Beyond the Stars: Experiences That Expand the Boundaries of the Classroom

Beyond the Stars: Experiences That Expand the Boundaries of the Classroom

Michael W. Kessinger (Morehead State University, USA), Kimberely Fletcher Nettleton (Morehead State University, USA) and Lesia C. Lennex (Morehead State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1400-9.ch001

Abstract

When students are identified for gifted services, one of the first questions asked by parents is, “What will my child be doing that is different from what is being done now?” The purpose of this first chapter is to provide a foundation as the reader proceeds through the following chapters in the book. The chapter presents the characteristics of gifted students along with the ways gifted services are delivered to students at various levels. This chapter, and actually the whole book, looks at ways to meet the needs of gifted students in the K-12 environment. Gifted students need instruction that enriches their conceptual attainment, helps them make connections and patterns between content areas, and develops an understanding of real-life applications of content. The growing availability of technological resources has empowered teachers to meet the academic needs of students and provide an enriched learning experience for all students. The wide range of software has provided gifted students opportunities to independently explore areas that would not be possible in the regular classroom.
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Background

Visit any school and we would see a few students that stand out academically or with some outstanding talent. They are those students that have an ability that is significantly above the norm for their age. They read way above their grade level; they can perform mathematical computations that amaze their teachers; they have creative abilities that are unreal; or they have insights to areas that a typical student miss. According to Webb, Gore, Amend, and DeVries (2007), some of the characteristics of gifted children occur in their very early years. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) defines giftedness as “...those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10%).” (NAGC, 2019b, p. 1). The domains include general intellect, artistic arts, creative thinking, leadership, or specific discipline. In the United States, each state determines the identification criteria for gifted students. Generally, in schools, the term gifted recognizes exceptionality in aptitude or achievement.

Even with a definition, identifying a gifted student may be difficult. Typically, teachers receive minimal training in the identification of gifted students and are not very adept at identifying gifted children by any means other than high IQ (Miller, 2009). Gender and classroom behavior are often two areas that can bias teachers when identifying student behaviors as gifted indicators. For example, while many males may be identified as being identified as having leadership skills, many girls with the same skills will often be labelled as being a know it all or bossy (Silverman, 2002).

A larger bias appears towards students from diverse backgrounds, students who are not adept at speaking or writing English (English Language Learners: ELL) or students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. (Siegle et al., 2016; Zhbanova, Rule, & Stichter, 2015). Due to bias or lack of knowledge, teachers often do not observe characteristics of giftedness in children from diverse backgrounds. Students in these underserved populations are often ignored in the school setting.

Gifted and talented students who have a disability are referred to as twice exceptional (2E). Identification of 2E students is problematic and identification does not always occur (Bell, Taylor, McCullum, Coles, & Hayes, 2015). Gifted students with either social, behavioral, or emotional problems have been under-represented. A 2E student with a learning disability often develops a personal strategy to accommodate the disability. Many unidentified students do not realize that problems in school may stem from a learning disability. Unfortunately, the ability to find their own strategies will keep a student from receiving special education services (Morrison & Rizza, 2007). In the United States, special education services are only provided to students who are behind the norm. Gifted students are not given help with a disability if they are able to achieve an average level in the classroom. Since social and emotional issues often occur when unidentified gifted students struggle in the classroom, teachers need better identification skills (King, 2005).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Twice Exceptional: A gifted and talented student who also has a disability such as vision, hearing, physical, and/or emotional.

Gifted Students: Students who have skills and talents above the norm for their age group. Gifted students may have a higher IQ, leadership or visual or performing art skills, specific knowledge of a specific discipline, or demonstrate creative and original thought. Gifted students may have asynchronous development, demonstrate over-excitability, or be more sensitive to issues of social justice. Gifted students often pair their ability with commitment.

Educational Technology: This phrase refers to the proper use of technological tools, applications, or process by which learning is enhanced, thus impacting academic outcomes.

Instructional Technology: Any technology that is used to facilitate learning. Instructional technology does not have to be electronic in nature. Instructional technology should impact the learning environment to provide students with an opportunity to learn from multiple perspectives.

Child-Centered (aka Student-Centered): In this instructional environment, students are in charge of their learning. As opposed to ‘sitting and getting’, students are active learners. This might involve group work, the use of manipulatives, and various levels of goals and objectives. Child-centered learning involves strategies that addresses the distinct needs and interests of individual students, or a group of students.

Enhanced Instructional Environment: The enhanced instructional environment has additional resources available for students to use other than the traditional textbook and chalkboard. The additional resources can include 1:1 computers, tablets, manipulatives, topic specific software, and online content.

Gifted Services: Services provided to gifted students. These may be provided through education, counseling, social, emotional, enriched, or accelerated setting.

Software: A packaged product containing instructions that a computer, tablet, or computing device uses to perform a specific task.

Gen Z: This designation refers to individuals born in the last 1990s and early 2000s. These individuals are more tech-savvy and rely on the availability of technology on a day by day basis. Gen Z individuals are also be referred to as digital natives.

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