Inclusive education refers to the all-embracing ideology where the students are taught in the general education classrooms regardless of their disabilities. Teaching gifted children in an inclusive environment is important as their diversity contributes in a unique way (Montgomery, 2013). The aim of this essay is to consider the diversity found in the Australian education system and devise strategies that can help in supporting the education successfully. The educational context chosen is primary belonging to the kids aged four to six. Further, the focus of my essay draws upon the gifted and talented children of that age who add diversity in the classrooms. Firstly, I shall elaborate the characteristics of gifted and talented children as the learning and teaching is impacted in the classroom. Further, I have chosen two distinct strategies that help in building an inclusive classroom without addition of human or financial resources. The strategies that can help in parent and teacher engagement are identified. Lastly, I have recommended strategies to be applied in inclusive classroom environment based on the Queensland State Education (2010) for reconceptualising schools as a part of learning society.
In the words of Madeline Hunter, “Expecting all children the same age to learn from the same materials is like expecting all children the same age to wear the same size clothing” (Ryan, Cooper, & Bolick, 2015). The gifted children may have both positive and negative characteristics as a learner. However, as not all gifted and talented kids belonging to age group 4-6 exhibit the same characteristics, it is essential to consider a few factors. The gifted and talented children usually begin communicating verbally at an early age, and their usage of vocabulary level is beyond their age (Sontag, & Stoeger, 2015). These kids are also called ‘precocious’ for the same reason as they choose their words carefully; and their frequency of using the same words is more. The learning and teaching environment is affected as these children tend to turn up to older children and adults for conversation (Montgomery, 2013). The kids of same age in the classroom are unable to understand them because of which they get frustrated. The talented and gifted students process information and more accurately in comparison with the others. The teachers may consider these kids as a standard and compare the learning of remaining students with them. The gifted children inhibit high curiosity level that is good for the classroom environment as the teacher can answer more questions and the other kids can learn more in this environment (Little, Dean, & Dunn, 2016).
As the children have strong problem solving capabilities and memory retention, they are able to retain information for longer duration than the others. The gifted and talented children are high achievers; they may procrastinate on completing their homework for their desire to get everything right. These children have unrealistic expectations, getting a lower grade may be equal to hurting them (Eklund et al., 2015). They can get impatient and frustrated with themselves as well as others. The other kids at the age of 4-6 are unaware of it and they might be demoralized when they don’t grasp learning as quick as the gifted and talented learners (Stopper, 2013). As the gifted and talented kids have an acute sense of justice, they can develop sense and judgment between the right and wrong at an early age. However, the same reason can make it difficult for them to make friends in the classroom as they may feel that the other kids do not have the equal sense of justice or intellectual depth. The gifted children have strong sense of imagination that is well expressed in their artistic, oral or written expression. However, the same reason adds to their inattentiveness as these abstract thinkers can be bored and distracted easily (Rothenbusch et al., 2016).
Inclusive education is important as it is one of the most effective ways to promote diversity in the educational context. Inclusion is both an instructional method and philosophical approach. It means that all the students are learning in the same classroom setting. Overall, there are five areas where the gifted students can be taught in the regular classroom- modification of content, altering pace of instruction, allowing student preferences, using specific instructional techniques and creating a flexible classroom environment (White, & Riley, 2017). The primary schools have variety of curriculum for students that give freedom to decide the duration one can spend on every subject. Firstly, the teachers can adopt curriculum compacting technique in which differentiated instruction can be provided to adjust the curriculum of gifted and talented students. The first step in this strategy is to pre-test the prior knowledge of gifted students. For example, if students can’t comply with their homework as they think it is too easy, the teachers would provide different homework for the gifted students. Further, the content or skills that the kids already excel in shall be eliminated from the curriculum. Lastly, the alternative topics or projects can be provided to replace the skipped content. The option of curriculum compacting can be provided to all the students in the classroom and not just to the gifted students. The Enrichment Triad Model can be used as a guide for developing the enrichment activities and structuring a particular unit for the classroom. The activities in this model can help engage students and spark interest (Henderson, & Jarvis, 2016).
Secondly, the learning environment can be supportive and flexible. The climate and physical setting of the classroom can support the different needs of the students and help strengthen their skills. Differentiated instruction can be provided to the students in which the teachers can use their knowledge to determine the activities and content. The teachers shall ensure that the students know how to get help either by asking the teacher or asking another student. This shall enable in creating a friendly environment in the classroom. The teachers shall also maintain a Social And Emotional Climate that is non-threatening (Fraser-Seeto et al., 2015). The gifted students are often perfectionists and have the ability complete tasks quickly. The teachers must create a social climate by modelling care and respect among all the students in the classroom. The strengths of all the students must be emphasized equally so that nobody feels left out. The teacher must remind the students about the importance of making mistakes as a part of learning. This shall enable the gifted students to do things the right way (Molapo, & Salyers, 2014).
Peter Merrotsy is a Lecturer in Gifted and Talented Education at the University of New England. He discusses how the teachers can engage with carers and parents to understand the needs of diverse student. Parents know their children best and collaborative parent involvement is a vital component of successful education. According to the studies conducted by the Queensland Government, the educators hold higher expectations of students that collaborate with the teacher. The gifted students are more likely to achieve higher grades when the parents engage with the teachers. The teachers can engage with the parents by communicating. The school activities and progress of the pupil can be communicated with the parents. The teachers shall assist the families with basic child rearing and parenting skills. They can set home conditions that would support the needs of gifted children. Further, the teachers can engage with the parents by involving families in home activities and other activities apart from school hours (Shabeeb, & Akkary, 2013).
The teachers must take the lead and be as flexible as possible. The teachers must help the parents to support homework. A simple video modelling approach can help in giving access to the parents on the learning platform where engagement is secured. The teachers can communicate with screening programs and other events that provide the parents with opportunities to participate in school activities. Parents can be encouraged to serve as mentors, monitors, coaching assistant, and other roles where they can look after not just after their kid, but also other children with gifted and talented abilities. The teacher can use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to engage openly with the parents and using technology in a more meaningful basis. Teachers can ask the parents about their areas of extreme sensitivity as the gifted children are very sensitive (Bryant, Bryant, & Smith, 2016).
Moreover, the school teachers can enhance learning at home by involving parents in discussion about their social behaviour and gifted abilities. The parents can be invited to participate in physical activities in the community. The teachers must involve the parents and make the gifted children more social by family outings and school trips. These can help the gifted children in becoming friends with the other children and encourage their social behaviour. The parents can be involved in decision making that shall help in monitoring and implementation of school policies (Richards, & Armstrong, 2016).
The teachers are influenced by the state and national documents such as Disability Standards for Education (2005) as it provides for managing the gifted students in an inclusive classroom environment. In Queensland, the definition and Gagne’s model of giftedness is considered as ‘potential’ and talent as ‘outstanding performance’. Australia aims to build an equitable society that is culturally diverse. The education system plays a vital role in promoting the emotional, social, intellectual, and moral development of the young Australians. The goal is to promote equality and excellence in the Australian schools and help the young learners become confident and creative individuals.
According to Queensland government, the gifted individuals possess outstanding social, creative, physical and creative abilities. Further, Gagne’s model states that giftedness undergoes a transformative process to become a talent. According to the Curriculum provision to gifted and talented students, the team oversees the processes for gifted and talented students at the schools in Queensland. The figures submitted by The Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children state that there are 80,000 gifted students enrolled in schools of Queensland out of 400,000 across the nation.
There are many schools in Queensland that choose extension over acceleration. The talented and gifted students are given different or additional work for bringing out the best in them. The State also suggests placing a mentor for the kids in the inclusive classroom environment. The Queensland Government makes gifted and talented education as a priority as it contributes to the learning opportunities of Queensland education system. It has been over a decade and the state has not had an education strategy shifting the focus from it. Currently, there is no policy on the education of gifted and talented students in Queensland. However, the government is making efforts to the support the teachers to identify and educate the gifted students. Moreover, The Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children 2010 contains a few relevant provisions that emphasize the importance of promoting excellence and cultures in school.
The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) serves as the framework for improving educational outcomes for all young Australians. The rationale behind making this document is that education is pivotal for the economic and social prosperity of the country. The document outlines how young individuals can be positioned to make provision for a productive, fulfilling and responsible life. The first goal is to promote schooling excellence and equity. The second goal is to make all young individuals become successful learners, creative and confident learners and informed and active citizens. The declaration states that stronger partnerships are to be formed for promoting education for all children, including those who are gifted. Quality teaching and school leadership is to be supported. Early childhood education is to be promoted through accountability and transparency. As per the declaration, all sectors, including parents, carers, families and other education providers and broader community must support progress of gifted students and must provide them with all opportunities for personal development.
The teachers can provide information to the parents of gifted children. Based on the Queensland government support, community awareness can be raised while addressing the requirements of the gifted and talented. In the inclusive classroom environment, the teachers may be influenced to addresses the daily challenges faced by the gifted students in particular areas of interest or abilities. Further, the teachers may provide opportunities to socialise and learn with other students. The teachers in the Queensland State may include personalised learning, curriculum differentiation, connecting gifted students in groups and evaluating programs. The students who have enrolled in the Young Scholars program to participate in the Queensland Academies workshops. The programs organized by them provide affordable opportunities to the gifted and talented students. It is suggested that the teachers must become familiar with the definitions of talent and gifted so that they can involve thoroughly with the children. The teachers need to build their own capacity to offer enrichment and extension opportunities by undertaking professional learning opportunities and development programs (Benny, & Blonder, 2016).
Conclusively, the gifted and talented children usually begin communicating verbally at an early age, and their usage of vocabulary level is beyond their age. As they are high achievers, the kids may procrastinate on completing their homework for their desire to get everything right. The teachers can adopt curriculum compacting technique in which differentiated instruction can be provided to adjust the curriculum of gifted and talented students. The learning environment can be supportive and flexible that can support the different needs of the students and help strengthen their skills. The teacher can use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to engage openly with the parents and using technology in a more meaningful basis. Differentiated instruction can be provided to the students in which the teachers can use their knowledge to determine the activities and content.
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