New Year, No Déjà Vu Here
As educators we often feel as though we hear the same pedagogy over and over — not only repeats of past trends becoming popular again, but also for various teaching strategies. Many teachers are probably tired of hearing about differentiation when it comes to its application to gifted education. Differentiation is simply a one word description of what all good teachers do—match the learning environment to fit the learner. Most teachers believe that they are not neglectful in this area, even though most appreciate the difficulty in achieving meaningful success with differentiation in large heterogeneously-grouped classrooms. When anyone hears a direction repeatedly given, such as how we must differentiate for our gifted students, do we really hear it anymore? We think: yes, I know what higher levels of thinking are; yes, I know what compacting is, and so on.
So, my challenge to educators in 2016 is to read, listen to, and truly hear, the concepts of differentiation as if you have never heard them before. Try to find new sources of information about differentiation that you have not referenced previously so that perhaps new language, new concepts and content, or new ideas will jump start your own thinking and planning. As you read or listen to new sources of expertise, apply the ideas to your current situation, think specifically of real students you know and real content that you are facilitating. Ask yourself “how can I present content to these gifted students that is relevant, advanced, efficient, and personal? How can I challenge these students to think broadly, present problems through the curriculum that they can ponder over time, and ask questions that have no simple, single correct answers? How can I encourage them to use and show application of new knowledge they have gained though products and projects that professionals in the applied fields would also produce? How can I create a learning environment that is flexible, enriching, and stimulating, appropriately paced, and that allows for independence?”
If you have recently implemented creative or unique ways of responding to any of these prompts, please share with the rest of us that that we can be inspired and piggyback on your ideas. Rewarding methods of differentiation for gifted students will contribute to a happy new year for teachers, who will feel rewarded for their efforts, and for students, who will feel engaged and excited about learning.
All the best,