Enrichment is the subject of this at-a-glance reference for gifted and talented associated education vocabulary

Enrichment is now sometimes used as an umbrella term to encompass a range of approaches to enhancing opportunities for G&T learners, especially in terms of out-of-school activity. It can be useful, however, to consider enrichment as a certain form of differentiation with particular characteristics which include:

  • developing a greater depth of knowledge about a certain topic
  • developing a higher level of skill
  • relating learning to new areas and contexts
  • promoting a higher level of thinking
  • using additional (more sophisticated/advanced/ demanding) resources.

The best kind of enrichment contributes to children’s cognitive development and a questioning, risk-taking, discussion-filled approach to the curriculum not only benefits children already recognised as able, but allows any child to reveal high abilities. Some schools focus on problem solving, creative thinking and higher-order thinking skills at certain times; for example timetabling ‘thinking skills’ lessons and ‘philosophy clubs’. But opportunities for these kinds of enrichment should also be created throughout the curriculum, for example by helping pupils to become aware of and be able to discuss their own learning (metacognition).

All children need to be motivated and it’s important to guard against the assumption that G&T children will keep themselves interested. Effective differentiation of classroom activities is crucial to extend the very able child, and involving students in defining their own learning objectives and lesson outcomes can work well. Being able to introduce novel experiences and activities is an important skill for teachers, and using strategies such as de Bono’s PMI (plus, minus, interesting) OPV (other people’s views) and CAF/FIP (consider all factors/first important priorities) can help students to think ‘outside the box’. ‘Challenge boxes’ containing enjoyable and demanding activities linked to different subjects and topics can be useful for ‘quick finishers’.

Planning for enrichment opportunities in the classroom can be incorporated into existing documentation by simply adding an extra box or column containing notes on additional concepts, skills, attitudes, knowledge and/or resources. (Sometimes, a single, well-considered question is all that is needed to challenge G&T children and set them off on an enrichment activity.) Cross references can be made on lesson planning, to enrichment opportunities being offered out of lesson time (eg a field trip, theatre visit or a lunchtime club).

Small group activities outside the classroom can be very effective in providing enrichment, especially when they are are integrated within the mainstream curriculum, and with other in-school and out-of-school activities as part of a coherent strategy. It’s important to consider the timing of these sessions and how they are explained to children so that peer relationships are not compromised.

Not all enrichment opportunities can be planned for, and teachers need to be alert to the special interests of individuals and groups that may emerge in lessons but not be appropriate for all the class to pursue in depth. Further resources, information, or talking points can be provided in such circumstances and students encouraged and supported in broadening their existing knowledge or pursuing their interests, at another time.

The most successful enrichment activities stem from teachers’ and pupils’ enjoyment in, and enthusiasm for, a particular subject, with natural curiosity the driving force behind extra effort and perseverance. Where a child has a particular interest which expands beyond a teacher’s own knowledge and expertise, it’s important to embark on a joint exploration, providing plenty of encouragement and perhaps securing the  support of an ‘expert’ (a subject leader from another school or university, parent, governor, LA consultant, local businessman, etc).

Out of school
Enrichment sessions outside the school facilitate a ‘gathering of like minds’ and many G&T pupils state this as a major benefit of  weekend residentials and summer schools, where they meet youngsters of similar abilities and interests. There is a growing number of such opportunities available to pupils and schools should be active in sourcing and recommending appropriate activities, as well as providing some themselves. The challenge for G&T coordinators in this respect is how to help pupils build on these experiences and connect them with other aspects of their learning journey.

Enrichment checklist
Does the activity include opportunities for:

  • plenty of challenge (which can be extended as appropriate)
  • development of higher-order (transferable) skills
  • individuality of response
  • diverse research
  • originality and invention
  • discussion and communication
  • varied inputs and outcomes
  • a balance of pace/urgency and reflection
  • satisfaction and enjoyment.

Different types of enrichment
Among the many kinds of enrichment to consider are:

  • small group sessions in school time
  • support within class from an expert/mentor
  • self-directed projects (including homework)
  • access to enrichment materials
  • opportunities to work with talented adults or older students
  • work experience
  • clubs and societies (in school, local community, regional, national)
  • master classes at university
  • targeted visits and residentials
  • running school/community newsletters and radio stations
  • business enterprise projects
  • competitions
  • suspension of the normal timetable (for a day/week) to run thematic days and offer a choice of extra-curricular activities for all pupils.