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How and why teachers need to support gifted students

Teaching is a moral profession, and teachers should therefore work towards creating an inclusive classroom, where all students receive the level of support that they need.

The misconceptions and beliefs relating to gifted students provide useful starting points for reflection and discussion related to teaching practice and inclusivity.

According to the UN sustainable goals inclusive education is to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all". However, when we talk about inclusive education, rarely is the case of gifted students discussed.

The term 'gifted' can have many definitions and many confuse the meaning with 'talented'. According to Gagné's Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent, gifted students are "those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability: intellectual, creative, social and physical," while talented students are "those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance".

"What help do they need?" you may ask. According to the research by Laine & Tirri, there are many misconceptions associated with gifted students which may prevent them from achieving their full potential when being educated. Although these 'genius' students may be high achievers and performers, they still require a certain level of support and guidance from their teachers.

There are many misconceptions about gifted children, so remember the following points:

Gifted students are not necessarily gifted at everything

Children can be gifted in one area and have a learning disability in another area. Giftedness may never be recognized, as it is masked by a learning disability which means teachers could not be giving these students the support they need.

Giftedness does not equal a high IQ

By following the assumption that giftedness equates to having a high IQ, teachers can be at the risk of dismissing gifted students.

Intelligence is not entirely innate and inherited

Teachers need to support students in reaching their full potential. By assuming their ‘giftedness’ is all innate may restrict their opportunities to grow.

Not all students are gifted

By categorizing all students as gifted teachers are not recognising the specific needs of gifted children which will put them at a disadvantage.

With these misconceptions in mind, teachers need to be mindful of their approach to teaching gifted students. Teachers and education policy makers need to remember that:

  1. Gifted students need to be recognised

    Teachers need to address the common misconception that it is fair to teach all children the same way and understand that personal development and personal welfare are also common goals within an education context. It is, therefore, very important for gifted students to be recognised and given the right opportunities and experiences that will aid their development.

  2. Gifted students need a teacher as much as other students

    Another misconception is that classroom teachers have the time, the skill, and the will to differentiate adequately. This needs to be recognised by education policy makers. If teachers do not have the time and skills to differentiate gifted students they are not able to meet each of their needs, which will impact their ability to learn and develop.

  3. Teachers need support

    Policy makers need to remember that in order to drive inclusive education in the case of gifted students, the teachers need to be equipped to be able to provide the level of support we have highlighted. Firstly, teachers need to be educated in knowing how to differentiate gifted students, and then they need to be given adequate resources and support in order to help these students

To find out more about the case of gifted students and how teachers can support them read the research 'Ethical Challenges in Inclusive Education: The Case of Gifted Students' published in the book series International Perspectives on Inclusive Education.

Read the research ▶

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