Exceptionally gifted learners possess remarkable cognitive abilities that set them apart from their peers. They are known to perform far above average and they are ‘bar-raisers’. However, their unique needs and characteristics require special attention and tailored educational approaches.
These position them to be children with S.E.N. (special educational needs). When we discuss SEN, educators are often tempted to think about it in light of disabilities or problems. The education system only celebrates the exceptionally gifted but neglects their special needs.
Worse off, giftedness is mostly judged by just one or two domains of development; the intellectual or cognitive domain being the champion. There are other equally critical domains of development that must be placed on the front burner to raise a wholesome genius; the physical, social-emotional, creative, and language domains.
Unfortunately, no test or assessment is adequate enough to measure development in areas other than the cognitive domain. Hope this is making sense to you already. Are you beginning to reason with me that there’s a lot more to achieve with the exceptionally gifted child than double-promoting them?
Are you starting to see that there are myriad exposures they require even within their age level before anyone could even think of grade-level skipping? Could this be one of the reasons why research has shown that late bloomers are tough nuts who can weather any life’s storm and become more successful later in life as compared to high-flyers or early achievers? The late bloomers find 1001 ways to fail earlier in life, and they are equal to the task when it comes to fighting to succeed. Winks.
Understanding the research-based strategies for handling super-gifted learners is crucial for educators and parents to provide appropriate support and foster their optimal development. This article explores the characteristics of exceptionally gifted learners and provides evidence-based recommendations for effectively addressing their educational needs.
Characteristics of Exceptionally Gifted Learners
Advanced Cognitive Abilities: Exceptionally gifted learners demonstrate exceptional intellectual capabilities, often displaying high levels of critical thinking, problem-solving, and abstract reasoning skills.
Rapid Learning Pace: These learners grasp new concepts and skills quickly, often requiring less repetition and practice compared to their peers. They are able to crack learning codes faster than their peers. A concept that could take others days or weeks to grasp could be a matter of hours for the super-gifted.
Intense Curiosity: Exceptionally gifted learners possess a deep thirst for knowledge and exhibit a natural inclination towards in-depth exploration and inquiry in various subject areas.
Strong Memory and Information Processing: They can process and retain large amounts of information and exhibit superior recall abilities. In the classroom, you can always count on them to recall or ‘download’ what’s been learnt.
Enhanced Creativity: These learners often exhibit advanced levels of creative thinking, manifesting in their ability to generate innovative solutions and approaches to problems.
Emotional Sensitivity: Exceptionally gifted learners “may” display heightened emotional intensity and sensitivity, making it important to consider their emotional well-being alongside their academic needs. However, this is not the case for all gifted learners.
Research-Based Strategies for Handling Gifted Learners
Individualised Instruction: Recognise and respond to the unique learning needs of each gifted learner by providing differentiated instruction (better put, adaptive learning), tailored to their abilities and interests. This may involve accelerating content, compacting the curriculum, or offering enrichment activities to challenge their intellectual capacity. They generally get bored with the norm in terms of content, when it is not challenging enough.
Flexible Pacing: Allow gifted learners to progress at their own pace, offering opportunities for acceleration or enrichment within the curriculum as necessary. This may involve providing access to advanced or more challenging tasks or subject-specific acceleration. There are a number of apps and games that will help them achieve this.
Depth and Complexity: Foster deep learning experiences by providing opportunities for in-depth exploration of topics and encouraging complex problem-solving activities that promote critical thinking and creativity. Get them to do lots of open-ended activities, case studies, inquiries and project-based activities on the current curriculum, first.
Enrichment and Extensions: Offer opportunities for gifted learners to engage in activities beyond the regular curriculum, such as research projects, mentorships, internships, or participation in academic competitions, depending on their age. They can learn other brain-stretching skills like chess, music etc.
Flexible Grouping: Facilitate interactions with intellectual peers through ability grouping or clustering strategies, allowing gifted learners to COLLABORATE and engage in intellectually stimulating discussions and projects.
Social and Emotional Support: Recognise and address the unique social and emotional needs of gifted learners by providing opportunities for peer connections, mentoring, and access to counsellors or psychologists who are knowledgeable about the needs of gifted individuals. There’s more than meet the eyes than cognition. A socio-emotionally unbalanced gifted child is no joy to the family or society.
Teacher Training and Collaboration: Ensure that educators receive professional development and ongoing support to effectively identify, understand, and address the needs of gifted learners. Encourage collaboration among teachers, parents, and specialists to create a supportive environment for these students. Only a critical-thinking and creative teacher can orchestrate learning that fosters those two powerful skills; you cannot give what you have not, after all.
Exceptionally gifted learners require specialised educational approaches to maximize their potential. By understanding their unique characteristics and implementing research-based strategies, educators and parents can provide the necessary support to foster their intellectual, social, and emotional growth. By nurturing these exceptional individuals, we can ensure that they thrive academically and make valuable contributions to society.
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