Implementing independent study with gifted learners

Independent study

"Independent study can be the ideal process for working with gifted children if it has been well thought out; otherwise, learners can feel ‘stressed and dissatisfied’, with the work produced being below expectations."

Cathcart, 2005 p. 101

Cathcart (2005) identifies the following common reasons for poor results from independent learning:

  • The learner is not sure of what he or she is supposed to be doing.
  • The topic of the independent study is too broad and unfocused.
  • The required learning skills have not been identified and taught.
  • The study programme does not meet the gifted learner’s needs.
  • The learner is left to their own devices to complete the study, with no teacher guidance.

Teachers need to teach gifted learners the research skills required to complete an independent study and provide them with guidance (Johnson & Goree, 2009), including encouraging them to choose study topics that they enjoy (Davis & Rimm, 2004).

Kuhlthau (as cited in Davis & Rimm, 2004, p. 141) described six steps to independent research, along with the emotion that these steps invoke in the student:

  • Receive the assignment (uncertainty).
  • Select a problem to solve (optimism).
  • Examine for focus (confusion, frustration, doubt).
  • Form focus (clarity).
  • Collect information (confidence, sense of direction).
  • Prepare to present (relief, sense of satisfaction or dissatisfaction).

It is important that teachers discuss these emotions with gifted learners so that they are aware that it is natural to be experiencing them.

Independent learning days

Employees at Google are allowed to use up to 20% of their workweek to pursue their own interest projects. Therefore, every 1 in 5 workdays, these employees can work on something that is not related directly to their duties. Google maintains that many of their products have come about because of these interest projects.

This idea is easily transferrable to the classroom. Learners could ‘opt out’ of class for a day to work on a ‘passion’. Like any independent learning, guidelines need to be used to ensure that learners know what is expected, in terms of both performance and behaviour.

http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Teaching/Innovative-learning-environments/Student-inquiry/Passion-projects

Te Kura

The New Zealand Gazette, 93 (31 August 2015) outlines the enrolment policy for Te Kura, including the following fully funded options that may apply to gifted and talented learners:

  • Full-time enrolment for Years 1–15 if the learner is an elite athlete, dancer, musician, sports person or outstanding actor or performer whose development programme precludes attendance at a reasonably convenient school.
  • Curriculum adaptation for gifted and talented learners and where the registering school is unable to provide the curriculum enrichment and acceleration required. Applications must be supported by a current IEP that is less than six months old (and may be developed with Te Kura in anticipation of an application). Registrations, at the request of the principal and at the discretion of Te Kura, will only be accepted where:

    (a) PAT and asTTle or equivalent assessments show that the learner is exceptionally able and in the top 5% of their age group for the subject; and

    (b) the registering school substantiates that the dual tuition is essential to the learners’ learning programme; it can appropriately supervise and integrate the tuition; and it is undertaking a programme of development to enhance their ability to provide similar enrichment and extension programmes.

  • Cultural affinity: The learner has a demonstrated family or cultural affinity with a particular ethnic group and requires tuition in that language.
  • Small senior classes: The school has only a small number of learners studying the subject at Year 12–15 levels.