Differentiation for Today's Gifted Learners

Differentiation for Today's Gifted Learners

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6677-3.ch004
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


Most gifted students today receive their education in the general education environment through differentiation (NAGC, 2020). With the push for standards-based education, many experts worry that gifted learners unintentionally fail to advance in their learning. Gifted students need to be taught in an environment that pushes them to interact with content in complex ways and motivates them to show their learning through engaging activities and tasks. One-way teachers can meet the needs of gifted learners is through using differentiation. Teachers can differentiate how they group students and the time they allocate to certain portions of a lesson. Content can be differentiated by asking gifted students to examine topics through categories of depth and complexity. Overall, gifted students should have opportunities for further learning and challenging curriculum in areas of interest, time to work independently on passion projects, accelerated learning, homogenous collaboration, and instructional delivery that encourages critical and deep thinking.
Chapter Preview


Today’s classrooms are highly diverse and meeting the needs of today’s students requires teachers to have a range of skills and resources. Teachers need to know what and how to make adaptations in the classroom to ensure that all students are engaged and continuously learning. Teachers can meet today’s students' diverse needs through differentiation. Reis and Renzulli (2018) researched and illustrated classroom practices highlighting the importance of differentiated instruction to meet individual students’ needs and raise their achievement levels. Schliecher (2016) and Unesco (2017) also showcased how both policymakers and researchers are pushing the need for differentiation to embrace the learning needs of students in today’s classrooms.

This chapter defines differentiation and explains why and how it is a beneficial educational approach for gifted students. The chapter then explores the barriers in today’s classroom that hinder identifying and educating gifted students through the application of differentiation. Next, the chapter highlights contemporary trends in differentiation for gifted students. The chapter then explains how differentiation, when executed appropriately, can improve the education of gifted students; the process is illustrated through specific examples (case vignettes, visuals, and comparisons) explaining how to differentiate the environment, content, process, and product for gifted students. Finally, the chapter concludes by looking at implications for teacher preparation and the future research still needed to fully understand how to provide an optimal differentiated classroom that meets the needs of today’s gifted students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Grade-level standards: Outcome-based goals that indicate what a student is expected to do or know at each grade level.

Adequate progress: Measures of students learning to show that they are continuously learning at appropriate levels or as expected.

Progress Monitoring: Regularly assessing students’ progress to ensure that continuous learning is occurring, and students are developing.

Culturally-sustaining pedagogy: An educational approach focused on recognizing and honoring the cultural make-up and diversity of students in the classroom.

Linguistic Diversity: The differences in languages and dialects people use when communicating with each other; this is often culturally based.

Cluster Grouping: Placing students of similar gifts and talents together so that they can work and learn with each other, often done in mixed-ability classrooms.

Zone of Proximal Development: An educational psychology concept representing where a student needs guidance for learning to take place.

Inclusive Education: An educational environment where students of different backgrounds and abilities learn together.

Accelerated Learning: Studying material in shortened periods of time so that more information is mastered by the student at a quicker pace.

Differentiation: Making adaptations in a lesson’s content, the way an instructor delivers instruction, the products students create to show their learning, or the environment so that all students’ learning needs are met.

Flexible Grouping: A part of differentiation that allows students to be part of multiple groups depending on the purpose or intended outcome of having students work together.

Curriculum Compacting: An approach for differentiating content for students who have already mastered classroom material so that they can continue to learn new material and progress in their learning.

Executive Functioning: A set of cognitive processes and mental skills that include, working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control.

Neurodiversity: A range of differences in brain function and behavioral traits that represent the variety in humanity, all of which are seen as ‘normal’ rather than as deficits.

Learning Contracts: An agreement between a student and an instructor that indicates what the instructor will teach and what the student will learn, and how they will showcase this learning.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: