Gifted Learners

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Curriculum models - Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu

A planned approach to education for gifted learners should be comprehensive, taking into account their cognitive, social, cultural and emotional needs.

According to MoE (2012):

Designing a curriculum that is appropriately differentiated to address the diverse needs, strengths, and identities of gifted and talented students can seem a daunting task. It can be made easier through the use of a curriculum model. These models, ranging from theoretical to practical, abstract to concrete, have been developed and implemented by educators of gifted and talented students throughout the world (p. 70).

The goal in selecting and adapting models is to create educational programmes that enhance the strengths and abilities of gifted learners and reflect the school’s definition and identification procedures. Intertwining enrichment and acceleration opportunities should also be an expected outcome. The models should ‘support students to develop and use metacognitive knowledge and skills and higher order thinking in rich tasks that are meaningful for them’ (MoE, 2012, p. 71). The model should be aligned to the kura/school/ECE settings vision and/or graduate profile.

Guidelines for selecting models

Maker and Nielson (1995) provide the following factors to consider when examining potential models:

  • appropriateness to the situation
  • comprehensiveness
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • practicality
  • validity.

The following list, developed by New Zealand educator Angela Bell (2010), based on her review of the literature, states that a suitable curriculum model:

  • is flexible in that it can be adapted for use across age groups, year levels, and areas of giftedness
  • is accessible in terms of available resources and support for implementation within a New Zealand context
  • is based on sound practice that has been regularly evaluated as having a foundation in the research within the field of gifted education
  • allows for differentiation of content, process, product, and learning environment to cater for individual learning needs and allows for expansion in breadth, depth and pace, tailored to each student
  • addresses the specific social and emotional needs of gifted learners
  • is easy to implement in that it is explicit, well explained, and well sequenced
  • is aligned with the revised NZC
  • can be adapted for use cross-culturally and specifically within a New Zealand context, with an emphasis on its suitability for Māori gifted and talented learners.

Models used in New Zealand schools

Autonomous Learner Model

The Autonomous Learner Model (ALM) can be adapted across year levels and curriculum subjects, which means that it is popular in New Zealand schools.

The model is based on five interactive dimensions:

  • orientation – getting to know the structure and expectations of the programme
  • individual development – underpins the programme by teaching cognitive, emotional and social skills, as well as covering the concepts and attitudes needed to be lifelong learners
  • enrichment activities – allow learners to begin to explore different concepts and ideas, as well as developing their own content, processes and products
  • seminars – the teacher moves into the role of facilitator and gives learners the chance to ‘teach’ other learners in, for example, traditional seminars or Ignite Presentations
  • in-depth study – in small groups or as individuals, allowing exploration of an area of passion.
Autonomous Learner Model. .

Maker model

June Maker developed a practical model that allows teachers to adapt content, product and process easily to meet the needs of gifted learners. It encourages the use of ‘real-world’ problems and audiences. This model has been expanded by many other gifted and talented theorists.

The Maker model focuses on four areas of differentiation:

  • content – abstractness, complexity, variety, inter and intra personal and use of field-specific methods of inquiry
  • process – higher-order thinking skills, open-ended processing, discovery, proof and reasoning, freedom of choice, group interactions of like-ability peers
  • product – real-world problems, real audiences, evaluations, transformations
  • learning environment – student-centred, encouraging independence, open, accepting, complex, highly mobile.

REAPS model

Developed by June Maker along with Robert Zimmerman, Abdulnasser Alhusaini and Randal Pease, the REAPS model is presented ‘as an evidence-based teaching-learning model that can be effective in a variety of settings, cultures, and types of programmes designed to serve gifted and talented learners’ (Maker, Zimmerman, Alhusaini, & Pease, 2015, p. 2).

The REAPS model has been utilised recently in a Teacher-led Innovation Fund pilot programme, The Ruamano Project (Sylva, 2015), which aims to increase Māori and Pasifika gifted and talented secondary school boys’ achievement and participation in learning.

REACH model

The REACH model, developed by Rosemary Cathcart and the REACH Education Consultancy, is the only model to have originated in New Zealand. It has been used in the ‘One Day School’ programme administered by the Gifted Education Centre (replaced by MindPlus administered by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education), which was delivered in many centres throughout New Zealand. Currently, it is the basis for the online Certificate of Effective Practice in Gifted Education and a range of professional learning and development packages for schools.

The model consists of five key concepts for embedding content, process and product differentiation:

  • generating a high level of interest in learning
  • developing the ‘tools of thought’
  • developing intellectual and creative potential
  • fostering emotional, social and ethical development
  • evaluating our learning (REACH Education Consultancy, 2006).

Kaplan's Content, Process and Product model

Like the Maker model, the Kaplan model is based on four areas of differentiation. It focuses on a central theme, as gifted learners have the ability to learn holistically and make connections between ideas:

  • Content – multidisciplinary theme including a time process.
  • Process – types of skill (basic, research, productive thinking).
  • Product – negotiated by the student.
  • Learning Environment – influenced by content, process and product.

Enrichment Triad Model

This model was developed by Joseph Renzulli and is ‘perhaps the most widely used curriculum model in gifted education’ (MoE, 2012, p. 72). Its main focus is enrichment and it should be used only as a part of a gifted education programme.

The model is made up of three interrelated types of enrichment:

  • type I – general exploratory activities (enrichment)
  • type II – group training activities (process)
  • type III – individual and small-group investigations of real problems (product).

These three types of enrichment are not sequential but tend to flow freely from one to the other (MoE, 2012), as shown in the diagram below.

Enrichment triad model. .

Williams Cognitive-Affective Interaction model

This model was developed by Frank Williams in 1993 and is based on the following three dimensions:

  • dimension 1 – subjects from the school curriculum
  • dimension 2 – 18 strategies that the teacher can use to develop student thinking and creativity: paradox, attribute listing, analogy, discrepancy, provocative questions, examples of change, examples of habit, organised random search, skills of search, tolerance for ambiguity, intuitive expression, adjustment to development, study creative process, evaluate situations, creative reading skills, creative listening skills, creative writing skills and visualisation
  • dimension 3 – 8 processes (in two sections) that are involved in creative thinking: cognitive-intellective factors (fluent thinking, flexible thinking, original thinking, elaborative thinking) and affective-temperament factors (risk-taking, complexity, curiosity, imagination).

Parallel Curriculum Model

The Parallel Curriculum Model (PCM) (Tomlinson et al, 2002) provides teachers with a comprehensive framework with which they can design, evaluate and revise the existing curriculum. According to the MoE (2012), the ‘model has the potential for successful adaptation to the New Zealand educational context’ (p. 12).

The PCM has four strands, as set out in Gifted and talented learners: Meeting their needs in New Zealand schools (MoE, 2012):

  • The Core Parallel compresses the key concepts, principles, information, and skills of a discipline. In New Zealand, these are encapsulated within the national curriculum documents.
  • The Curriculum of Connections asks learners to make connections between ideas and knowledge within and across disciplines within which they are learning.
  • The Curriculum of Practice invites learners to think and work as if they were practitioners in the disciplines within which they are learning.
  • The Curriculum of Identity engages learners in thinking about their personal connections to their learning, reflecting on how it might affect them now and in the future (p. 76).

Integrated Curriculum

This approach involves the integration of multiple disciplines, allowing learning across wide issues as opposed to narrow topics. For example, the themes of discovery, survival or exploration may be umbrellas under which many disciplines and sub-topics are explored. Social action can be either the vehicle or the outcome. This approach can be used with all learners and all levels, giving gifted learners the freedom to pursue topics of choice/inquiry in accordance with their individual strengths.

Integrated Curriculum model

There is sound research underpinning the Integrated Curriculum Model and the curriculum units that have been developed to support it. However, professional development is key to its successful implementation (Van Tassel-Baska et al., 2009), and Riley (2011) warns that the model units are closely aligned to the United States context and would require careful thought to ensure they are appropriately adapted for use in New Zealand. There are three main elements in the Integrated Curriculum model:

  • Disciplines of study are framed through an emphasis on advanced content.
  • Higher order thinking, processing, and products are developed.
  • Learning experiences are created around major concepts, issues, and themes that occur in a real-world applications and theoretical understandings within and across disciplines (Van Tassel-Baska, 1997).

Gifted and talented learners: Meeting their needs in New Zealand schools (MoE, 2012, p. 75)