One of the key ingredients to any successful educational experience for gifted learners is curriculum. Curriculum is the “what” that is taught—the knowledge and skills that are the goal of instruction. Teachers implement and present curriculum through various instructional strategies that include how students are grouped for instruction to the kinds of activities they engage in, to the types of assessment used to evaluate learning. Schools often have a scope and sequence of topics they want to cover with students—one that is articulated across grades so that students build and acquire competencies, increase their knowledge, and move to more advanced levels of understanding as they grow and develop.
It can be daunting for a classroom teacher to be able to provide an appropriate curriculum to a class of students that differ widely in their previous exposure to the content area and pace of learning. For example, reading levels in a typical classroom can vary from 1 to 8 grade levels and students vary in the exposure and knowledge acquired outside of school that they bring to any learning task. Differentiation is key but difficult to do. However, having curricula that has been designed with the learning needs and abilities of gifted learners in mind can be very helpful.
What are the characteristics of an appropriate curricula for advanced learners? Joyce VanTassel-Baska, founder of the Center for Talent Development and an expert in curriculum for gifted learners, identified several key attributes. The curricula must be sufficiently advanced and complex so as to challenge even the strongest learners in the class, require multiple levels of thinking and higher order questioning from the student. It must be sufficiently in-depth to allow students to study important issues and problems related to the content area. And the curriculum must encourage creativity, open-ended responses, high-level choices, and problem finding as well as problem solving.
Fortunately, there are curricula that have been developed and tested specifically for use with gifted learners. The Center for Talent Development is offering a five-week, online course for educators that will highlight several excellent curriculum models for advanced learners. Kathy Gavin, from the University of Connecticut, will teach students about her math curriculum, M2 and M3. This award-winning curricula focuses on teaching young students to think like budding mathematicians and express their mathematical thinking in words. Shelagh Gallagher, an author and presenter with Fireworks Press, will teach participants how to structure curricula in science for advanced learner around major, complex problems. Tamra Stambaugh, from Vanderbilt University, will present Jacob’s Ladder, a curriculum she designed to scaffold instruction for students with high potential in reading and the language arts. Kim Chandler will present and discuss award winning social science curricula developed at the Center for Gifted Studies of the College of William and Mary. The design and curriculum experts at William and Mary have created many outstanding curricula for gifted learners and are recognized as the leaders in curriculum design and development in the field of gifted education. All of these educators are experts in their fields and we at CTD are fortunate to be able to bring them together in this exceptional online learning opportunity for educators. This course is designed for anyone interested in using these curricula but also interested in learning about the characteristics of appropriate curriculum for gifted learners. In addition, the instructors will focus on how to scaffold instruction for a wide range of advanced learners in a community of peer teachers and educators.