James Ruse Agricultural High School seeks to provide a learning environment that both challenges and supports gifted students to pursue excellence and develop a lifelong passion for learning and prepare them for responsible leadership and service to society. Our vision is to provide both national and global leadership in the education of the gifted.
Gifts and Talents
Gifts are the possession of untrained and spontaneously expressed natural abilities in four aptitude domains such as intellectual, creative, socioaffective and sensorimotor (Gagne, 2003). Talents progressively emerge from the transformation of these high aptitudes into a well trained and systematically developed skills. For example, intelligence as a natural ability can be modelled into the scientific reasoning of a chemist, game analysis of a chess player or strategic planning of an athlete.
At James Ruse Agricultural High School, the staff actively engage with our gifted students in transforming their potential into performance - their gifts into talents.
Developing an effective curriculum for gifted students
The most basic principle underlying curriculum development for the gifted is that the experiences for these children must be qualitatively different from the basic program provided for all children (Maker 1982). A differentiated curriculum must provide for the unique characteristics of gifted students (Feldhusen, Hansen, & Kennedy, 1989). They comprehend complex ideas quickly, learn more rapidly and in greater depth compared to their peers, manipulate abstract ideas and draw generalizations about apparently unconnected concepts, and ask challenging questions (Berger, 1991).
The learning experiences need to have the floor to learning raised and the ceiling removed for the education of the gifted. In a differentiated curriculum, teachers modify approaches to why students learn (outcomes), what students learn (content), how students learn (process) and how students demonstrate what they have learnt (product). Thus, during planning, core and extended outcomes, core and complex content, basic and higher order processes and a variety of products are identified and developed in order to provide differentiated learning experiences for the gifted students.
Following elements of learning experience are differentiated in our teaching units:
Adapted and modified from Roberts, J.L. & Roberts, R.A. (2005) Writing units that remove the learning ceiling. In Karnes, F.A. & Bean, S.M. Methods and Materials for Teaching the Gifted. Texas: Prufrock Press.
Embedding cognitive technologies into differentiated curriculum
Research shows that cognitive technologies-embedded curriculum enhances speed of learning, improved reading and comprehension, quality of revisions to writing, cognitive processing speed and critical thinking skills (McFarlane, 2001). It can increase a "sense of audience" for the learner and be the learner's "significant other" reflecting back his/her thoughts enhancing metacognition (Jonassen, 2000). Castro (1999) claims that using cognitive technologies in classrooms, particularly in constructivist approach, has great potential to develop students' higher-order cognitive skills.
At James Ruse Agricultural High School, cognitive technologies-embedded differentiated curriculum and an informed combination of learning frameworks such as the Maker and Williams models and the Bloom's Taxonomy promote a challenging learning environment for developing autonomous, critical and creative thinkers.
Berger, S. (1991). Differentiating Curriculum for Gifted Students Module 5, Professional Development Package for Teachers. Gerric, UNSW.
Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: Longmans, Green.
Castro, C.D.M. (1999). Education in the Information Age. TechKnowLogia, Dec, pp. 39-42.
Feldhusen, J., Hansen, J., & Kennedy, D. (1989). Curriculum development for GCT Teachers. Gifted Child Today, 12(6), 12-19.
Gagne, F. (2003). Transforming Gifts into Talents. The DMGT as a development theory. In N. Colengelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.) Handbook of gifted education (3rd edition). (pp. 60-73). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Jonassen, D.H., (2000). Computers as Mindtools for Schools: Engaging Critical Thinking. New Jersey: Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Maker, C.J. (1982). Curriculum development for the gifted. Rockville, MD: Aspen.
Maker, C.J. & Nielson, A. (1996). Curriculum development and teaching strategies for gifted learners. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
McFarlane, A. (2001). Perspectives on the relationships between ICT and assessment, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17(3): 227-234.
Roberts, J.L. & Roberts, R.A. (2005). Writing units that remove the learning ceiling. In Karnes, F.A. & Bean, S.M. Methods & Materials for Teaching the Gifted. Texas: Prufrock Press.
VanTassel-Baska, J. (2006). Comprehensive Curriculum for Gifted Learners. Boston: Pearson.
Wood, R. (1977). Multiple choice: a state of the art report. International Progress.
Useful Links for Gifted and Talented Education