A commonly cited statistic suggests that as many as 20% of high school dropouts are gifted students. Does this statistic surprise you? On one side of the coin, you might think that gifted students would be more likely to excel in school than traditional students. On the other side of the coin, it makes sense that gifted students might drop out of school if they are not properly challenged. If you are the parent, guardian, or teacher of a gifted student then it is your duty to make sure they are pushed hard enough to meet their maximum potential.
Myths and Misconceptions
The statistic quoted earlier could be interpreted in different ways. Some might assume that gifted students will excel no matter what kind of schooling they receive while others might be able to see that gifted students are often bored in traditional classrooms which leads to a higher dropout rate. Before getting into the details regarding how to properly challenge a gifted student, it is important to address some common myths and misconceptions about gifted students.
- Gifted students will do fine in normal classrooms. According to a study conducted by the Fordham Institute, over 50% of teachers have not received any professional development in regards to teaching gifted students. Furthermore, nearly 75% of those same teachers admitted that the brightest students in their classrooms are often bored or under-challenged in school. These statistics highlight the sad truth that, unfortunately, many teachers simply are not equipped to deal with gifted students. This being the case, many gifted students fail to thrive in normal classrooms because they aren’t being challenged.
- Gifted students can be role models, encouraging other students to excel. To some degree, the idea that gifted students will challenge other students in the class makes sense. Unfortunately, that is usually not what happens. More often than not, other students in the classroom who see a gifted student succeed in areas where they might be failing has the opposite effect – it has a negative effect on their self-confidence and they might actually be less likely to put forth their full effort. Keeping gifted students in the same classroom as average or below-average students can also have a negative impact on the gifted student – they may not be properly motivated and may become bored or frustrated as a result.
- All students are gifted. While there is no nationally accepted definition for the word “gifted”, the truth of the matter is that some students simply have a higher capacity to learn and to apply that knowledge than other students. Every student has his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses and, for some students, those strengths align with the academic curriculum to which they are exposed in school. The word “gifted” doesn’t necessarily mean one student is better than another, it simply refers to the unique learning needs of one student compared to another.
- A student can’t be considered gifted if he receives poor grades. If you think back to the statistic quoted earlier you might be able to see how a student’s grades might not necessarily reflect his ability to learn. Gifted students are often bored in traditional classrooms because they aren’t being challenged – as a result, they learn poor study habits or simply choose not to make an effort. In other cases, gifted students try to mask their abilities in an attempt to fit in with their peers.
- Education for gifted students is not practical for most schools. The truth of the matter is that you do not necessarily need expensive technology or advanced resources to provide stimulating educational opportunities for gifted students. In most cases, it simply requires teachers to acknowledge the fact that gifted students have different needs and administration to provide teacher training in gifted educational strategies.
Now that you have a better understanding of what is and is not true about gifted students you may be better able to learn some simple methods for challenging your own gifted student.
Tips for Challenging Gifted Students
Every gifted student is different but most gifted students have one thing in common – they have an advanced capacity to learn. This being the case, they might pick up on concepts more quickly than the average student. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to teach gifted students an entirely different curriculum – it might simply mean moving through concepts at a faster pace and delving deeper into certain concepts than you otherwise might.
Below you will find a collection of tips to help you challenge your gifted student:
- Understand that your gifted student is likely to grasp certain concepts more quickly than other students. You should be prepared to move on to the next subject or concept when he does rather than following the same process of repetition used to reinforce concepts for the average student.
- Encourage your gifted student to think for himself and to forge links between concepts by asking broad, guiding questions. For example, while taking your child for a walk in the woods you might use the opportunity to ask questions about the impact different organisms have on the ecosystem.
- Understand that your gifted student is likely to ask a lot of questions but do not feel compelled to answer every one of them. Part of challenging your gifted student involves encouraging him to find the answers to his questions on his own. Teach him how to use books and other resources to find the answers to his questions.
- Don’t be afraid to delve deeper into certain subjects that capture your gifted student’s interest. If your child comes home from school excited about a particular subject, find ways to foster that excitement by providing opportunities for enrichment. Help your child check out a book from the library on that subject or visit a relevant display at the local museum.
- Do not assume that your child will excel at everything. Being a gifted student doesn’t necessarily mean that the student will excel in every subject. It is important that you identify subject areas that challenge your student and take extra time to ensure that he understands and improves in that subject area just as much as he does in the other areas where he is more likely to excel.
The education your child receives does more than just prepare him for high school or college – it also impacts his ability to solve problems and to deal with challenges throughout his life. A gifted student might be able to grasp new concepts more quickly than the average student, but that just means that you need to find ways to challenge your gifted student to make sure he keeps on learning.