Differentiating for the Gifted and Talented

I’ve been thinking about how to differentiate more for “exceptional students” lately, and today a woman from Tournament of Minds talked to us about a gifted and talented program we will offer at our school. She made me think about whether adding an additional “gifted and talented” program is necessary at an IB school. I’m not convinced yet.

In any educational program, we have a diverse learning student body. I teach at an inclusive PYP school, and we have a range of learners, from those with special needs to exceptional learners. It’s always a challenge to engage everyone, I agree. However, I don’t think adding a program just for gifted and talented is the answer.

Here’s what I know about Tournament of Minds, a program out of Australia, from our workshop this morning and some research. It’s a program that offers the following:

  • problem solving with demanding, open-ended challenges
  • an opportunity for passionate students to demonstrate their skills in a public way
  • a chance to develop skills like enterprise, time management, and the discipline to work as a team
  • competition
  • knowledge and appreciation of self and others
  • a chance to encourage experimentation and risk taking
  • an ability to expand and reward creative and divergent thinking
  • a chance to stimulate a spirit of inquiry and a love of learning

Here’s where I’m confused. The PYP, a program where I’ve worked now for 8 years, seems to be a place where we do all of that in the classroom with all learners (ok, except the competition). The IB Learner Profile, attitudes and skills stress:

  • risk-taking
  • knowledge
  • communication
  • cooperation
  • collaboration
  • creativity
  • time management

and inquiry…into open-ended problems…self-directed learning. And, it’s for all learners. The message I got this morning was that Tournament of Minds (TOM) would allow those students who are gifted and passionate a chance to shine.

However, aren’t we supposed to allow all learners to shine in our everyday school life?

In a brochure from the IB: What is an IB Education, it says:

Through the interplay of asking, doing and thinking, this constructivist approach leads towards open, democratic classrooms. An IB education empowers young people for a lifetime of learning, independently and in collaboration with others. It prepares a community of learners to engage with global challenges through inquiry, action and reflection.

I’m a passionate PYP educator, and I believe in trying to find challenges that allow students to think critically about problems in the world around them. In my diverse classroom, open-ended problem solving has been the best way to engage all learners. I’m concerned that by offering an after-school program for “gifted” learners, it diminishes what we do in the classroom or allows some an excuse to carry on with a traditional method of teaching because the “gifted” are taken care of after school.

Maybe I’m just bitter about my early elementary days when I was in the “mainstream” and my sister was identified as “gifted.” She got to have nice collaborative meetings and special projects and we did traditional things in class.

I don’t know, but I’m wondering and inquiring…What do others think? Is the extra “gifted and talented” label and program a thing of the past? Is it something we should already be doing in every classroom in the IB…or in any school for that matter? Am I being too cynical?

Just wondering….




One thought on “Differentiating for the Gifted and Talented

  1. Never confuse curiosity and wondering for cynicism! I think you have some really valid points. Part of the issue too is the use of the word “gifted”. I have taught some amazing kids but it wasn’t until my last year in Boise that I had a gifted student. He was GIFTED in math. Able to think in a way that was beyond me and most of his peers. Without the gifted programs he was involved with, he would have withered in my class alone. The experiences you describe should be part of everyone’s school experience. No labels required.

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