Tags: Classroom Teacher | Gifted and Talented | Teaching and Learning | Teaching Skills

My holy grail as a G&T coordinator is a curriculum that is integrated within the school but seen by students as discrete and special. It should widen the students’ horizons, inspire and excite them whilst contributing to my leadership desire to increase the A/A* grade.

I like to flick through books, let my eyes be captured by a diagram, a chapter title or a quotation. This book did not do this; I returned to the beginning and started to read the book chapter by chapter.It is an American book with chapters written by academics including three by Joseph Renzulli.

The opening chapter identifies three curriculum models that can be used with G&T students: the content mastery model, the process/product research model and the epistemological concept model. The content model encourages students to move through material as rapidly as possible. Students can be diagnostically tested and then given appropriate materials. The teacher is the facilitator. The process/product model is based upon students learning investigation skills to develop a high-quality piece of work. The teacher/student relationship is collaborative and the curriculum is driven by the pupils’ interests. Lastly, the epistemological model focuses on students’ understanding systems of knowledge rather than on specific subject areas. The teacher acts as a questioner, developing discussions and the pupil reads, reflects and writes. This model exposes gifted children to a framework not covered by a traditional curriculum.

A very popular method of enriching the curriculum is by providing real-life problems, to which pupils apply their knowledge and skills. In chapter 5, Renzulli discusses what makes a problem real. He argues that adding prepackaged, ‘canned’ units to the G&T curriculum or just accelerating pupils onto higher-level topics are not good solutions as the learning model and the role of the learner have not changed. Instead, real problems should be made the central focus of any plan for gifted pupils. A useful summary is presented on the characteristics of a real problem and a number of problems are analysed to determine whether they are real problems. This chapter raised my understanding of an interesting point but there was little of direct practical use to me, highlighting both the strengths and weaknesses of this book.

This is a very thorough study of how curricula are devised in the US to cater for G&T students. If I were studying for further academic qualifications, then this book would be on my bookshelf, carefully studied and referenced in my writing. However as a busy G&T coordinator looking for ideas which I can quickly integrate within my school, this is not the first book I would choose nor would it be appropriate as a colleague’s first read on the G&T curriculum.

Curriculum for Gifted and Talented Students Van Tassel-Baska, J (ed) (2004), Corwin Press £19.95

ISBN 0761988742

Paul Ainsworth is the director of studies, Fulneck School, Leeds, West Yorkshire.

This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – Apr 2006

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