FAQs: Questions/Answers

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  1. What is Acceleration? What is Enrichment? Why Merge the Two Models?
  2. Absences/Missed Work
  3. What is Differentiation?
  4. Gifted Differentiation
  5. What is Creative, Critical, Caring Thinking?
  6. What is Underachievement? Why is it so common with gifted kids?
  7. Suggestions to Help Students Who Underachieve

What is Acceleration? What is Enrichment? Why Merge the Two Models?

Acceleration AND Enrichment

Academic acceleration is generally regarded as proceeding through the stages of schooling at a pace faster than usual. Accelerated students are able to progress with their ability peers, rather than being grouped with their age-peers. The pace and depth of their learning can be better matched to their individual needs.

Acceleration has been described as vertical extension/development, as opposed to horizontal extension/lateral development, which is commonly called enrichment. A COMBINATION OF THE TWO APPROACHES BENEFITS GIFTED STUDENTS. It is said that any acceleration includes some enrichment and good enrichment should include some acceleration. The degree of each is dependent on the individual needs of the student.

Specialized academic enrichment classes for gifted students offer broader depth and complexity, usually at a faster pace than would be typical. Sometimes telescoping complements these classes.

Enrichment cluster groups are good for gifted students as they allow students to pursue their passions and work with like-minded students. They can provide challenge and enrichment as well as help teach team building, leadership skills, and social/emotional development.

The internet is changing the way teachers all over the world teach. With each student having his/her own iPad, it is easier to personalize programs for gifted students and to have students working on activities that are at their curriculum level rather than age level. For gifted learners, it is an exciting resource that can help provide authentic learning experiences in the classroom, for example by enabling direct contact with experts in various fields, promoting social action, or creating products such as websites.

For gifted students, e-learning can easily provide access to resources at the student’s advanced level. It can allow students to adapt the pace and direction of their work to suit their learning needs.

E-learning opportunities can be utilized inside the classroom or in the home environment. It is important that teachers of gifted students include the option of e-learning to help cater for their needs.
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Absences/Missed Work

Per St. Tammany Guidelines, the students have three days to make up any missed work while in gifted class.
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What is Differentiation?

Qualitative differentiation is about creating learning experiences that truly meet the needs of all learners, including gifted and talented learners, allowing gifted students to “learn at an appropriate pace, develop their critical and creative thinking skills, pursue their passions, represent their knowledge in a variety of ways and interact with mental age peers” (Pyryt & Bosetti, 2006, p.144).

Teachers who differentiate begin by recognizing the uniqueness of each student – their interests, expectations, motivations, abilities, resources, skills, culture, home and family, way and rate of learning, and so on.

When teachers provide their students with choices, group them flexibly, enrich the curriculum with guest speakers or field trips, work with specialist teachers, or make modification for the language, skills or knowledge of different students, they are differentiating.

Tomlinson and Allan (2000) in Leadership for Differentiating Schools and Classrooms give clear guidelines to what and what is not differentiation.

Differentiated Programming Is:

*Having high expectations for all students
*Permitting students to demonstrate mastery of material they already know and to progress at their own pace through new material
*Providing different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products
*Providing multiple assignments within each unit, tailored for students with differing levels of achievement allowing students to choose with the teacher’s guidance, ways to learn and how to demonstrate what they have learned
*Flexible – teachers move students in and out of groups, based on students’ instructional needs

Differentiated Programming Is NOT:

*Individualized instruction – it is not a different lesson plan for each student each day
*Assigning more work at the same level to high–achieving students
*All the time – often it is important for students to work as a whole class
*Using only the differences in student responses to the same class assignment to provide differentiation
*Giving a normal assignment to most students and a different one to advanced learners
*Limited to subject acceleration – teachers are encouraged to use a variety of strategies

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Gifted Differentiation

Differentiation for Gifted Students:

Extends academic standards or goals into “next levels” of the curriculum area

Incorporates advanced, in-depth and complex content and processes

Provides cognitively complex learning

Provides students with opportunities to pursue interests that may be outside the school curriculum

Accelerates leaning as appropriate to the student’s talents

Plan for associations with expert-level mentors to extend learning

Individualizes learning plans and experiences based on interests, need, and readiness

Selects, adapts, and/or creates materials and activities that respond to exceptional gifts and talents

Uses technology to extend content, product, or process differentiation

Provides “expert” feedback on authentic tasks

Increases skills for autonomous learning to reach high levels of independence

Uses assessment tools to identify mastery and then eliminates, replaces, or extends learning tasks

Uses assessment data to identify exceptional learning needs and prescribe appropriate academic interventions
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What is Creative, Critical, Caring Thinking?

Thinking is one of the Key Competencies of the Gifted Curriculum and it is an essential part of our teaching. Oliver and Utermohlen (1995) write that students too often receive information passively without questioning it. Students need be taught to “develop and effectively apply critical thinking skills to their academic studies, to the complex problems that they will face, and to the critical choices they will be forced to make as a result of the information explosion and other rapid technological changes” (Oliver, and Utermohlen, p.1).The three types of thinking can be described as follows (Boswell, 2011):

Critical Thinking: Focusing; affirmative judgement; staying open to ideas, looking for possibilities; planning.

Creative Thinking: Generating ideas; fluency; flexibility; originality; elaboration; curiosity; complexity; risk taking; imagination.

Caring Thinking: Valuational – values, attitudes, right and wrong; affective – choices, feelings, right and wrong; active – acting on beliefs, taking action; normative – attitude, perspective.


AnneS eLearning for Gifted Students
Hooked on Thinking – Critical, Caring and Creative Thinking
Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything (Bloomin’Apps)
SOLO Taxonomy and Creative Thinking

Boswell, R. Creative caring thinking
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What is Underachievement? Why is it so common with gifted kids?

Underachievement is the difference between what a student is capable of doing/producing (their potential) and what they are actually doing/producing. Statistics indicate that half of gifted students do not reach levels consistent with their tested abilities (Rimm, 1994).

Delisle and Galbraith (2002) argue that the word underachiever has very negative connotations that may result in "mental blocks". Dowdall and Colandelo (1982) explain that there are three underlying themes in the definition of underachievement:

Underachievement as a discrepancy between potential achievement and actual achievement
Underachievement as a discrepancy between predicted achievement and actual achievement
Underachievement as a failure to develop or use potential.

Often teachers will recognize negative coping mechanisms such as day-dreaming, deliberately underachieving (to hide their ability), behavioural problems, and deliberately only giving the bare minimum. These negative coping mechanisms are often a way for students to cope with a school system that does not motivate them (Cathcart, 2005).

Underachievers are often labelled as students who are unmotivated, when in fact, they are not being challenged and are therefore bored (Banks, et al., 2005). When gifted students repeat work that they already know or work at a level below what they are capable of, it has negative results on their learning. Cathcart (2005, p.36) says that students report being “frustrated, angry, helpless, resentful, and confused” when they are not challenged in class. They become disillusioned with the education system (school, teachers, and authority) and they “turn off” from learning (Cathcart, 1994). In fact, many successful gifted adults do not see their schooling as having significantly contributed to their development (Milgram, 1989).

Statistically, gifted boys underachieve most often during elementary and middle school while girls begin underachieving in junior high and high school.

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Suggestions to Help Students Who Underachieve

As underachievement is such a diverse area, there is no ‘silver bullet’ to solve the problem. What we can do is look toward various theories and strategies that could make difference in some students’ attitudes toward themselves and education.

There are three factors that you need to consider when dealing with underachievement:

Systems and Structures:

Systems and structures are what you have available in your school to assist you in meeting the special needs of this population of students. Structures would include mixed curriculum models (enrichment and academics) as this could help lift the level of motivation for the gifted student by including more challenge and interest in lessons.

One system that supports gifted students is the use of assessment portfolios. Portfolios are a more flexible form of assessment that allow for more student voice. Portfolios allow for choice, complexity and control which can all help motivate gifted learners.


Relationships can refer to the relationship between the underachiever and their gifted classes or the underachiever and their teacher.
Siegle (2011, p.1) states that gifted classes can help the underachiever find school meaningful by:

* Modelling their own curiosity about the world around them. However, parents must demonstrate how curiosity is transformed into action. For example, a question about the number of moons orbiting Saturn might lead to looking up the answer on the Internet or in an encyclopaedia.

* Nurturing their children’s curiosity and love of learning through opportunities outside school that help them explore their interests.

* Letting their children know that they value school and showing them how their school experiences are important now and will prove useful in the future.

* Monitoring their children’s homework, which again sends the message that parents value what their children do in school.

* Sharing their children’s interests with the school and working with the school and their children to tie these interests to school projects.

Teaching and Learning:

Teaching and learning can improve the relationship between the underachiever and the teacher as well as motivate the underachiever to succeed. These include creating a supportive learning environment, increasing the self-efficacy of the underachiever and using qualitative differentiation.

Self Efficacy:

Self-efficacy is a student’s belief about how they can do a task (Pintrich, 2003). Bandura (1986, as cited in Rawlinson, 2004, p.468) stated that a person’s self-efficacy would determine whether a behaviour is initiated, how much effort will be expended and whether a behaviour would continue in the face of obstacles. For some underachievers, giving experiences that will raise their self-efficacy could help reverse the underachievement.

St George and Riley (2008) and Rawlinson (2004) have summarized four experiences that could help raise self-efficacy:

1. Having success on moderately challenging tasks which would be positive performance experiences as well as the student receiving focused feedback emphasizing effort, strategy use and skill;

2. Having vicarious experiences where the student’s attention is drawn to examples of others who persevere and succeed;

3. Receiving verbal persuasion from someone who uses credible encouragement to convince the student that they are capable of undertaking an action; and

4. Having negative physiological reactions reduced (for example ‘butterflies’ in the stomach or feeling a sense of anxiety) by developing a supportive learning environment where there is a focus on learning, understanding and skill development.


To encourage underachieving gifted students to be motivated in class the following formula must be taken into account (Brophy, 2010, p.15):

Expectancy x Value = Motivation

Motivation can be an issue with underachieving students. Brophy (2010) notes that if a task is either too easy or too hard, then students will not be motivated to complete it. Students perceived value of the task is important also – students may be more motivated to complete real world tasks that are purposeful and have a real audience.

Teachers need to set learning experiences ‘just above’ their gifted students’ abilities. This means that while they do need to ‘reach’ for success, they still expect to succeed in the task. Teachers need to create authentic learning experiences that students value and see as applicable in the ‘real world’. This can increase the underachiever’s motivation to succeed.

*TKI Ministry of Education. (2012). New Zealand.
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