Educational Talent Searches for Gifted Children: Contrasts to Traditional Education
If you have a gifted child at home, you may assume that your local school district will everything they can to make sure your child performs to his or her fullest potential and gains access to all possible academic opportunities. You'd be wrong. Just as with any other special needs child, parents of gifted children must take a proactive role in order to ensure the gifted child benefits from the many (often unknown) programs available. If your child scores in the 95th percentile or above on any standardized tests, whether or not he or she has been identified as gifted by the school, get him or her involved with an educational talent search program.
Participation in an educational talent search can benefit your gifted child in numerous ways. Here are some specific ways educational talent search programs differ from traditional education, as researched by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Ph.D.
While most schools require 120 hours instruction for a single course, talent search programs have demonstrated that some students can master an entire year's worth of material within 75 hours. Summer programs have proven that certain gifted children may benefit from instruction from intensely compressed instruction.
Mastery is traditionally determined by performance in a course as combined with the amount of time spent on the subject. Students who successfully complete courses in summer talent search programs may not get credit because of the decreased number of hours spent (less than 120).
Talent search programs show that chronological age is not necessarily the best indicator of readiness for a particular subject. Younger students who have mastered the prerequisites may in fact have the maturity and motivation needed to succeed in advanced courses, such as advanced creative courses and the sciences.
Focussed Intense Study
Educational talent search programs tend to work with a very intense and focused instruction model. Students study one subject at a time until that subject is mastered, before moving on to another subject. This is in stark contrast to the typical high school model of learning a little bit of many subjects concurrently. Intense study of a single subject has been shown to promote in-depth learning of subjects.
Grouping of Students
Homogeneous grouping for gifted students (ie. keeping all the brightest kids in one class) allows students to interact with their intellectual and academic peers. Talent search programs provide this opportunity regardless of differences in grade-level or age.
If your school has a quality gifted program, count yourself lucky. Many schools still operate under the belief that all learners need the same resources to succeed. Talent search programs have proved this to be false. Gifted unfriendly policies in many districts include:
- not giving credit for high school classes taken during the middle school
- not giving credit for high school classes taken outside of the local high school
- not giving credit for courses that involve less than 120 hours of instruction
- limiting the number of college courses a student can take while still in high school
Adapted from the full article by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Ph.D.