Gifted and talented students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning opportunities drawn from the Axminster curriculum and aligned with their individual learning needs, strengths, interests and goals. Axminster Academy acknowledges that there are numerous models of curriculum adjustment relating to gifted and talented students, although these are not referenced in detail in this advice. The purpose of this advice is to focus on how teachers use the flexible design of our Curriculum to meet the individual learning needs of gifted and talented students and make necessary adjustments to meet their individual learning needs.
Gifted and talented students vary in terms of the nature and level of their abilities; there is no single homogeneous group of gifted and talented students. Gifted and talented students:
- vary in abilities and aptitudes — they may demonstrate gifts and talents in a single area or across a variety of domains; they may also have a disability
- vary in their level of giftedness — this means that two students who have gifts in the same field will not necessarily have the same abilities in that field
- vary in achievement — while having gifts is often associated with high achievement, achievement can and does vary across high-potential students and over time, and some gifted students underachieve and experience difficulty translating their gifts into talents
- are not always visible and easy to identify, and their visibility can be impacted by cultural and linguistic background, gender, language and learning difficulties, socio-economic circumstance, location, and lack of engagement in curriculum that is not matched to their abilities
- exhibit an almost unlimited range of personal characteristics in temperament, personality, motivation and behaviour — no standard pattern of talent exists among gifted individuals
- come from diverse backgrounds and are found in all cultures, socio-economic levels and geographic locations.
Although a number of different definitions have been proposed over the years, there is no universally accepted definition of students who would be identified as having particular gifts or talents. However, a shared understanding of giftedness is important in order to address their needs. Today, Gagné’s model provides the most generally accepted definition of both giftedness and talent.
Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (2008) provides research-based definitions of giftedness and talent that are directly and logically connected to teaching and learning. According to Gagné, gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability:
Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance. Talent emerges from giftedness through a complex developmental process and via a number of influences, including the teaching and learning opportunities. Gagné’s model recognises that giftedness is a broad concept that encompasses a range of abilities; it also recognises that giftedness is only potential and that it must go through a transformative process in order to become a talent. As such, Gagné makes it clear that adequate school support is necessary if students are to develop their gifts or high abilities into talents or high achievements.
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 Axminster 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 placed in Axminster school 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.
Using the general capabilities to personalise learning
It is important to consider that:
- the general capabilities are an integral part of the Axminster Curriculum
- all of the general capabilities need to be developed in gifted and talented students if they are to learn to manage their own wellbeing, relate well to others, make informed decisions about their lives, become citizens who behave with ethical integrity, relate to and communicate across cultures, work for the common good, and act with responsibility at local, regional and global levels
- the general capabilities are not an alternative curriculum to the learning areas but support access to and progress through the learning areas for gifted and talented students
- the general capabilities do not provide the context for learning; teaching and learning programs are developed beginning with age-equivalent learning area content through which teachers may specifically target the development of capabilities in gifted and talented students
- through a focus on the general capabilities, gifted and talented students can access teaching and learning programs drawn from age-equivalent learning area content that is relevant to their individual learning needs, while at the same time experiencing opportunities to add depth, complexity and richness to student learning in content elaborations
- because gifted and talented students bring different abilities to their learning, some aspects of the general capabilities may be interpreted and enacted in different ways — for example, the capacity of gifted and talented students to more readily manipulate abstract ideas, make connections to an advanced degree, and find, solve and act on problems informs the critical and creative thinking capability by drawing on their highly developed capacity for analysis, synthesis and evaluation
- teachers can use the general capabilities learning continua to identify particular skills, behaviours and dispositions that a student needs to develop in relation to their individual learning needs and plan for opportunities to develop these across the curriculum.
Using the cross-curriculum priorities to personalise learning
It is important to consider that:
- cross-curriculum priorities are embedded in all learning areas
- the cross-curriculum priorities will have a strong but varying presence depending on their relevance to the learning areas
- through a focus on the cross-curriculum priorities, gifted and talented students can access teaching and learning programs drawn from age-equivalent learning area content that is relevant to their individual learning needs, while at the same time experiencing opportunities to add depth, complexity and richness to student learning in content elaborations