Who are gifted and talented students?
It is important to consider that:
- gifted and talented students are not a homogeneous group and may require different adjustments according to their individual learning needs, interests, strengths and goals
- gifted and talented students may also have a disability and/or English as an additional language or dialect — in such cases, adjustments should be developed that address all aspects of their learning rather than just those related to their gifts and talents
- effective adjustments for gifted and talented students stem from effective and ongoing assessments of student need — because of the capacity of many gifted and talented students to learn at a faster rate than other students, ongoing formative assessment, particularly pre-assessment, is critical to ensure that the learning area content and adjustments align with student needs
- gifted and talented students who require adjustments to one aspect of their learning may not require the same, or any, adjustment to another
- the process of making adjustments always starts with learning area content that aligns with students’ chronological age
- because giftedness and talent are developmental, some adjustments may be necessary throughout a student's educational career, while other adjustments may only be needed for a short period of time
- the student and parent must be consulted as part of the process to personalise learning.
While the objectives of the Australian Curriculum are the same for all students, learning needs of gifted and talented students may differ dramatically from those of other students. Not only are gifted and talented students likely to make progress towards these objectives at a faster pace than other students, but they are also often capable of achieving at a level beyond their same-aged peers. Even though their cognitive development may not correlate with their chronological age, gifted and talented students are generally placed in Australian schools at the year level appropriate for their age. As a result, they are likely to require personalised learning through a range of adjustments to teaching and learning if the curriculum is to meet their needs.
In particular, gifted and talented students have specific learning needs that require adjustments to content (what students learn), process (how students learn), product (how students demonstrate their learning), and learning environment, according to personal characteristics such as readiness, interest and learning preference. By creating adjustments that take account of these differences, teachers are able to address the individual learning needs of each student and maximise their learning potential in the classroom.
- Content may need to be made more complex, abstract or varied or it may need to be organised differently.
- Adjustments to process may be made to the level of thinking required, the pace of teaching and the type of approach used. In particular, gifted and talented students require process adjustments that involve higher-order thinking, problem solving, and a focus on critical and creative thinking and choice.
- The nature of products, the ways in which gifted and talented students are able to demonstrate what they have learnt, may also be adjusted to be more appropriate, for example, by ensuring that they are authentic and address real problems, and require transformation of learning rather than summarising content.
- In order to successfully implement adjustments to content, process and product, it is also important to make adjustments to the learning environment to ensure that it is complex and abstract, and also encourages independence and intrinsic learning.
Whatever adjustments are made, they need to reflect the ability of gifted and talented students to:
- learn at faster rates
- find, solve and act on problems more readily
- manipulate abstract ideas and make connections to an advanced degree.
Overall, adjustments should comprise elements of any or all of the following:
- faster pace (acceleration, compacting)
- greater breadth (enrichment)
- more depth (extension).
Each of these three elements can be used in different proportions and in different combinations to frame a personalised response to the learning needs of all gifted and talented students. Decisions on the balance between these three broad and overlapping strategies should reflect the particular needs of each gifted learner at the relevant point of their schooling.