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Setting Expectations for Gifted Students

Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

If the gifted student you are working with is showing signs of boredom, it is time to look at the learner outcomes that have been established. Working together with the student to develop learner outcomes will help ensure engagement and success.

Questions Asked

Gifted students often begin each school year wondering if this year will be different from the last. Will they be better at making friends? Will they have a better work ethic? What will they learn that is new and different? Are there new skills they will master?

In order for gifted students to thrive, they must be involved in the development of the learning outcomes. They, along with teachers and parents, can build the outcomes that will provide the most interesting, challenging curriculum that is the best use of their abilities. It is up to us to involve the student in the process.

Appropriate Levels

To ask an accomplished equestrian to stick to the pony rides is a silly request, just as putting a child on a thoroughbred horse and turning it loose would be dangerous. It is important to ensure that you are asking enough of your gifted students, but not more than is a reasonable expectation. Make sure you are using assessment tools to properly understand the student's ability. It is always a good idea to speak to parents, who have an excellent idea of who their child is and what can be expected.

Creating Learner Outcomes

When creating learner outcomes for gifted students, it is important to get the student involved in the process. You will, of course, set the expectations for the student, then together you can determine how best to fulfill them.

The first thing that needs to happen is a brainstorming of possible project ideas. Next, we need to help the student structure the assignment so the curricular goals are fulfilled. We may, for example, want a tenth-grade student to develop and conduct a survey on a subject that is important to the school community and of interest to the student, evaluate the survey using statistics, then present the data using technology.

The learner outcomes are:

  • Appropriately challenging for a gifted student.
  • Linked to a specific area(s) of study in the curriculum.
  • Appropriate instructional and independent time.
  • Using available approaches

Why Set Expectations

Setting expectations are important in all educational experiences because they help determine what is to be learned and how the learning will take place. Students need to be able to make sense of what they are being asked to do or learn, and this is particularly true of gifted students. Another reason why it is important to give gifted students learner outcomes or expectations is that it lets the student know what will be learned within a certain time frame.

We understand that by their very nature, gifted students are able to process information more quickly and handle more complex material at an earlier stage of development. It is important that the learner outcomes for gifted students reflect these differences. It is not just about having the expectation that a gifted student do more work; the work they are doing should be designed to challenge their abilities. The goal should be to engage them at a level that makes them think and learn. Exceptional learners demand a level of expectation that aligns with their abilities.

Seeing the relationship between the activity created and the related outcome is an imperative if creative and worthwhile learning is to take place. There should be an expectation of daily activities that challenge and encourage critical thinking in gifted students so they can be the best they can possibly be as thinkers and students.

Understanding the Difference

In order to understand the difference we should talk about and look at the expectations for a typical student compared to a gifted student, so the distinction is clear. If we keep Blooms Taxonomy of learning in mind, you will notice that the gifted student is asked to complete tasks at a higher level of critical thinking. Let's look at the expectations for a tenth-grade literature course:

The generic expectations:

  • Comprehends the details of the plot
  • Understands literary elements
  • Develops an understanding of the elements that are key to American Literature

The gifted expectations:

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