Volume 31 Issue 23 05 Aug 2022 8 Av 5782

Primary News

Felicity Donohue – Co-ordinator of Gifted & Talented (K-6)

Accelerating gifted students
Push the accelerator or release the brakes?

In many of my recent conversations with families of gifted students in Primary School, the notion of acceleration has been raised in regards to a child’s giftedness.

It is important to note that although a student may be gifted, there are a range of strategies that can be implemented in order to develop talent in these students. There is a common misconception that if a student is identified as gifted, they must be pushed in order to reach their full potential. While this may be true for some students, it can prove to be detrimental to others. 

Research shows gifted students must learn at a pace and level appropriate to their intellectual abilities and academic needs, in order to fully engage in their learning. It is possible that acceleration may be one provision for a gifted student, but as each child is unique and individual in their own way, careful consideration needs to be made in the best interests of the child.

If we use the analogy of driving a car and the notion of acceleration, when we push the accelerator pedal, the car goes faster. This is not the case for gifted students. Academic acceleration does not involve pushing a child to go faster. Rather, academic acceleration is the use of a strategy that releases the constraints of year-level curriculum, allowing a student to learn according to their own speed of learning. 

Therefore, acceleration strategies can be implemented within the classroom context. Students have the opportunity to accelerate through the curriculum in ability grouping settings. For example, a group of students in a Year 5 extension maths class do not access the same curriculum outcomes as a core class. Teachers will ensure they are covering the appropriate content, but if the need arises to achieve learning outcomes at a higher level, approaches may be adjusted accordingly. Students are exposed to appropriate curriculum according to their needs, when developmentally appropriate. 

Yes, acceleration works. What needs to be clear is that acceleration opportunities don’t just stem from jumping up by an additional year level. If a student is within a particularly strong cohort of peers, accelerating the individual is not providing any more benefit than working in ability groupings with their peers in their same year level. 

I encourage families to also consider student engagement in learning too. Following on from Katie Brody’s article from last week, students need to be equipped with appropriate learning strategies that allow them to be active participants in the learning process. Francoys Gagne’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent identifies a range of catalysts that transform a student’s gifts into talents. Acceleration is only one possible piece of a very individualised and complex puzzle. Time and motivation are two influential components of talent development and for each child so we must ask ourselves if we are pushing the accelerator or releasing the breaks. Is this child being provided with a range of catalysts? Are they ready to step into engaging in their learning? Are we targeting their areas for  development (study skills, social and emotional regulation are a few examples here)? Is this the appropriate age and stage for my child? 

The aim of this article is not to diminish the value of acceleration. Rather, care must be taken when considering the case for acceleration for each child in their unique context.