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Pros and Cons of Self-Contained Gifted Programs

Updated on April 1, 2012

What Is a Self-Contained Gifted Class?

A self-contained gifted classroom is one in which the students are placed based on similar academic abilities, typically performance at or above the ninety-fifth percentile. Schools with self-contained gifted classrooms usually place all the gifted children in the same classroom, a homogeneous grouping. In a best-case scenario, the children are all in the same grade level, but gifted numbers do not always allow this to occur. When there is a limited number of gifted children, a self-contained gifted classroom may be restructured into a multi-age classroom or may include high-achieving students who have not been gifted qualified.

Self-Contained Gifted

The Pros of Self-Contained Gifted Classrooms

  • Self-contained gifted classrooms provide all-day instruction that is more beneficial for gifted children, because it addresses the need for different instruction in all areas of their development and all areas of academics.
  • The majority of regular education teachers have had little or no training in how gifted children learn, yet they typically have gifted students in their classes. Self-contained gifted classrooms address the special, unique academic, social and developmental concerns of gifted children.
  • Studies have shown that gifted kids need less practice to learn concepts, often only one to three repetitions. When students are placed in self-contained classes, more learning is accomplished.
  • Gifted students often report that they are far less frustrated and bored when placed in self-contained gifted classrooms.
  • Gifted students often have special emotional needs that are not met or supported in a regular classroom. In a self-contained gifted classroom, there is more support and a greater understanding of these unique needs.
  • Gifted students often thrive when surrounded by peers who challenge them to be all they can be.
  • Gifted students often feel isolated when placed in a regular classroom. Their abilities tend to separate them from the mainstream. Self-contained gifted classrooms help students make friends, become more social, and become accepted by their peers.

The Cons of Self-Contained Gifted Programs

  • It can be difficult to find enough gifted students to fill a class, so classes are often compromised by making them multi-age or watered down by high-achieving students that have not qualified for gifted services.
  • Self-contained classes are often smaller than other classes, resulting in resentment from other teachers.
  • Self-contained classes are often viewed as elitist.
  • Students may qualify for gifted instruction in only one or more areas, but they receive all-day instruction in a self-contained program. This misplacement often results in additional challenges.
  • Teaching a self-contained gifted classroom can be very challenging.
  • Many people claim that children within a self-contained gifted classroom lack socialization with other students who are not gifted.

The Needs of Gifted and Talented Students

Conclusion: Self-Contained Gifted Classrooms

Without a doubt, gifted instruction is maximized when students are homogeneously grouped within a self-contained gifted program. Few students qualify for gifted in all areas, and students may receive gifted instruction in areas in which they have not qualified as gifted. However, self-contained gifted classrooms allow teachers to maximize both the intensity of instruction and the duration of gifted instruction. There is a tendency to teach to the norm in any class. In a self-contained gifted classroom, the norm is in fact gifted. This isn’t the case with cluster grouping. With pull-out programs, teachers simply do not have the time to teach in depth, so instruction is often highly limited to isolated subjects. Consequently, self-contained gifted classes provide the ideal format for gifted instruction.

What do you think about self-contained gifted classrooms?

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