelyn and her gifted peers.

Lex attends a school that uses the inclusion model. He is clustered with gifted peers in mixed ability classes that include regular education and special education students. For Lex, this works well in his language arts and math classes, where his teachers are adept at differentiating instruction. Both teachers pre-assess Lex and his peers, then use curriculum compacting, which allows mastered concepts to be skipped. Working in small groups or independently, Lex and his peers do not have to wait for their non-gifted peers to catch up. Unfortunately, Lex's content area teachers are not experienced with tailoring instruction to gifted students, and often, he finds himself bored or contending with more non-challenging work added to his workload.

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